Thursday, June 23, 2011

Stella and Daisy Jane

I'm back. I know I haven't posted anything in a long time. For a while, it was really difficult for me to get home due to school keeping me busy every weekend. I was miserable and I hated watching myself losing muscle mass with every week I didn't ride. I swear I could hardly ride without stirrups for the first week or so of this summer, but I pushed myself hard and Stella and I are back and better than ever. Seriously, I'm loving everything right now.
I'm glad I can say that again, too. If I'm completely honest, I relapsed and had another depressive episode. I've been having a lot of family problems and I've been in some difficult situations over the past few months. This depressive episode was different from my last in that it got really bad really quickly. The first one was almost like unresolved grief gone wrong, but this one was out for the kill. Nothing was going in my favor and things got really, really dark for a while.
Horses are such great medicine. I've been having problems in most aspects of my life, but it's literally been a lifesaver for me to be able to head off to the barn to cool off and hang out with Stella and everyone else at the barn. I'm not going to knock the medicine I'm taking, but I don't think any of it would be nearly as effective without the pleasure I get from going to see the horses every day.
I had an amazing day today. I went to the barn early today and rode Stella. Heather came over and rode Sydney. She also jumped Sydney, and I got to jump Sydney once over a crossrail. I couldn't jump Stella today because of some other big news--she's pregnant! Stella worked really well today though, and I was very proud of her. She wanted to jump today; she kept getting antsy and looking at the jumps. She's the most dishonest horse I think I've ever ridden (she'll duck out of any jump randomly, haha), but when she does jump she's fantastically good at it and she seems to like it. She just has "moods" and once I pop her over one jump she usually won't refuse again. Stella also gets fussy about ground poles sometimes, which is ridiculous but also prevents me from ever being complacent. I think that's what Nancy always meant by "riding every stride" :)
I've been riding Stella a lot. The other day I did some sidesaddle with her (in a regular saddle, of course) and that was a lot of fun. I've obviously trained her to stop when I fall off from all of my random "emergency" dismounts while we're trotting around. I lost my balance a bit while I was trotting around sidesaddle (with no stirrup on the near side, I just feel safer knowing I can slide off versus getting my foot caught up) and opted to jump off before I fell off. I didn't stick the landing and landed flat out in the sand. Stella stopped beside me and looked at me, probably wondering why I make her put up with so much crazy stuff. I've also been riding bareback a lot. I realized I lean to the left slightly when I was riding some other horses. I really can't tell on Stella because of her withers, but I always slip to the left a bit when I'm on a horse with low withers. Bareback has been helping a lot, and it's a lot of fun now that Stella has gained some weight and she's not as bony :P
I've mostly just been riding her around bareback after our normal schooling and to cool Stella out, but I've also done some quick bareback rides when it's hot and I'm too lazy to tack up or when I don't have much time to ride and just want to have a little fun. The other day, I put a halter and lead on Stella and rode her out into the pasture so she could eat grass while I sat on her. It had rained too much for me to ride, but I felt like playing with Stella and she certainly enjoyed eating the grass. She honestly doesn't care that I sit on her back while she eats, and she probably enjoys the added withers-scratching while she munches :)
I think I'm getting way more adventurous with stuff that I do on horseback now. I'm finally feeling more confident, which has always been a big problem for me. I feel like I suck all the time. I'm trying to tell myself that I do well though. I mean, at the very least I can stay on a horse like nobody's business. Today I did something silly. I got a water bottle and tried to drink while cantering Stella in a two-point with no hands. It worked really well until I had to stop her. I didn't want to drop the bottle (my sister was holding the cap for me and I didn't want to waste good water) but I needed to use my reins a bit. I ended up pouring water all down the inside of my thigh, which sucked because it felt weird while I was riding. My jeans took forever to dry too, haha. It also started to sprinkle a bit while we were riding. It cooled everything down and felt really good, so I was glad.
I think Stella thinks I'm crazy though. The other night I told Larry about how much Stella has to put up with when I ride her and have ideas for funny stuff to try, and he told me that I have to put up with a lot from her too so we're even :P She's taking a magnesium supplement now which has really made her more calm. She still spooks a bit, but they're little spooks where she's like "Oh no! Back to work." instead of "OMG I'M GONNA DIE, MUST RUN ACROSS RING AND THRASH ABOUT BECAUSE THAT WILL CERTAINLY KEEP IT FROM KILLING ME!"
Stella is possibly the most interesting horse I've ever worked with. She's so much fun, and she's so sweet. She kept squiggling me yesterday while I cleaned her stall. I used a muck bucket because the wheelbarrows were full already, and she had fun picking the muck bucket up by the rope handles. If she'd been picking it up and throwing it then I would've made her stop, but it was just too cute watching her lift it up a bit and seem pleased with herself before gently putting it back down. Such a cute horsie :) I love her so much.
I also got to ride a pony at Miss Patty's house today. She had donated her little paint pony, Daisy Jane, to the therapeutic riding school a while back. Apparently the pony was doing well for a while, but she had been really nasty over a period of 10 days. They said she was biting, bucking, and kicking with the kids and they simply couldn't allow her to stay anymore. Miss Patty took the pony back and now they're looking for a home for her. Larry told me I should come over to ride her because he knows I love ponies and because she moves like a little hunter and I'm into that sort of thing ;) She's only five (so it's impressive that she was working at a therapeutic riding school!), and she's a bay paint.
I don't know if I'm glad I'm too big for her or not. I LOVE Daisy Jane and she's free to a good home. I dunno, I just kinda fell in love with her today when I rode her. She's really green but we just kinda clicked together. Larry and Miss Patty want me to keep coming over and riding her to train her, and Larry said I should teach her to jump. I think Larry hates riding her--I legitimately don't think I could sit her trot without bouncing all over the place. I didn't try to sit, but I was really glad I was posting :P Also, her canter strides are so short and fast right now that I really had a hard time sitting her canter. I got up into a half-seat a bit because I couldn't make my butt keep up with her! I think the saddle didn't help either. It was a crappy western saddle that I wasn't used to. Maybe if I put an English saddle on her then I'd have an easier time, honestly. The people at the riding school said that Daisy Jane was bucking horribly, but she didn't even try today. She hugged the rail to the point of almost taking my leg off once, but that was her only real problem. She had a hard time stopping occasionally, but I just think that was a product of needing more training versus being bad. She tried really hard for me today and I can't believe I fell in love with her so fast.
I always said I wanted Stella and a little tiny pony... And Daisy Jane is free! I think I'm going to buy Stella after she has her baby. I've saved up a good amount of money, and my mom said she would help me pay for her as my graduation present. Ugh. I wish I wasn't a poor college student so that I could have Stella and Daisy Jane and keep them both, haha. I dunno, I'd want to keep riding Daisy Jane for a bit, but I feel like she's got crazy potential and she seems really sweet. I kept hearing Miss Patty's husband complimenting my "control" and Daisy Jane's "relaxation" while we rode. And it was so much fun riding her!
Woooo, fantastic day :)
EDIT: Larry was also horrible today while I was riding Daisy Jane. I asked him if I could canter her (as in, had she been cantered under saddle since she'd been home) and he smiled and said "It's your life." Then he went to close a stall door that led into the arena, and was muttering something about the pony "running into the stall", "scraping me off on the wall", and "body parts scattered everywhere". Hahahaha, I love Larry.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Shelby. Growing up to be just like Mac.

