Forrest

Hi, everyone! I’m back!

A lot of you may be questioning the fact that I haven’t posted in a while. And my last post was about me not being on good terms with Indy.

Well, things have sort of progressed in significant ways since I last posted. I haven’t been in contact much with the blog/hobby world because I have been sorting some things out. So here’s how it goes.

After I got out of school a few weeks ago, mama asked me, “what are you looking for in a horse?” Of course, I replied, “Why do you ask?” she says “I don’t know. What you would want in an ideal horse.” So I told her I wanted a partner. A horse that I could feel safe and confident while riding. Nothing fancy, just a friend and a partner. And that’s when she told me that Bethany was offering to buy Indy back from us.IMG_8273

At first I was a bit upset over the thought of losing Indy. She is like my friend and sister at the same time and I always looked forward to seeing her and was proud to own an ex-racehorse. And yet, I was never satisfied. I loved riding her, but I would always get tense and nervous, and even when we had good days, I would always question my ability to ride her effectively, and whether I was really contributing to her training or just being a burden. I would wonder where I would be if we had just bought a safer horse to begin with instead of a green thoroughbred.

 

After much thought, Mama and I settled on the same thing. It would be best for both us and for Indy if we sold her back to Bethany. We both needed a horse we could just get on and not feel nervous, angry or scared. Indy needed a dependable source of training and someone that had the skill to support her and be her leader without breaking down.

Indy now belongs to Bethany. And for her, not much has changed. I still visit her every time I go to the barn. She still has the same stall. We even let her keep her special ladybug blanket and her stall sign. She is going to turn seven on April 18th.

Anyway, this is Forrest.IMG_3476.JPG

Over the past few weeks while going through this process, I have been overcome in a variety of emotions: at first upset and bewildered over the thought of losing Indy, but after finding this guy at a farm in North Carolina, in love!

Forrest is a Quarter horse gelding. He’s a Grade horse, which means he doesn’t have AQHA papers or an established pedigree, but grade horses are known to be hardier (because often the registered ones will be victims of inbreeding.) We found him at a farm called Circle M. They are based out of North Carolina and are partnered with a farm in Oklahoma where they break and train these horses and use them to do ranch work before they are shipped to North Carolina. So, Forrest has worked with Cattle and done all sorts of ranch horse jobs and trail rides. His original name was Money. Forrest was mama’s idea, and I couldn’t love the name more!

He is broke like he is twenty years old. And yet, he is about Indy’s age- only 7!

We drove up to the farm to look at him last Sunday.  We had been browsing sale ads for  awhile, but something kept bringing us back to his ad, and to this particular farm in general. It took us three hours to get there. I wore my new Feather Run Farm team jacket for good luck.IMG_3490.jpg

watching mama do groundwork with him, I noticed he was not taught natural-horsemanship-style groundwork, but he did his best of what mama was asking. His owner told me that he was trained to be ground-tied, and he did it well. I was the first to get on. Watching him move slowly made me question his sharpness and energy under saddle, but I was not disappointed. Forrest moved so well as I was riding him. His jog felt smooth and supple. When I signaled for a hind-end front-end turn, he stepped right over. He had plenty of energy, but at the same time he stayed with me and never thought about running away from my hand. IMG_3489.jpg

When mama rode him, she had the widest grin on her face, and I don’t think she even knew. Forrest was calm and quiet for her as well as me.IMG_3492.JPG

The farm had a short but beautiful trail that wrapped around the property, so I was allowed to get back on Forrest and go around the quick twenty-minute loop. We rode through a couple overhanging branches, by a river where there were lots of noisy cicadas, and up a very steep gravel hill, and Forrest was simply amazing! He is so sure-footed and attentive, yet easy-going.

Here I am after we got back and the owners showed us how quiet he was being given a leg wash and fly spray. Mama had just signed his papers as I was standing there with him.IMG_3491.JPG

Afterwards, I walked him around a bit and snapped a couple pictures.IMG_3472.JPG

It is true that as far as natural horsemanship goes, Forrest has some things to learn. We will need to work on backing as well as groundwork. But what both I and mama felt under saddle and on the ground was enough. He even has a long mane that will be fun to braid, and no whites on his legs, which means he is less prone to rain rot. He was everything we were looking for and then some!

One last goodbye as we start the long 3-hour drive back home. I’ll see you on Sunday, Forrest!IMG_3485

Forrest is coming home on Sunday. We are already getting things ready for him. Mama went to Tractor Supply yesterday and bought a new bowl and a salt lick, and she also put mats in his future stall. I can hardly contain myself, I am counting the seconds!

I am beyond excited to have this new and special boy in my life. Can’t it be Sunday now?

Hour 31

To be perfectly honest: since the fall, I haven’t really been on good terms with my horse.IMG_8208

Of course I love her to pieces! She’s the most beautiful and adorable horse I have ever seen.

but sometimes she annoys me so much she makes my blood boil.IMG_7531

It’s the little things, like how she just won’t stand still in the wash stall. Or when I am riding her and she just can’t get her little butt moving (Ironic for an ottb, right?) or when she won’t turn, if she nips at the horse beside her, if she walks away while I am trying to undo her blanket so she can attack the horse standing next to her.

In fact, I think the whole reason the fall and everything else happened was because of the anger that exists between us. I get mad at her because of something she’s doing, and in turn she gets mad at me and pins her ears,img_8013

and it all goes downhill from there. I guess one of my instincts is when I get nervous, my nerves translate into anger, which carries into my horse. It can be scary riding a green horse and knowing that you are in the driver’s seat.

