"You must in all Airs follow the strength, spirit, and disposition of the horse, and do nothing against nature; for art is but to set nature in order, and nothing else." ~ William Cavendish 

    It took me all of about two weeks to realize how good me and Finn had it at our old barn. There is nothing wrong with our current barn but pretty much since I've gotten there I've felt like we don't belong. We don't belong with the owner/barn manager, and her very young lesson kids, and although I've enjoyed working with the hunter jumper trainer a lot, and riding Ben, I know Finn would not mesh with her super intense program at all.
   The past few weeks I've thought a lot, probably a little too much, about what is best for my horse, and myself. Two weeks ago I had a jumping lesson on Ben. The jumps were set at 2'9, and I probably haven't jumped 2'9 in 10 years. There was an oxer set at 2'9, with a pretty decent spread, that gave me the hardest time. Ben sensed my nerves, and jumped awkwardly the whole lesson, because I was basically in fetal position the entire time. For some reason, to me, the gap between 2'6 and 2'9 jumps seems VERY significant. I left the lesson upset, not confident, and kind of...hating jumping. The next week, because it was raining and I had to ride indoors, I basically had a flat lesson, with some gymnastics at the end. AND IT WAS FUN! 
    It suddenly clicked. I love flatwork. I like cross rails, and gymnastics, and cavaletti, but raise those jumps up to 2'9 and ask me to jump a course, and I just freeze. Then I started to feel guilty because I realized I didn't want to, or like to, jump. But that's crazy, because this is a hobby, and it's supposed to be fun, and why would I jump if I didn't enjoy it?!
    In between lessons with Ben I've been walking and trotting Finn. He feels wonderful, is soft, responsive, light, and using his back/hind end better than he ever has. It is strange to get back on Finn after riding Ben so much. Ben is tight, stiff, and has a very heavy mouth. I want a horse that uses his body correctly, understands and likes his job, and stays comfortable and sound for many, many years. 

The big news is.... we are moving back to our old barn September 1st. Crazy right?! We are going to go back to working with the dressage trainer there that we were progressing with before we moved. She will take us to shows when we're ready. I will still pop over the occasional jump, but more than anything, I want Finn to be comfortable using his body correctly. If anything were to happen to him again, the price is practically reflective of retirement boarding, and I know he'd be safe and cared for even if I couldn't visit him for a week or more. 
     I have looked at other barns in the area and nothing compares to the care, amenities, and super individualized care of our old barn. For the price, it doesn't get any better. I am paying a whole lot more for fewer amenities now, than I was to have him further from home. I feel like the people at our old barn are family, and we fit there. I will never complain about the drive again!!


Quick Update

Big, exciting changes are coming... Haven't had a chance to update, and time seems to be going by way too quickly. Will update this week with some important life decisions.
In short...Finn is SOUND. 100% sound, back on half day turnout, and back to being ridden!

Love my little bay!

My boys



These are Finn's new shoes! After getting the all clear from the vet about going back into slow work after shoeing, my farrier ordering his special pads, and him getting shod today, I am psyched to be able to tack him up tomorrow and ride him around at the walk to see how he feels. My farrier trotted him out after his appt. today, and although he said he still looked a little off, I thought he looked pretty good and pretty sound. He is in aluminum shoes up front, with flapper/combi pads, and regular steel shoes behind. Farrier said he could pull hind shoes because I'll basically be walking/trotting for a month, but I decided we're better off just keeping him in shoes. I will walk him tomorrow, and if he feels good I will attempt a bit of a trot. I also put him on SmartSox, after reading lots of great reviews about it increasing hoof circulation.

I've been riding Ben a lot, and he's a total blast. Every ride is consistent, and easy, and just fun. He is the packer I can take out on solo trail rides. He's the horse I don't have any nerves with. He's the horse I can jump a 2'6 course on and look good doing it. I don't worry about anything when I ride him.

Although I'm excited when I get to ride Ben....he is no Finn. I am so, so, SO excited to get on my little 15.3h, no-muscles, neurotic, kinda quirky TB tomorrow, than I ever am about riding the $40k, A-Circuit warmblood.

Finn is full of this goofy, lovable, infectious personality. He is young enough that I can make something out of him. Ben is a been-there-done-that 15yr old warmblood that requires regular maintenance and injections to stay sound. I may not look "good" on Finn, like I do on Ben, but I think down the road we can get there together. I love my little guy and I can't wait to get back on him tomorrow.