I haven't gotten to ride at all since I've been on break. It's really getting on my nerves that the ground is always completely covered in snow and ice when all I really want is to ride my Wella.
But I didn't come here to complain about not getting to ride.
Little Shelby is sick. She's very sick. She's been sick for a long time. It started when she was a baby and she never managed to shed out. We finally clipped her so that she wouldn't overheat in the summer sun. Jean thought something was wrong, but she didn't really bother Angie, the vet, with it until recently.
Shelby started going off her grain, getting lethargic, and stocking up in her legs (even with turnout). Her glands under her jaw were swollen, and she had a fever too. I think she had a bit of a cough, just to add something else bad to the mix. It was horrible. They took her to an equine clinic and they said it was something like bacterial pneumonia. She went home and got lots of antibiotics and steroids and stuff that would make her better (at this point, I really don't know what she's been getting because I've been away a lot and because of the sheer amount of stuff we're putting in her).
Now she's losing her hair and she's got raw spots on her skin. She's a horrible sight. But she started getting better. The swelling in her body went down tremendously. She started playing again, and roaming around the barn as we let her out of her stall for playtime. Her appetite picked up again and her fever went away.
And now she's gotten worse.
She's staggering around the stall, slamming into the walls and running into her buckets. She's almost fallen a few times. According to Jean and Angie, she almost drowned herself in her water bucket after "forgetting" that she was drinking and pushing her whole face in for a long time. She's only allowed to have a very small amount of water at a time now, and I had to stand there and watch her struggle to swallow while I made sure she didn't drown.
The worst part of this? It's a painful reminder of Mac's last days.
(Well, the worst part is that she will probably have to be euthanised unless something amazing happens, because the poor creature is suffering. But it still makes me think about Mac.)

