Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Small Check, Big Post

It’s already May 13 and I’m finally getting around to sharing this news:

The lease check I wrote to the barn this month was a lot smaller than usual. As in, only half the amount. May 15 will be my last day leasing Marve.

I made this decision for a variety of reasons. I wish I could say his bolting had absolutely nothing to do with it, but it did make an impact. He has been better lately, definitely, but I’m still scared sometimes, and I find myself downright dreading certain things (like cantering large, following other horses, etc.).

But even more so than that, my decision came down to time. I am run ragged and feel like something has to give. Riding even just 3 days a week was proving to be too much. While I’m sad to be ending the lease, I’m very excited by all the time I will have to spend on other things. Writing. Catching up with friends. Joining another writers’ group. My SO has wanted to take an oil painting class at the community arts center with me for ages, and now I have time to do it. Plus, in the coming months I have a whopping four business trips (one of which is international) and three out-of-town weddings, so I don’t see how I’ll have time to ride as much as I have been anyway.

But all of this comes with guilt, too. The barn manager was disappointed I was ending the lease, but she told me they expect to keep Marve on at the barn. I will continue riding him in weekly lessons, so it’s not like I’ll never see him again. But I know I will miss the feeling of having my “own” horse to care for and ride. I even feel guilty that I have interests outside of riding that I also want to explore. There are only so many hours in the day, and I guess now is a time to take a break.

I still feel a bit torn. Since last spring when I started riding Mae, I’ve been leasing and therefore had a horse to (kind of) call my own. Now I feel like I’m moving backward by going back to only taking lessons. Plus, I have the urge more than ever to get my own horse, but that still isn’t going to happen. Despite the time issue, which is a big one, I also recently got some bad news at work: our company is cutting salaries 12% across the board. Yikes. So now, with a reduced salary and with my job’s future in question, I’m not exactly in the place to go horse shopping. I just keep telling myself: some day. Some day, it will happen.

In the meantime, I think I’ll take a break from blogging. I have been pretty erratic lately about posting, and I’m sorry for that, but thanks to the few loyal readers who actually keep coming by. I will continue reading your blogs to get my dose of horsey goodness. I will have to settle for living vicariously through you for a while.

As for me, I hope to be back. Maybe it will be when I take up another lease, or when I decide I’d like to blog in detail about my lessons and progress, or maybe even the day I finally feel ready to buy a horse. For now, I’ll miss you guys. Thanks for your advice, support, and friendship. Happy riding!

Sunday, April 19, 2009


Things have been tough lately. Last week, I lost a friend. She had a lengthy illness and it wasn't exactly unexpected, but of course that doesn't help how much it hurts.

As anyone who ever lost a loved one knows, the loss -- whether it's a family member, a friend, a horse or a pet -- tends to trigger other losses, too. So as I grieve for my friend, I also grieve for my mother, my dog from 5 years ago, and the amazing Arab mare I had during my childhood and teens.

On the day my friend died, I had a riding lesson scheduled. Maybe it sounds weird, but I went to it. I had been wallowing all day and wanted to try to focus on something else.

As I was getting ready to go to the barn, I told my SO that I wished I would be riding a horse other than Marve, maybe a more "soulful" horse. Like my old Arab mare. Some horses just have that old soul thing going on, and if I had gone grieving to the stable to meet my mare, I just know she'd look at me as if she understood. Not that there is anything wrong with Marve, but he's got a different personality. And of course, this made me miss the mare again, and then my mother. But still I pulled myself together and went to the stable.

When I got there, I petted Marve and smelled his face. I don't have to tell you guys about that horsey smell and how comforting and familiar it is. It was good to see him. But I still felt fragile, and was worried I wouldn't be strong enough, mentally or physically, to handle one of his bolting sessions. So I spoke to my instructor and told her exactly what I felt I needed and what would make me comfortable in the lesson. She listened without question and supported me in all that I asked for. After the lesson, we had a bit of a chat. I know she has been through some rough times these last few weeks, too, but it was great to get her support. I have to say that I really admire and respect my instructor as a person. She has a good heart. And I'm glad I knew when to speak up about my needs in the lesson.

The schooling show at the barn was this weekend. I stayed at home, as planned. Since I told the barn manager in advance I wasn't going to ride Marve, someone else could have, but I found out that he was not ridden in the show. Apparently he has been bolting with other people occasionally, too, and especially when he's right behind another horse. I guess they decided not to risk it, and I'm glad for that. Part of me wanted to be at the show this weekend, but I know it was the right decision, and the safe one, to skip it. And now I feel that more strongly than ever, since I have so much healing to do.