Funny story-- vet gave me some injectable sedation for Finn so farrier could do a really great, accurate shoeing on him today, without Finn yanking his hooves away. Sedation more powerful than Ace, and what Finn's dentist usually uses to make him nice and sleepy. Well, I sedate him 20min before farrier is due to arrive...and it doesn't do a god damn thing. Farrier shows up and says... "Leave it to Finn!" Yep...leave it to Finn!

My daughter riding my friend's draft cross


Vet update

The vet came out yesterday to re x-ray Finn. X-ray's looked good, and vet recommended either a Sigafoos shoe, or a shoe that's called a flip-flop, which is basically a thick rubber pad that covers the whole bottom of the hoof, and then half of a shoe nailed to the front of the hoof, over the pad. The vet recommended we try the flip-flop shoe, before trying a Sigafoos. I can't find too much info on them online. My farrier ordered them, and Finn will be trimmed and shod on Tuesday. After shoeing, I can ride at the walk for a few days, then at the trot for a few minutes at a time for a week. If he is sound and going well, I can start to slowly put him back in regular work. Today we walked under tack in the indoor, and then worked on going in and out of the wash stall. He was an angel about everything. He was also very sweaty after a 20 minute walk under tack in the indoor, even though it wasn't hot out today-- someone is VERY out of shape!

OF COURSE he's sticking his tongue out!

I also got to ride Ben today-- my first non-lesson ride on him. I really wanted to work on getting him lighter. He is SO heavy, and the lesson kids that have ridden him have let him be heavy. We worked on a lot of trot-halt-trot, canter-halt-canter, transitions, lots of circles and figure eights, trot leg yields, extending our trot down the long side, and collecting it in the corners. He felt pretty stiff, and I don't think anyone's ridden him since my ride last Tuesday. We also played in the field and jumped a few of the jumps. My next ride, which will be Sunday, I definitely want to work a lot more on getting him to really use that hind end, and release the tension in his head and neck. A few pics from our ride:


Decision made

I am half leasing Ben! It's been riding boot camp with 3 lessons this past week. I got up to the barn today, tacked the hunk up-- everyone calls him "uncle Ben" because he really takes care of his person, I call him the hunk ;)--, and off we went to the derby field. When we got outside I was all:

We started off on the flat in the field, and getting Ben to bend by way of figure eights. It was so, so buggy this afternoon with the humidity and dampness, and Ben kept tossing his head, unable to focus (next time I'll put a bonnet on him). We decided to move it into the ring next to the field. Once we were in the ring trainer had me extending down the long side, and sitting/collected trot through the corners. This really, really opened Ben up and he felt great. Then we worked on two canter poles, down the quarter line, with two strides in between. I really need to work on getting OUT OF MY TACK, and trusting my horse. Then we started working on a little course: trot in, vertical, land in canter, two strides, cross rail, change direction across the diagonal, with lead change, canter vertical on diagonal, after lead change in center, take it back to a trot, trot a vertical down the other quarter line in opposite direction, land in canter. After we worked on this a few times, the first two jumps changed to vertical, vertical, cross rail, with one canter stride in between. I had to stay in half seat through the whole bounce, and look UP, at the trailer in the distance. I have a horrible habit of looking down at the jumps. Really, I have a horrible habit of looking down all the time. This gymnastic really helped me get out of my tack. I'd get in half seat, grab mane, and let Ben do his thing...and he does his thing well!! One thing I really need to work on is not cutting my corners short. Ben anticipates and knows where we're going, and I let him take the shortest route possible. Our last go through the course was definitely our best yet, and I felt like a total rockstar after our lesson. 
     I am so happy to be able to lease him for the month and the improvements I've experienced in my riding with my new trainer in 3 lessons has been more improvement than I've experienced in the past few years. Ben is doing wonders for my confidence, riding, and strength. After our lesson we walked all around the property on a loose rein, and then he got a nice bath, and dinner. There is a show at the end of the month on farm that we're planning on doing, at 2'6, which is what we jumped today. I'm psyched. I'll get to ride him 3 times a week throughout my lease, and I'm hoping I can get hubby to come up later in the week to take pictures and videos of us. 
    After I was done with Ben I moved on to Finn. Finn had already been turned in, had his dinner, and was working on his hay. I bought him SoftRide boots at the start of this whole laminitis episode, and Finn went from unable to walk, to prancing around the second I put them on him. He's worn them 24/7 for the past three weeks, and I can't say enough good about them. They are phenomenal, and unlike any boot I've seen. They're basically like orthopedic shoes for horses. There are these removable gel inserts that fit inside the boots, and for the first three weeks I had special laminitic inserts to help his feet heal. Today I wanted to switch out the inserts to the ones that come with the boots. Finn was 200 times better today than he's been the past week. He is off the Ace, and just his goofy, calm, sweet, self. Barn worker said he was an angel for turnout. THANK GOD! I was able to pick up his hooves no problem, put MagnaPaste on them, and put his boots back on. I didn't even bother with a halter or crossties, I just hung out in his stall with him. Because I've been a bad horse mom and basically ignoring him, I decided to brush him because he was filthy. Then, I looked at the little mohawk growing in on his bridle path and I thought why not, I'll clip his muzzle and bridle path too. Grabbed the clippers, turned them on, and Finn dropped his head to my side while I clipped....WHAT?! He's always been the horse that is somewhat resistant to bridle path clipping, with his head in the air, and I was able to clip him in his stall with no halter, no stool, nothing. It was amazing. I was so excited that I went a little clip happy, and took off about an extra inch of bridle path. He then lifted his head a bit for me to get his muzzle. He had his eyes half closed the whole time. I couldn't believe it. Maybe my horse isn't so crazy after all!
    The vet should be rechecking Finn this week, the next step will be back in shoes, normal turnout, and back to work with barn trainer. I'm hoping after a month of her working with Finn, and a month of me working with Ben, we'll both be much more educated and ready for each other. 