Monday, December 13, 2010

All About Stella

I found this while cleaning up in my room a bit today. I wrote it while preparing my 4-H project book for Stella, before the first year I showed her at State. It made me smile:

"Hi everyone! My name is Steel Lukin, but everyone calls me Stella. My "dad," Larry, says that they call me Steel Lukin because I am dark grey like steel. Sam, my "mom," tells me that my name means "star" in Latin, and she likes to cut apples for me so that I can look at the star...and then eat it, of course!
I am an Appendix Quarter Horse, and I am six years old. [Note: she's eight now.] Mom sometimes tells me that I'm "fairly green," but I swear that I'm really grey! Okay, okay--sometimes I get grass stains on my withers when I roll, but mom is really silly. Not only does she say that I'm "green," but she also jumps off my back every once in a while and lies down on the ground. I mean, when I'm really super scared or confused, she jumps right off and leaves me to gallop around, wondering where she went. She always comes back though, and she promises that everything is okay.
I'm a very happy horse, and I like to do a lot of things with my mom. She likes to let me walk around and eat grass while she holds onto my pretty purple lead rope. (I love purple, and mom always tries to buy things for us that are pretty and purple.) I love to eat, sniff, and cruise around while mom fusses over me and talks to me. Sometimes I ask mom if we can hand-gallop when we ride. She usually listens to me and will tell me when it's okay. I love to go fast! I really don't like dark places on the ground, though. Mom just doesn't understand that she's going to fall into a bottomless pit if she walks into them! I also hate the sound of rain falling onto the roof. Where's that stuff coming from, anyway? I'm very friendly. I love dogs, cats, and other horses (except for the ones who nip, scratch, and kick). I really love people too, as long as they don't hurt or scare me.
Mom always tells me that she "loves" and "needs" me. Whenever we ride out to the back field, mom always stops me at a big mound of dirt and pats me. We sit there for a while, and mom whispers a few words to herself. I can never quite hear what she's saying, but she says it with great passion and sadness in her voice. When we ride off, I try to give her a good ride; she always seems so happy when I do. Sometimes mom goes out to the back field by herself. She comes back with tears in her eyes, and then she comes into my stall. I like to nudge her with my velvety nose because it makes her smile. Mom loves to kiss my nose. She calls it a "squiggler"--how silly! Then, mom leans on my shoulder and wraps her arms around my neck. I never move. She leans on me so much that she'd certainly fall if I stepped away from her. I feel like it's my job to keep her on her feet."

I feel like it ends pretty abruptly, but every time I read it I feel really sad and really happy at the same time.
Eventually I'll get around to posting about all the "adventures" I've been having. I've gotten lazy. Maybe tomorrow? :P

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Three Years.