I have been making a conscious effort to focus on all the wonderful things I do have in my life. First and foremost, a loving partner in my SO. My health. Financial stability. Happiness. I have it good and I know it. I just need to concentrate on that when things do go wrong.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Horse Hair Extensions!

Hey, have you seen this? It totally made me think of Brego's tail extensions!

Whoa! Horses get hair extensions

“The horses loved it, are you kidding?” Wolkenstein told Vieira. “They had a great time. They loved the grooming and being fawned over — the flashlights probably not as much. They had to stand in a very specific spot so that the lighting would be right, so it was a long process getting that right.”

There's a video, too. My favorite part of that is when the intro newslady says Meredith will ask about "whatever gave him the idea to photograph these horses?" Love the emphasis on the word "photograph" but I don't really think that's the question. You see a horse with crazy-creepy human hair extensions, you're gonna photograph it. The question is why would you give the horse extensions in the first place?

Ah, well. The horses got some attention and apparently had a great time. (Except for the flashlights.)

Monday, March 30, 2009

Bolting at Horse Shows

I just read this post on the Fugly blog and was horrified by the youtube video of a driving class gone wrong. This was really one of the most upsetting things I've seen in a while and I hope all people and horses are okay, though it's impossible to tell from the video. Besides the obvious -- the guys running around trying to stop the horses and inadvertently herding them into other horses, carts, and people -- I couldn't understand why one woman was still sitting in her cart. If it was me, I'd have jumped out once my horse was stopped and being held by someone else. Of course, within seconds after I thought that, a runaway horse knocked in the cart and tipped the woman and her horse over. What a pathetic mess!

Anyway, this video and Fugly's post made me think of Marve. The barn manager assumed I was riding him in the next show, which is coming up soon, and I shocked both her and maybe even myself by saying no. I want to sit this one out. She seemed almost disappointed in me, but the bottom line is I'm afraid something might happen. Marve came kind of close to bolting/freaking out at the last show we were in. Granted, there were no disasters, and everything was okay, but since then his bolting tendencies have gotten a bit worse, and especially in two particular ways: when we canter large, or when we end up riding fairly close behind other horses. And in this horse show, which would consist mostly of flat classes, where we're only going large and following closely to other horses, I didn't want to deal with the stress. And if I'm worried that he will get nervous and bolt, then he'd probably feel the tension and, well, bolt.

Maybe I'm being over cautious. It's definitely disappointing for me because I feel that Marve is easily capable of being in one of these shows, and being okay. If he had a stronger or better or more relaxed rider, maybe this wouldn't even be an issue. But the fact is that he bolts roughly every third or fourth time I ride him. Sometimes they are little bolts, but sometimes they are big and freaking terrifying and I cannot imagine how bad it would be if he did that in the show.

I am not too upset about skipping the show, at least not as much as I thought I'd be. What bothers me is I feel I'm moving backwards. After our last show, I assumed if I kept up the lease, we'd be in a much better place for this show and I'd feel more confident and prepared. So it's like I'm chickening out or something.

But after watching that driving class video, I'm reminded that safety always comes first. I do believe there is the potential for Marve to set off a similar situation in the show ring with things as they are, and I don't want that to happen.

Monday, March 23, 2009

I want a pony.

Some things never change. I will always want a pony. And judging by some horsey message boards I was on, it looks like this is a desire shared by other adult women, too.

True story: When I was about 5, I asked for a pony in my Christmas letter to Santa. Mind you that my mother had recently purchased her Arab mare so we already had an equine in our family. But this was not a horse I could ride or that was child-sized. And most importantly, she wasn't a pony. (Still, was I a brat or what?)

Good lord ponies are cute.

The smaller, the fuzzier, the better. I was looking at some of the ponies at the barn this weekend and was just overcome with pony ownership desire. The fact that I'm a tall adult might diminish my joy a bit since I couldn't ride said pony, but I still want a pony.

I know I will totally own a pony someday. Somehow, and perhaps not for logical reasons, that goal seems more attainable than owning a full-sized horse. I mean, I know ponies are a little cheaper to feed but other than that you're talking similar expenses. But still. Pony pony pony.

My dream is to have a nice big drafty or draft-cross as my riding horse. And then also a pony. Maybe I will rescue an older pony who can't be ridden anymore and who exists only to eat grass in my field. Oh, yeah, I have my own field in this dream, too. A small barn, a couple of pastures, an old farm house. And a pony. Works for me!