It's just FUN...and decisions, decisions

Ever since my lesson the other day I've been thinking non stop about having another one. Trainer was available this morning and I jumped at the opportunity to ride Ben again. By the time of our lesson it was already 95 degrees. I had asked trainer for a flat lesson to work on myself more, but really I did so because my legs were killing me after my first lesson. Ben has a big stride, and a somewhat awkward left lead canter that can be hard to sit to. I haven't jumped other than the ocassional small cross rail in a while, and a course the other day really made my thighs and calves burn. I really, really need to get stronger! Well we started the lesson on the flat, and trainer says she really wants to see us jump again together...in the derby field. A wide, open, flat field with jumps that completely terrifies me. Now I know Ben is a steady eddy, but there is something about a huge field with no boundaries and jumps that freaks me out (why do I want to event again?) So we head off into the field and work on some figure eight canters in the field with lead changes down the diagonal. I have never in my life ridden a horse this fancy, and I haven't ridden a horse with changes in many, many years. Man, it felt good. After getting my confidence in the field we worked on some canter ground poles to start and getting 6 strides in between. We totally nailed it. Jumps were put up and we  did a little course of a cross rail, 6 strides to a vertical, around half the field, change direction over a little log jump, and then back over the two from the opposite direction. I really, really had to work on getting my strides, and keeping Ben focused on where to go, and not drifting. I usually only ride in the ring, and it's amazing how much I relied on the rail as a guide. It's a whole different world in the field! As I was doing an extended canter around the perimeter of the field and looking up over the hill at the tree line on this perfect day, and flying over these jumps that just felt like nothing, I had a smile from ear to ear, for like the first time ever. I felt amazing, and confident, and happy. Trainer said Ben responds so well to me, and that we are a great match. It just felt so right. Ben is for sale, but there is no way in a million years I'd be able to afford a horse as fancy as him. After my lesson I walked Ben all through the fields on a loose rein, thinking. After getting back to the barn trainer discussed a few options with me on what to do with Finn once he is sound.
1. Half lease Ben for a month, while trainer puts in training rides on Finn. Half leasing is big, big money, but something we could swing for just a month...definitely not longer than that.
2. Continue lessons (two or  so a week) on Ben, and put training rides in on Finn. (least $$ option)
3. Put all my money towards a month of training board for Finn, and have no lessons for myself. This would include Finn being worked 6 days a week, and equals out to what it would cost to half lease Ben and full board Finn with 1-2 training rides a week.
4. Return Finn to the MSPCA and full lease Ben for a year. This is my most costly option, but after a year of full leasing, the $$ from full lease would go towards Ben's purchase price if I decided to purchase him at the end of the year. With this option he is essentially mine during the lease, I can move him wherever, and do whatever I wanted with him.