Mac died three years ago today.
It's been a painful, challenging, and amazingly beautiful three years. I spent most of it suffering from clinical depression and fighting to get my life back. Once I emerged from the fear and the darkness, however, I started seeing life in a whole new way. I went from wanting to die to seeing beauty in just about every aspect of my life. I've been able to come through even some of the most negative moments in the past few years with a positive attitude where I can promise myself that I can make it through.
I remember some of my first rides on Stella in Larry's old Western work saddle (because it would have been too dangerous to ride her in an English saddle, as I do today). She would canter and basically bolt off. She would stop pretty well, but there was otherwise little control. I remember that I had to ride her in the pasture some and she was absolutely insane. I'm surprised I didn't fall off of her, let alone get myself killed, during some of those rides. She was really spooky, too. I remember halting her and just sitting in the middle of the ring, hanging my head and crying because my beloved Mac was lost forever. Honestly, I hated Stella back then. She was young and flighty, and I didn't want to deal with her. Moreover, she was alive. Stella was alive and Mac was dead; that didn't seem fair to me in my grief.
She's come so far over the years, too. So have I. Larry told me the other night that we've become quite the pair--Stella is maturing and I know her well enough to keep her on track when she feels the need to flare up. Mindy showed her a bit at the big Quarter Horse show we went to, and after a class where Stella had misbehaved, Mindy kept complaining about how Stella will basically fall apart if her rider isn't in complete control at all times. Nancy, a woman who gave me riding lessons a while back before going into therapeutic riding, once told me that I needed to learn how to "ride every stride" if I wanted to succeed in riding difficult horses. I could never seem to understand that concept until recently. It's an amazing feeling, too.
After three years, I think it's unnecessary to mourn Mac's death as I have in the past. I often think about him and all of the things that we experienced together, and sometimes I go out to his grave just to sit and think. I don't think I'll ever reach a time where I'm perfectly okay with thinking a lot about him and not tearing up. I'm slightly teary now, but I'm also smiling and thinking about the last three years of change. I don't believe in an afterlife, so I'm not banking on seeing him again someday. I do, however, believe that we all live on in stories and memories.
Long live Sir Mac!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Lots Of Updates

