Thursday, September 29, 2011

All Aboard...!!!

Standing there on the mounting block, I started to get anxious…really anxious. What if this was a mistake? I was planning on waiting until January to get back on him…make sure he had fully healed, not to push it. At this point, in the back of my mind, I heard my DVME telling me “He can do with the pushing. He will tell you when he is ready…or if he is not.”

When I saw him galloping around with his tail flung up in the air like some Arab, I knew he was feeling better and that was the best feeling in the World. As I stood there trying to keep my emotions in check all I could think about was OMG – I hope this isn’t too soon. I took a deep breath and felt myself putting my leg over the saddle and then all of a sudden…there I was… sitting on top of the horse who had broken my heart so many times over the past 9 months.

It took me a minute to get myself together…then Chester snorted that “I’m really relaxed and feel good” snort after I got up there and that didn’t help me to get myself together in any way shape or form. I have just sat here for 3 or 4 minutes thinking about how I was feeling when I sat up there for the first time in 7 months and trying to come up with a way to put it into words that would do it justice.

I can’t.

I have never – ever – felt the range of emotion going through me then I did in the minutes standing on the mounting block – fear, anxiety, hope – to swinging my leg over the saddle and sitting on his back again – exhilaration, fear (again), hope (again), pure happiness – to feeling what he felt like when he took his first couple steps – hope, determination, perseverance.

This horse – for some God forsaken reason – means more to me then almost anything else in my measly existence and getting up on his back again was the best 15 minutes of my life.

He looks pretty proud of himself doesn't he?...and I am a total embarrassment to him...aren't I?  It's okay though, I think he got over it.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

A Change In Plans...

On Saturday afternoon, I was helping Jen set up for one of the schooling shows in her series, that was taking place the following day.  I was actually really excited about it because Jen - who has a super tough time delegating anything -had asked me if I wanted to design the 7 jump courses - ranging from x-rails to Open Jumper - she needed for the show. Heck Yes!

So, we were setting up the three jumper courses and making sure they were rideable.  They were. YaY Me!  At one point in time as I was walking out to get Colby, I witnessed Chester doing laps of his field, at a gallop, trot to a stop and then do it all over again.  When he came out of his stall after eating dinner, he didn't fall on his face.  He was absolutely loving life at the moment. Brought a huge smile to my face.  He is definitely feeling better.  Warmed my heart.

Yesterday, when I got to the barn, Jen suggested to me "Why don't you get on Chester?" after noticing that the Duchess has some proud skin on her lower inner hind left under her ankle...which decided to start bleeding the other day...I figured I would give it a couple be on the safe side.
I looked at Jen: Pardon?
Jen: Why don't you get on Chester?  See how he feels.
Me: I don't know. You think it has been long enough? (In my head going, I was going to give him until the end of the year.)
Jen: He is moving like a normal horse and he clearly feels good enough to gallop around his field for 10 minutes.  Why don't you get on him and see what he does?
Me: -as I feel the colour leave my face - Sure.  Might as well right.
Jen: Good - just remember he might not feel how you remember him.
Me: Oh God.

I get Chester from his field and told him what was about to happen.  I swear it is weird, but I always think they know exactly when you are telling them something important.  Anyway, when I put the saddle on his back, he didn't flinch...and had nothing to say about the fact there was a girth being done up.  Same thing with his bridle, it was like it had been 7 hours and not 7 months since he had been tacked up.

7 months.

As I lead him into the arena, my heart in my throat, I gave him a pat and said 'now or never'. I walked him around the indoor once, stood on top of the mounting block while Jen held him, looked at her and started to cry. OMG - what if he felt that same way he did in February when we realized something was wrong. Really wrong.  I bit my lip, took a deep breath, put my foot in the stirrup and swung my leg over Chester's back and then this happened....

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Duchess...

You know the feeling you get when you are riding your horse and you are so comfortable with them, you trust them, they trust you and 90% of the time you have a great ride? You know that when you ask them to do something, they are going to try their guts out for you. They might not fully understand it the first time you ask, but then after a couple more tries, it is like they have been doing it their entire lives.

