The chronicles of a Friesian mare who happened upon an owner who lives outside the show ring....

Friday, October 31, 2014

Perspective and a cart

So I've doing alot of thinking this week, trying to break down my feelings about Daatje and figure out where exactly is the happy place with this horse that I've devoted the past 13 years of my life to raising, training, caring for.

The first 4 years were frustrating.  I loved her dearly then, as now, but I wanted a horse that I could ride that instant.  I didn't want to wait for her to grow up.  I couldn't have two, she was my one, so I waited.  I raised the horse she is today.  A solid citizen, a pleasure to handle, a good mind.  Worth the wait for certain.

The next 4 years were frustrating.  She was ever so difficult to train under saddle.  The hardest I have ever sat on.  Teaching her to be ridden forward was like slogging through knee deep molassess.  But, I learned a TON and we acheived proficiency in 1st level dressage, which is something to be said for a horse who began life with the work ethic of a sloth. :P  Also worth the wait. 

The most recent 5 years have been more pleasant for certain.  She understands her job and performs it to the best of her ability.  She is a mare and she is a Friesian.  Two strikes against her right out of the box.  (three strikes if you count being an orphan) To look back and review what we have accomplished should be encouraging and inspiring.

So why do I feel so much angst?  Why am I not content?  Human nature sucks.  It really does.  I'm competitive.  I want things.  I want to jump higher, go faster, longer, get better scores, at higher levels......but why?  For what?  To what end?  Do I really want these things?  And do I really want them more than enjoying the bond I have spend 13 years nurturing?

The answer to that question is no.  Not really, not at all.  Sure, they'd be nice.  It'd be nice to show off to all the hunt peeps how daring and able I am on a horse equally so.  It would be nice to "fit in" with that crowd.  But that truly is not as appealing to me as the soul connection I have with my mare.  The connection we have is rare.  Something to be cherished.  Something that transcends desire for competition or acts of daring.

I've loved her for 13 years.  We've only been hunting for 6 of those years.  Daatje trumps hunting.  Period.  If she could no longer hunt, for whatever reason, I would keep her and find something else for us to do.  Reality is that simple.

So lately my mind has been wandering to activities we might pursue as she gets older.  One that I love, that she was bred for, but we've not yet mastered, is driving in harness.

I started her in the lines when she was 4.  She's pulled me on a drag in a sand ring and was hitched to a borrowed road cart once.  All taken in style, like a fish to water.  I do not believe it would take much effort to get her driving with confidence.  What a fun adventure that would be!

So I've begun the search for a suitable training vehicle.  I found one locally for sale, that I'm going to look at this weekend.  It's a lovely blue road cart that has cosmetically seen better days, but is reportedly sound for work.  A Friesian mare about Daatje's size pulled it, so it should be a good fit.




  The sellers are retiring down south and selling everything.  Price is definitely right!  I will keep you posted as I'm very excited about this new activity that we could enjoy together.  Something Daatje can do, even as she ages.  Something my husband and I can do with Daatje together!

We're foxhunting in Rochester tomorrow.  It's supposed to be 40°F and raining, so perfect weather for my black pearl.  It's the Halloween hunt, and costumes are encouraged.  We're going to use our Zorro costume, although my husband says it looks more like Wesley from the Princess Bride.  Lol. :)





Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Fall is finally in full swing and another case of the OTTB's.

Maples in full color at Prodigue Farm, Rochester NH
It's been an incredibly warm fall season this year.  Here we are, the end of freakin' October and it's just now turning seasonably cool.

The warm weather has made hunting my horse these past few weeks a wicked drag.  For both of us.  I don't blame her.  I never blame her, she can't help being a Friesian, but the last hunt we came home from had me thinking again "why the heck do I do this with this horse", which is never a good place for me to be.

It's been warm and humid.  Warm and humid means the heavy coated, thick skined, deep veined Friesian horse can't cool down.  Which means after the first few runs we must back off the galloping (from first to second and even joining the hilltoppers on occasion!) and slow down.