This summer has been great so far. We've got two new babies on the farm. The first one is three months old today, and her name is Shelby. Tina is her mom. She was born a grullo but she started looking like a scruffy little bay; today we body clipped her because she wouldn't shed out and she was always too hot and sweaty. She still looked grullo underneath :) I really wish she'd stay that color because I want unique horses!
I was at the barn when Sissy gave birth to the second one. His name is Cody and he's a red roan. He's soft and absolutely beautiful, but he was born with a crooked front leg. Larry is renting a brace to straighten his leg before he gets older, both for aesthetics and to prevent future problems and pain later on down the road.
Both of the little babies are absolutely triflin'. Shelby didn't want me to take her inside one night, so she hauled around and kicked me in the shin. I grabbed her halter and whacked her on the neck, which made her very upset. It was very slippery in the yard that night, so I fought to keep on my feet and hang onto her as she sidestepped frantically across the yard. I won :) A week or so later, she decided that she didn't want to be caught again, so she kicked me in the stomach (lightly, thankfully) and galloped off. I came back over her and she tried to kick me again, so I nailed HER in the hindquarters with my foot. I did that each time she tried to kick me and then caught her. She hasn't kicked anyone since, hahaha. Cody mostly just bites, but he can be difficult when we have to put his brace on. He really doesn't like it.
Stella has been pretty good. I've had some really amazing rides on her so far, but I've also had some really horrible ones. I've been working with her on lead changes. We're at the point where she can do a simple change with only a stride or two of trotting, so I think she's ready to learn a flying change. I'm excited about that.
We've been to one show so far this summer. She was horrible when I took her out to lunge her. A panicky barrel horse came into the ring and she immediately started rearing and tearing around the circle, almost falling a couple times. She ended up pulling back and tearing my hand open, which has almost convinced me to start wearing gloves when I lunge. It's still healing and it was quite a while ago. She worked herself into a heavy sweat before I thought she was ready to go back to the trailer, and then I sponged her off with lots of cold water to cool her off. We did pretty well in the two classes I took her in. In showmanship, I got second. I was really proud of Stella considering I thought our pattern was atrocious. We got third in a go-as-you-please hunter under saddle class. Stella didn't spook or have any mare flares in the class, but I spent the whole ride trying to keep her from leaning on my hands and trying to hold her back. She never actually threatened to break into a canter, but she started to jig a little when we started on the second direction. I decided that my time would be better spent schooling more rather than going into the other classes, so I scratched. I went to the schooling ring and worked for a while. Some little kid came in with her mini and ran across the wooden bridge that was still in the arena from the trail classes. That set Stella off. She did her usual mini-rear, spin, and throwing herself around while I put my faith in my seat and try to refocus her. After that, I rode just long enough to keep Stella from associating her behavior with me dismounting and then put her in a halter to give her a bridges-are-not-scary lesson. She walked over the bridge eventually and I was very proud of her.
Stella has also been remarkably lazy lately, mostly regarding the canter cue. I carried a whip the other day, because I'm honestly just tired of it. She needs to learn to respect the canter cue the first time I ask, as soon as I ask. I just use it as a reinforcement of my leg and she's been responding to light cues while I hold the whip and don't apply it, but I think she needs more time with the whip before I can abandon it completely.
I've jumped Stella some already this summer. She's been very good about it. I'm only allowing her to trot fences because she's still really excitable when we jump. We've also done more than just crossrails! She jumped a gate that was about two feet one night, and we've jumped vertical rails that are probably a little over that. She's refused a couple of times, mostly at the gate because she'd never seen one before (even as we rode on the flat past it, she snorted at it to ask what it was), but she's been pretty good about stuff. She's tried so hard :)
I've also jumped Abby some, and I took her to the beach. We went swimming and ran on the beach together. She also decided to jump off of the dock, but I think she got saltwater in her eyes and didn't want to swim much after that. She kept wanting to swim really far out, so I had to go get her and bring her closer to shore. I didn't want her to get tired and need me to rescue her somewhere that I wouldn't be too willing to swim myself :D I picked her up out of the water a few times and she was still paddling with her feet! It was too cute. She also liked playing with clumps of dried seaweed that had washed up on the beach. When we both got tired of running and swimming, Abby sat down where the waves hit the shore and I laid down beside her. It was amazing to feel the waves washing over my legs and back with Abby at my side.
Elizabeth, my sister, and I went out to the pond about a week ago and we all went on the boat. I sat in the middle and rowed while Natalie and Elizabeth sat on either end. We went out to the side of the pond where there's a lot of seaweedy stuff growing in the water. Natalie and Elizabeth started dragging it out of the water and throwing it at each other. Aaaaaaand, of course, since I was sitting in the middle, I was covered in seaweed at the end of their game. It was lots of fun though :)
I want to write more, but what I want to write doesn't really belong in this post. I'll probably make at least one more. It's good to be back.

Friday, November 27, 2009

This Semester.