You would think that that sort of feeling comes around after years of partnership between a horse and rider. After the 'been there, done that' swagger that comes with years and years of been there, done that, seen it all. Complete trust in your partnership and each other's abilities. You would also think, that this is a result of a partnership in which there is a skilled rider and a wise horse who is at least 10.

Imagine feeling that way when you ride a 3.5 year old TB Filly who has been under saddle (and I mean re-started) for 8 months. For which 2 of those months, she has been under your 'guidance'...and I use the term guidance very very loosely as I am sure the 'guidance' I provide is more like 'uhhh, I think this what we should be doing'. I get that feeling when I ride Colby. As though there is nothing I couldn't ask of her that she wouldn't give it - and me - her all. I forget sometimes - well, a LOT of the time, that she is in fact only 3.5 and we are experiencing a lot of her firsts together.

She has earned the nickname - The Duchess...simply because - well, she is.  She is very pretty, very high maintenance, very demanding and has a royal presence about her...all in a 16'1h compact package...but she wears a 78 blanket.

As an example of her personality, 2 weeks after she came home to Maplewood, we took her to John's for some introductions to off property schooling. The goal, was to begin to desensitize her to everything...she had only been jumping for about a month at this point...and build her confidence. So, we had her jump over some teeny jumps...but, the jumps were SCARY! Plastic swimming pools, big blue barrels, overturned benches, fans, scary standards etc. Remember how I said the goal was to give her confidence...well, confidence is something she is NOT lacking. She did everything. Perfectly. Well, okay, as perfect as a 3.5 year old filly can be. There were definitely some enthusiastic jumping going on. And let's just say that since that day, I jump school with a neck strap. If WFP and Sinead Halpin ride with one, then I don't see anything wrong with it. Nothing phased her, she could have cared less about anything going on around her or what she was jumping over. She was a complete star.

Then, we took her down to the water. Keep in mind - she is a baby and she had never seen water before like what we were about to show her. There was about 3 minutes of prancing, refusing to move forward, then thinking about it, then chickening out, then putting a toe in, then deciding she didn't think she could do it...then this happened:
The Duchess getting her feet wet for this first time.
That was the first time Colby went into the water. Very enthusiastic no? John was yelling at me the entire time, 'be ready for her, she's going to jump! Stick with her!!' And jump she did. By the end of the first visit to John's she was comfortable cantering down, into and through the water. Ears forward, loving every second of it. Incredible.

We have gone to John's 3 times since then. The last was a couple weekends ago. It was her first introduction to XC. Solid logs, drops, jumping into dirt from grass etc etc. jumping over something and landing on a downward slope etc. It got to the point where John yelled at me that "You're too casual, remember to ride her Carrie!!'. That sentence really stuck with me. A Lot. As I mentioned, I forget sometimes that she IS so young, simply because she just takes everything in stride. I have to remember to keep my leg on, keep her in front of my leg (she can unbelievably be a little lazy and nonchalant about work sometimes) and ride her to the jumps.

On the way to one of John's water complex's, there is a row of logs spaced out about 20 or 25 good forward xc strides apart. He looks at me and goes 'how do you feel about jumping that one?" That 'one' was a solid log, about 2'9 and would have been the most imposing, solid, biggest jump I would have asked her to jump. I looked at it, looked at John and said 'If you think we can do it, then we will do it." John told me then 'It has nothing to do with me thinking you can or can not do it. I am asking you because I know you can do it. It has everything to do with if you feel comfortable doing it." It was at that moment, right there, that my respect for John went even more sky high then it already was. My response to him was "We can do it." He said, great, now ride it like you mean it. And I did. And Colby never hesitated, never balked, she zoned in on it and made it feel like just another ho-hum canter stride. When I came back to where john was standing - I was all smiles and told him as such. He raised his eyebrows and said 'well, it certainly wasn't just another canter stride...she cleared it by 3 feet.'

Ditches come next...and yes, she will be wearing a neck strap.

Taking it all in...

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Looking Ahead...

It is funny sometimes how you let what is going on in your life dictate how you actually deal with things. I have not written on my personal blog since well, everyone can see the date from last post until today's. I have no excuses other then I really didn't feel like it. So, deal with it. What I can promise you, is that I am going to attempt once again to start blogging about Chester and I ...and Colby.