Yay.  I work my ass off, get up early on the weekends, spend gobs of money on gas getting to the hunts and time out of my busy schedule so I can what,  gallop for a few minutes and spend the rest of the time watching everyone else galloping and jumping and having a blast?  Yeah, not cool.  It's started another case of the OTTB's.

They're everywhere.  CANTER, Finger Lakes Finest.....and in the hunt field.  They're fast, capable, did I mention fast?  The finish a hunt as fresh as they start, barely breaking a sweat.  It's a dangerous place for me to go, in my head, when I start wishing I had one of those instead of a Friesian.  I don't like it there.  I love Daatje, dearly, but sometimes it is painfully evident that what I try to do with her is only half as enjoyable as it would be on a more suitable horse.

The past few hunts have been those sometimes.

I don't like "dumbing down" my expecations.  I don't like feeling held back by my mount.  Sigh.  I always will, for as long as she lives, feel held back by her breed and the limitations that come with it.

Daatje loves to hunt, but I feel her frustration level rise too, when her body is done but her mind wants to keep going.  I even sense her anticipation of the discomfort she experiences on the more humid hunting days.

Sorry for the dump of Debbie-downer-ness, but I had to get that off my chest.

Tribulations of riding a Friesian aside, we have had some really nice photos taken of us lately, thanks to the kindness of Eric Schneider. :)










Mmmm, cider.


A beautiful photo from last Saturday's hunt at Prodigue Farm, Rochester, NH
Only two more Saturday hunts before the BIG ONE, the All NE Joint Meet!  Hard to believe how the time has flown by this year. 

I promise to make every effort to stave off the case of the OTTB's, keep the expectations down to Daatje's comfort level and just try to have a good time out with my horse.  Jealousy be damned, if I keep this up I'll go mad, or try to sell her again, which will also make me go mad.

Where'd I put my flask again?  I could use a swig or ten......

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Breaking from the daily grind to bring you.....

......a post!

No, seriously.  It's been a month since I've posted here.  Sorry!  So busy with work (rotting in the office to pay for the stuff that matters), riding, training for a December Half Marathon, working on the house.....

Foxhunting season is going great!  Daatje is up in First Field, jumping just about everything (a few bobbles, but we sorted them out) and knock-on-wood sound and healthy at 13.

Here we are at last Saturday's hunt, which was the Children's Hunt at Green Acres Stable in Madbury, NH.

 
It's been crazy in the weather department over the past few weeks.  80's one minute, 40's the next!  It was 37F the morning of this hunt, while today is muggy and in the high 70's.  I'm really ready for fall to kick it into high gear already!  Anyway, this particular cool morning allowed for the cubbing jackets to be worn without cooking their occupants! :D

Standing at a check.

Pulling the remaining hind shoe
She actually lost a hind shoe on this hunt.  The footing was rough and at some point she stepped it off with the other hind.  The leather pads had smooshed out the sides and my feeling is that's what gave the other foot purchase to pull it.  Not a big deal as she was due for a reset this weekend.  Here I am, in the photo above, pulling off her other hind so she's at least even for the ride home. :)  The Magic Cushion packing material stayed put and didn't come out!  Great stuff that is.  Would use it again in a heart beat!
 
I had been giving a lot of thought about the plastic horseshoes lately, weighing their pros and cons and really feeling like it was time to make the switch from plastic to steel.  While I love the shock absorption and flexibility of the plastic shoes, those properties were also a huge draw back.  They "flipflopped" in tough going, collected dirt and debris underneath, weakened the nail holes and caused the clinches to come loose.  Their plastic construction held too much moisture against the sole.  These factors, coupled with the largest size they offer being just a hair too small for her, has swayed me to stop using them and put her in St. Croix Eventers, which she has worn in the past.
 
So, I purchased a stall jack and rounding hammer and went about learning how to cold shape steel shoes. 
 
It's a bitch.  I want a forge. :P  Lol.
 