Yes, I've been thinking again about how I'd like my own horse. But now is definitely not the time, what with the economy and my job looking not entirely certain these days. I just have to remind myself that it can happen, and it will....some day.

As long as that "some day" also includes a pony at some point, I'm golden. :)

Monday, March 9, 2009

The Horse-Human Bond

A few months ago I ended up on some horse-related message board that appeared to be a big draw for young girls. The hottest topic for 11-13 year old equestrians? Bonding with your horse. Some girls were very anxious about how they could bond with a horse they ride once a week in lessons, especially considering that other kids rode this same schoolie as well. So how could they create the biggest, strongest bond with this horse? And what was the quickest way to do it? And how could they prove their bond was stronger than anyone else's?

I'll hazard to say that the bonding they were talking about is the romanticized, unrealistic type you see in movies, usually where a kid who knows nothing about horses magically tames some wild, unbroken stallion within 4 days simply by staring deeply into his eyes and stroking his muzzle to earn his trust. Obviously that is ridiculous, but I find it interesting that these kids are so into the concept of creating the mystical bond with a horse. Even more than that, they view it as sort of a competition or as bragging rights.

I guess I was thinking about all this and thinking of Marve. Obviously, relationships develop between humans and horses. Every now and then I'll think back to the Arabian mare I had as a child and get teary-eyed because I miss her so much. She was soulful and kind and gentle and intelligent. I loved her and I know she loved me.

But when I think over all the horses horses I've ridden or cared for, I don't think of the B-word. And that includes, to some extent, Mae and Marve.

It could be a simple time issue. I only had about 4 months with Mae, and I definitely felt more strongly connected to her by the end of the lease. And I'd wager that Marve and I definitely have more of a relationship now, about 7 months in. But I also don't feel particularly connected to Marve, and I guess that makes me feel guilty, and as if I should be working harder on it. (Hm, do they do couples counseling for people and their horses? Also, could this post get any weirder?)

Could part of it be that I'm still occasionally afraid of him? Or the fact that he doesn't have the best ground manners and isn't always the most pleasant horse to be around? Don't get me wrong, he definitely has a funny personality, and he likes to play and be goofy. But while sometimes I do feel like he is "my" horse, I don't always feel super attached to him.

Maybe that's because in some ways, I'm not entirely different from those girls on the message board: Maybe I am idealizing my former horse-human relationship with my Arab mare in the past, and I can't imagine having that bond again with another horse.

Or maybe it's because Marve is a 17-hand spooky TB who once bit me on the stomach for no apparent reason. Could that be it? :)

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Slate Article on Horse Slaughter

The recent Explainer column on Slate describes how horse slaughter works. It's a brief, matter-of-fact piece and isn't too gory, though it disturbed me to read it. There is a video link I totally did not click on.

The main difference between horse slaughterhouses and cattle plants is that horses are more difficult to herd, often getting into fights en route to the holding pen. That's partly because they're raised for racing or riding, not consumption, and thus aren't accustomed to cramped quarters. (Federal transportation regulations for horses don't have a space requirement, so buyers tend to pack them in tight.) Horses also tend to be more excitable than cows—hence the blinders—and the smell of blood makes them nervous.

I kind of take issue with this part because I don't think cattle slaughter is much better than what they do for horses. Well, okay, situations might be worse for horses than cows for the various reasons outlined in the article, but I don't think that excuses the way other livestock are treated on huge factory farm conglomerations. Anytime you put profits over anything else, these animals are going to suffer.

There is a brief mention that horses in the United States are sent to Canada or Mexico for slaughter, but I think this (and its implications) should have been stressed more, because the average person reading this might think it sounds just peachy we don't really have horse slaughter in America.

Lately, I've seen the issue of horse slaughter or abuse crop up more often in non-horsey places. I recently saw this video on the Onion. At first I thought it was going to be funny but it grows more upsetting, especially when they show a few pictures. When they say they are going to roll the video, look away for a few seconds if you don't want to see the photos! I always avoid viewing this stuff because it's so upsetting. I suppose this makes me part of the masses who prefer to "just not think" about such horrible things, but just as I don't view factory farm footage because I don't feel I contribute to it (I'm vegetarian) I also don't really feel I directly contribute to horse slaughter, so I don't feel like being horrified by the footage of it. Of course, I guess this is the same type of excuse everyone comes up with to not view horrific realities.

In any case, I suppose it's good horse slaughter/abuse seems to be getting more coverage. A little awareness never hurt, right?