I have spent the past couple of months doing some very interesting things. Because of Rolex, I am now involved with an incredible website called Horse Junkies United...and YES, I take credit for naming it. I have not been contributing as much as I should to the site ...for no reason other than I haven't felt like writing as much because of Chester...sigh, it all leads back to him doesn't it?

Then, we had the disaster that my upcoming wedding has turned into. Said wedding is now less than 3 months away and I am starting to enter panic mode about that. Let's just say that we had to get a deposit refunded, find a new location and send out new invitations...3 and a half months from our December 12 wedding date.

He'll ALWAYS be my #1
Where does that leave us now? Well, I am working again as the HR Manager for a company in the medical industry. It has been a very interesting 2 months to say the least. I al enjoying it so far, LOVE LOVE LOVE the medical industry and work with 4 other Managers who are very passionate about their roles and who are good at what they do. The owner of the company is a brilliant business man, very intelligent and I love everything about him. I consider myself lucky.

Chester has made monumental steps forward over the past couple of months. To the point where when I call him and he is at the far side of his field - yes field - he comes cantering over to the gate, trots the last couple of steps, slows to a walk and then nickers. He is definitely feeling better. After dinner when he goes back outside, he doesn't look like he is going to fall on his face when he comes out of his stall. He is tracking up. He is pawing in the crossties - something I HATE about him - but something I haven't seen him do in months. He is walking like a normal horse: no hesitation in his step, no shortness, no stiffness. He hasn't had a saddle on his back since March and has spent that entire time on turnout in his field, by himself, eating grass and getting fat. Yep, you heard me fat. I have a fat red-headed TB. I bet those are words you NEVER thought you would hear anyone say.

There is absolutely nothing showing me that I couldn't get on him tonight and start the process of walking for 4 weeks, building back the muscle tone and definition then progressing to trot the end of October. BUT - I am not going to do it. There is no rush and the absolute LAST thing I want, is to push it just that tiny bit to far and have it all crumple again in front of my face. While I enjoy spending $400 a month on board for a lawn ornament, nothing could ever make me change my mind about Chester's future...which at this point is as such: In January, I am going to get on him again. For the first time in about 9 months. We are going to walk around the arena for 15 minutes and then I am going to get off, tell him what a good boy he is, untack him, put him safely in his stall and then do it again the next day. Then, the first week of February, we will trot for a couple minutes. By mid-March, we will try a canter. If all is still going according to plan, I will look for someone to lease him beginning in May. Someone who only wants to ride flat, 3 or 4 times a week...on the nicest horse they could ever imagine doing so on.

That is our plan. Nothing - except for Chester telling me so - will make me deviate from it.

Colby came into my life on July 12. The day after I accepted my current job. Everything then sort of lined up in this really weird way. I came across some money via means of inheritance...which was difficult for me at the time because it was a result of my Aunt losing a very deteriorating battle with cancer. After several donations were made in her name, my credit card was paid off and I put some away, I had a little money left over. A friend mentioned to me she had a friend who was wondering if I knew of anyone looking for a horse. She had one - a 3 year old, unraced 16h TB filly. Chestnut, blond mane and tail. A 3 year chestnut filly with a huge white blaze I should add...I shouldn't even have considered looking at her based on that description. Her picture was impressive. Solidly built, conformationally correct and pretty. VERY pretty.

The day Colby came to Maplewood...
I drove the 2 and a half hours to see her based on 3 things. That picture, the 3 minute conversation I had with her rider and her price, which we will say is less than $1,500. My first impression of her was, she is tiny!! But, when you are used to a 17.1h horse, 16 h would seem tiny. She looked at me, had a nice kind eye...but with a fire underneath the top layer. She stood rock still while she was getting tacked up and I stood a couple feet back and took her all in. Straight legs, wide chest, even thirds straight back, butt a little higher than her wither...pretty pretty head. We took her outside and her rider popped up on her and took her through her paces...which were even, BALANCED, fluid and pretty. She did it all on a longish rein with collection and impulsion from her rear end.

Then I got on her....and you will have to wait till tomorrow to find out what happened next.

The Embarcadero Continues...