But, 1,000,000,000,000, hammer strikes later, I got it done and her hooves look decent enough.  On the lunge, she moves out well and freely in them.  More freely than in the GC shoes.  Better traction too.  This should help her confidence. (The bobbles jumping lately have been traction related)
 
Left Hind

Right Hind
 
Left Hind
 
What happens when you're learning and a perfectionist at the same time.

Left Front


Left Front
 

Left Front Lateral View

Front view

Left Front Medial View

Right Front

Right Front Lateral View

Right Front

Right Front
 I hope these offer her the protection she needs, while not compromising the moisture balance in the foot.  I will add leather pads and Magic Cushion if the need arises, but wanted to start out with just the shoe and see how it goes.

This coming week will be more farm sitting, race training (me), horse conditioning and Foxhunting at the end of it all.  This coming hunt will be at Garrison House in Durham, NH, so hope to have some nice pics!  It's a beautiful farm.



Monday, August 25, 2014

Revisiting the Urethane Horseshoes

Foxhunting season is upon us (hooray!) and it is ever more imperative that I protect my horses hooves.  We're still using the Ground Control horseshoes and on our second season with them.  They hold up fairly well (I get 10-12 weeks out of a shoe) and have a nice balance of traction (with Grip Studs!) and shock absorbtion.  They do tend to collect dirt and debris under the web and frog protector, which is very difficult to clean out.  The last reset, I cut out the frog protector, which really helped with the dirt entrapment, but reduced the protection for her foot. 

We travers some very rocky areas and often at speed.  So, I decided this time around to try packing around her frogs with Magic Cushion, filling in the rest of the void with oakum fiber and then adding a 4 Heavy leather pads to the package.

Ground Controls set up with pads and studs
 
I hope to acheive a few things with the addition of the leather pads.  First and foremost is increased protection for her soles over rocks.  Also, with the packing and additional coverage of the pads, I hope to keep much of the dirt and debris from getting stuck under the shoes in places that I can't clean out.

I put these on her yesterday and she seems really happy with them so far.  We have a hunt up in Tamworth, NH this coming Saturday, so that will be a good test as, if I recall, there was some serious granite up there!




 




Nails farthest back were holding shoe and pad together for application.  They were pulled out before the job was completed.
 I'm pretty please with how they turned out.  We'll see how well they hold up! :)  Also interested to see if the Magic Cushion will improve the hoof quality over time.  Packed with that has to be better than packed with bacteria laden dirt. :)

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Spartan Race (Aroo!) and one last dressage show....

Last weekend was INSANE.  Back in February, I signed up for the Spartan Race held at the Amesbury Sports Park.  Seemed like a fabulous idea at the time.  "It'll get me to work out", I said, "a great personal challenge" I said.

Well, it ended up on the same weekend as my last USEF dressage show.

Five miles of grueling hills, impossible obstacles and slipperly, slimy, smelly MUD.  I finished in just over 2 hours.  I have never been so sore in my life!  I had no time to train (far too busy this summer!).  Thank goodness I'm generally fit or I never would have made it!


Here's proof.  Your's truly completed a Spartan Race.  Arrrrgh.  That was fun.  Like a heart attack!  No, really.  It was fun. :P  They post photos of runners en-route during the race, so as soon as I've got some, I'll share.  Should be good. :P

The next day dawned and I was up butt-crack early to haul up to UNH for the last dressage show before hunt season starts.  We just did one test (smart move!) and came away with a 63.22 in First Level Test 3 despite my.....err.....inability to ride well due to revolting muscles!  Lol.  Daatje was good, even on such a warm day. 

Thanks to my friend Marielle, for this wonderful photo!
Yesterday I realized that I now have enough scores to apply for the USDF Rider Performance Award at 1st level.  (yay!) Daatje needs 6 more scores above 60% at 1st level to qualify for the USDF Horse Performance Award.  Definitely a goal for next season. :)

Moving forward, today's openning meet was cancelled due to rain (bummer, but I couldn't go anyway....working) so we are all looking forward to the start of hunt season on Saturday!  I promise a hunt report with photos. :D  'till then......