I feel terrible because I haven't written anything this entire semester. The thing is, I really haven't enjoyed my riding class this semester. The school's barn got a new trainer and I don't like her. At the beginning of the semester, she picked on me constantly. Yes, my heels are near-level. They are telling me that they don't want to go lower, yet I have a remarkably secure seat both on the flat and over fences. She wants me in a chair seat so that I can bang on my horse's back when I post like the rest of the class and she wants me to ride all forward and silly-like. There are people in my class who shouldn't even be cantering (let alone holding reins because of their atrocious hands), yet she told me that I wasn't allowed to jump until I could see my toes past my knees and lock my leg (not in those words, but that was the result). She also told me that I had to post without stirrups--one motion that, for some reason, consistently strains my hip. She wouldn't leave me alone until I did and I was upset because my hip started hurting. One day, we were working patterns on the flat and someone forgot to change diagonals after changing directions. She called out the student's mistake and then asked the rest of us, who were lined up and watching, if we understood why a change of diagonal was needed at that point. I honestly thought it was a rhetorical question because no one in the class had any excuse not to know why. No one else answered either, but she decided to make me feel stupid by personally asking me the question again. I would have given her a good explanation, but I didn't feel that I should give her more than a nod's response for such a ridiculous question that had no purpose other than to try and embarrass me. I was so close to dropping the class and demanding a refund.
The school's barn also got rid of two of my favorite horses, Bugsy and Jasmine. Bugsy left with the trainer who left, and I think Jasmine went back to her old home for a while. I've been on Chloe, the huge Clydesdale, so many times this semester. I also rode Rascal a lot at the beginning of the semester.
The other day, I had to jump Chloe. I'm actually getting pretty good with her. I used to be nervous about riding her, and I was honestly scared to death the first time I had to jump her. She's just so I'm starting to get used to her massive strides and her way of thinking, so I've had a lot of good rides on her. When I jumped her last Monday, we took a line of jumps and Chloe had a hard time doing the line because I don't think she's ever done a bunch of close jumps before (that's how our new trainer made it sound) and because it was a small stride for her. She ended up handling everything pretty well. We didn't have many problems at all until we did jumps that were far apart. The first jump was rather unappealing to Miss Chloe because, although it was really low and she cantered beautifully up to it, she slammed on her horsey brakes faster than I ever thought she could. It was such an amazing change--she was moving so powerfully with me following closely, then suddenly she stopped and, for a brief moment, I was still accelerating.
Thanks to my solid lower leg and quick reaction time, I moved less than double the height I would have while rising the trot before shifting my weight back and settling into the saddle. We restarted the course and did it quite happily before ending for the day.
During another lesson, Barney gave me a ride that I'll never forget. We were working over ground poles, and Barney refused to go into a certain corner. Our trainer decided to help by standing in his chosen path and, later, standing right in front of the pole. What did jumping-minded Barney do when his ground pole was blocked? Well, he sure didn't wait for our trainer to move out of our way. He took an alternative route--the huge jump off to the right side of the pole. I thought it was hysterical. Our trainer was scared to death because she didn't know Barney could jump and because she didn't think we'd make it over because we were so close to the larger jump when he took off. I could just tell that he was going to do it, and it felt absolutely amazing. Well, it's not like I had any choice of what was going to happen to me; either I was going over the jump with him or he was going to slam on the brakes and send me over by myself. There wasn't any time for my brain to interfere, just pure reaction and smooth movement. I'm striving to achieve that state of mind every time I ride.
And I've been on so many horses this semester whom I've been "warned" about--he's panicky, he's going to take off, hang on tight--and had wonderful rides on. Our new trainer has actually complimented me a lot for my rides on the school horses who tend to explode with other people. She said she was very surprised at their calm behavior. She also complimented me a lot for my ride on Chloe the other day, saying that I stuck with her beautifully. At this point, I doubt I'm going to ride next semester because of lack of time and money and because I've had a sort of love-hate relationship with this semester.
I saw my Wellaphone tonight and I swear she's more beautiful than ever. I love her so much.

Thursday, August 20, 2009


I had a terrible dream last night. I haven't even written it down yet because it was traumatic for me to recall, much less "experience."
It was a little jumbled, but I remember seeing Mac. He was bathed in sweat, and he looked weak. He went down in his stall and I sat next to him, sobbing. He was dying all over again. I couldn't do anything but watch and sob. It was the worst Mac nightmare I've had. I've had a few where I've known that he was dead, where the other horses were freaking out because they knew he was dead, but none that forced me to relive the worst day of my life.
To make matters worse, Sissy was also sick in the dream. I don't know if I wrote about her in a previous entry, but both Sissy and Tina are pregnant. Sissy got sick in the dream, but the sickness caused her to abort the foal. She got better, though.
It's going to take me a while to recover from this one. Stella will help.
"La Mer" is helping until I can get to the barn.