So basically I wish I was a billionaire. Because if I was I would buy Ben tomorrow, keep Finn, and do whatever I could to make him well. Unfortuately, I am not a billionaire.
    I love Finn with all my heart and have tried so hard this past year and a half to help him. And...he just will not stay sound. I feel like if I returned him to the MSPCA it's like I'm giving up on him, and I'm not a quitter. But my fear is I keep treating and treating and treating for everything and he is still not sound. I feel like I'm always walking on eggshells with him.
    I am seriously leaning towards option 1. A month on Ben will do wonders to my riding, and I'll get to go on trail rides, go to a show, jump, and just have fun! Trainer can do some training rides on Finn and I'll be able to get her honest opinion on what she thinks of him. I really like and respect this trainer, and know she'll be brutally honest about Finn. If at the end of a month he is just not going well, and me and Ben really, really click then I'll have to reevaluate.
     I wish I had thought long and hard about the right horse for me before I got Finn, rather than go in with the mentality of need horse now. A 15 year old warmblood would have been much more wiser of a decision than a green 8 year old Thoroughbred. Argh...I don't know. I don't want a horse that's going to take me to the Olympics. I want a horse that will happily plug me over 2ft courses, will compete at BN events, possibly go further in dressage, hunter pace, that I can trailer anywhere and everywhere for trail rides, go to the beach, go to my family's house in Maine and ride the dirt roads. I don't want a serious competitor. I want a horse I can ride now, safely.


After 30 minutes of begging, pleading, and swearing Finn finally goes in the wash stall


Highs and lows

I don't feel like dwelling on the horrible things that have happened the past few days, so I will keep it brief. Finn reared up on me in the indoor yesterday during hand walking and came at me with legs in the air. He took off toward the outdoor at a full gallop. I cornered him while he was grazing. Once I got him inside he reared up on me half a dozen times. He lost one of his boots on his victory gallop and it took 45 minutes to find it in 95 degree heat. Tried to bring him in the wash stall, he reared. When I got to the barn today I heard from the young girl working there that he did the same thing to her this morning and took off, almost toward the road this time. She wasn't expecting it and he almost pinned her. I know he hasn't been out in three weeks but it's like the past few days a switch has flipped, and he is just gone. He has this faraway look in his eyes. He is almost acting like he's getting abused, which I know is not the case. He is completely and utterly terrified of everything, like the wash stall. He snorts and backs up like a mad man at something we've never had an issue with. He's acting like he's never had a day of training in his life. Oh, and during his gallop this morning he lost a boot again and no one can find it. Me and Matt spent 2 hours searching the entire area he was loose in. There goes $350 bucks, awesome. I had a lesson on one of the lesson horses today and while I was walking my lesson horse around the field to cool him out, we came up over the hill and I see Finn in his pen, charging the pen with his chest, squealing, rearing, and snorting. He is dangerous. He's going to hurt someone. My god.

So anyways, I need a few days to figure out what the hell is going on and get my head on straight. He'll be aced for turnout for the next few days.

I haven't ridden in a month or so, and between everything, I haven't really wanted to. Trainer asked me the other day if I'd be interested in lesson on one of her sale/lesson horses. My friend Carole, who I moved to new barn with, was taking a lesson, and we could do a semi private. I thought, why not.

Today reminded me why I love horses and riding. I rode a 16.3h, 15yr old Warmblood named Ben who is the total, total packer. He's also a total, total hunk!!
Look at those legs!!
I was definitely smitten with his manners: being able to pick his feet without 20 minutes of begging, fly spraying him without him having a mini heart-attack, saddling him without ear pinning, and bridling him without him tossing his head in the air and being a total pain in the ass.
     Our lesson started with a 20 minute warm up and then it was on to jumping. I haven't jumped, aside from the very occasional cross rail, in a long time. Today, I jumped a full course with a smile on my face. I was able to sit back and just have fun. I was able to work on "me", and count strides, and feel how things are supposed to feel when they're right. It was awesome. My trainer pointed out that I look like a completely different rider on Ben. I was...I was actually confident. Carole kept saying how great I looked on him. This is our first go through the first couple of jumps. I'm so used to basically crouching in the fetal position, holding back, and not releasing with my hands (due to fear), that these bad habits carried over to poor Ben today. Hopefully a few more lessons with him I will be able to just let go.

 This was the first time I've had fun riding, without fearing for my life, in longer than I can remember...which is sad.
     I know that horses like this aren't just made this way, and it takes a lot of training to get them this way. My fear with Finn is that his heart isn't in in. That he doesn't want a job to do. That we will get a month of consistency, only to be injured for two months and start all over again. I know for sure that when he's better there is no way I'm going to be the first one on his back. He is either going into full training here, or being sent away for training.

    Ben doesn't know how much I needed him today. Thanks, buddy.