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Dressage Sport Horse Show

On Saturday, July 19th, Daatje and I made our way over to UNH in Durham, NH for the Broadfields 121 Dressage Sport Horse Show.  We'd never done one of these before, so I thought it would be an interesting experience. :) 

We entered two classes, Maiden Mares 4 and older and the Friesian Breed class.  I didn't expect Daatje to score well in the Maiden class, especially against dressage bred warmbloods.  While I'm partial to my mare, I'm not so starry eyed that I can't recognize her conformational faults. :)

So, we placed 6th out of 6 in that class. :)  The Friesian Breed class was kinda silly because we were the only Friesian there!  Honestly, more Friesian peeps should have come out, they would have had a great time.  (and given us some competition!)  I felt odd accepting the big FHANA high point neck sash!  I mean, we were the only ones. :P




The judge was dutch (cool!) and spot on with his assessment of her.  A friend joined me for the morning and helped me get Daatje ready for her first class.  She also brought her amazing camera and took these photos of us after the Maiden Class.  Just lovely.  Faults and all, I simply LOVE this mare. :)



We have one more dressage show this season, which will be back at UNH on this coming Sunday, August 10th.  I'm so glad it's the last one!  This has been fun (and $$$$!) but I'm ready to start ATV'ing with my pony.  Foxhunting begins for us next Saturday!!!

On another note....little did I know that Broadfields would be the last time my old red Chevy hauled my horse trailer.  I took it in to the shop for an oil change last Saturday with plans on doing a brake job with my Dad that afternoon.  Well, turns out not only did it need brakes all around, the rear backing plate was rusted off (gone, as in not present).  That on top of what I knew needed fixing (the front wheel bearing and hub assemblies, AC vacuum leak, heater core, radiator) and the rust that had accumulated over 13 years of living outside, was the last straw.  I was done putting $$$ into the old girl and set out that morning to buy a BRAND NEW TRUCK! 

Wait, what?  Yes.  A brand spankin' new GMC Sierra.  Say hello to our new wheels. :D


 
 
Looking forward to hauling to hunts safely and in style. :D  

Monday, July 21, 2014

UNH June Dressage

What a busy summer!  I don't know if I'm coming or going between juggling horse shows, property maintenance and improvements, work and family it's just crazy sauce!

Back in June, I took Daatje to the USEF Dressage show up in UNH.  This was just before I took a week long business trip to Ohio.  I was bummed 'cause I wanted to show both Saturday and Sunday that weekend, performing one test each day, but I had to fly out on Sunday and didn't want to risk having to scratch out of a test just to make the flight.

So anyway, Daatje was very, very good.  She always gets decent marks with respectable comments like "horse is very obedient", etc.  She'll never get stellar marks as she's not a brilliant horse.  Her gaits aren't over the top, she's long in the back and steep in the croup which makes lengthening difficult for her.  But she tries to do everything I ask of her the best that she can.  What more can I ask for? :)

There was a professional photographer there, who took a TON of photos of us.  I bought alot of the digital images, just couldn't decide between them!  Here are a few of my favorites.

Love this photo!
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

The Sensation Formal Dressage Saddle continues to impress. :)  I had to use the pad I made for my Jump model as I hadn't had time to sort something out that fits this saddle better, but it did the job and only looks a little funny. :)  She scored well in the mid-sixties in both First 2 and First 3. 

After this show, we attended the NEDA Summer show.  The weather was nasty hot.  Daatje put in what felt like the best test of the season so far, but the judge only scored us a 58.8%  Too low, based on what we've been scoring and how she felt, but some judges just don't like Friesians.  I haven't encountered it in a while, but the prejudice still exsists.  No matter, soon we will be galloping over hill and dale, through swamp, forest and fields to a pack of hounds in full cry!

That is where the REAL fun is at. :)  Season starts for us on August 16th!!!