I am trying to learn to work with Indy in a constructive way so we can get along and get things done without a fight. Sometimes it’s hard to be assertive and even aggressive to get what you want but be completely calm about it at the same time. I have been refusing to accept that nerves exist, when in reality they have been hiding in plain sight.

long story short: we are like sisters.We are both moody, occasionally cranky. We annoy each other and are arch rivals but at the same time there are times when we can’t be separated.

today, mama and I worked Indy on the ground. I am nervous and clumsy with the rope and I don’t know what I am doing. I understand how important groundwork is, but doing it makes me feel angry and powerless.IMG_3346.JPGone thing is for sure: I am not getting back on Indy until I can come to terms with her. I need to establish boundaries but at the same time prevent unnecessary anger and overcome nerves. My trainer recently attended a Natural Horsemanship clinic in Texas, so she’s got some things to teach me in the next lesson. It’s into the round pen with me!IMG_3347.JPGlike my new coat?

Hour 30

Hello again! Hour 30 was so much fun, I think it deserves its own post. Hour 29 was a simple practice ride with Tia.

for Hour 30, I had an exciting lesson with Thasia in the outdoor arena, jumps included! Because of the cold, dark evenings, and rain, I haven’t had a lesson in the outdoor arena since…October??

IMG_2813                                                                                      and I haven’t gotten to jump a whole course since then either.

Today the temperature was perfect, the sky was blue, the outdoor arena was sort-of-not-muddy and I was feeling great.

After a flatwork warmup, we practiced jumping a simple line of cross rails down the diagonal line and a red plank jump.

Including this orange jump that matches me perfectly! Haha!                                            don’t know what’s going on with our leads here..IMG_8361.PNG

anyway. The jumps involved Thasia rushing a little bit, so afterwards Bethany had an idea for an exercise that would make it hard for her to rush, and get me in check.

I am sure some riders are familiar with this: we did a figure-8 over a blue plank jump. IMG_8385.jpgExcept this figure 8 was very tight. Every time we came over the jump we had to make a very tight turn. The left turn was pretty much good,IMG_8387the hardest turn was the one to the right.IMG_8386.PNGthe first time wasn’t very good: There is a purple jump standard just in front of me in this picture, and I had to turn before it. I almost ran into it.

The second time was a little better, but not by much.IMG_8389.jpg

The third time, I actually discovered that in order to not run into the purple standard, I had to do the jump at an angle.IMG_8390.jpgIMG_8391.jpgthat worked out better for both of us, and the turn was a lot smoother. This is a cool exercise to try if you/your horse have rushing problems and need to tune to each other better. It’s amazing what a figure 8 can do..

After the figure 8 I took a break,IMG_8357.jpg

and then we moved on to jumping a full-on course!

I started with the diagonal line I did in the beginning of the lesson: the red crossrail to the orange one that matched my outfit.IMG_8392.jpg

then I came around and did a blue cross rail, and then a bending line to a pink one.IMG_8394.jpgthen I turned abruptly inward and rode to the blue plank again.

The first time around Thasia tricked me so darn well that I didn’t know until Bethany told me. I had forgotten to turn towards the pink jump on the bending line, and Thasia took care of the rest. I had also gotten some leads wrong and rushed the turn towards the plank.

The second time around, even though the turn towards the blue cross rail was awful, I did the whole bending line and got all my leads right.IMG_8393.PNG

Not only was this lesson exciting, but it marks improvement in my riding. Before, it was all about “hold on, and your horse will take care of the jump.” now I have to assume an active role in the jump as well as the pace. I need to be sharp and ready to guide Thasia, but at the same time I need to listen to her and not clamp down on her mouth. That is when things start to go awry. It also was a huge confidence boost.

it feels good to know that I actually jump actively and that I have made significant improvement in the past 6 months as a rider. My first show of the season is in April with Thasia, and I am feeling better and better about it. Good things coming!

visiting Indy. She had her first adjustment done by the vet a couple days ago. I am curious so feel her under saddle.IMG_8363.jpgsweet girl..

 

A Bit More About Me

Hello again! Before I start documenting the rides I have gotten over the past few days, I think it would be wise to give you all a little background on where I have been up to this point. So here we go!

I started riding about five years ago, but really I have been into horses my whole life. My first horse was a hobby horse named Cocoa.

Feb 2007 011

my grandmother used to have miniature horses that I loved so much as a tiny tot. Their names were Marble, Feather and Sugar.100_2035

In fact, I loved the minis so much that I had them come to my front yard for my fourth birthday party. That’s when I had my first fall: Breaking my arm because the girth wasn’t fastened when I got on (And that kids is why you always fasten your girth). We’ll come back to that later.

A few good years later, I went for my first real ride with my mom’s old friend and a humble bay mare named Annie.annie5yearanniversary.JPG

I remember my grandmother cheering when I got into the saddle. It was going through my mind that when I sat in the saddle, that I was an official equestrian and I had just transitioned from wannabe to rider.

After that day I didn’t get to ride for a long, long while, but I was convinced that I was now a part of the horse world. I was horse-obsessed more than ever.

I actually started taking lessons when I was in sixth grade at Feather Run Farm. The first horse I ever rode there was Thasia. Mama took me there because she decided to take a drive one day and she drove past my future home away from home. She had heard about it from a saddle fitter who lived down the street from our house in the suburbs.IMG_6491.jpg

I believe this photo is from my first lesson. My trainer to this day, Bethany, is holding on to Thasia for me. The funny thing is that the saddle i’m in is the saddle I actually use to teach my six year old brother…

I progressed and rode at Feather Run Farm for about a year. I even got my brother into it. IMG_6591.JPGTia, a Pintabian, and my brother, Robert (there are two bros). Becky is helping him pick Tia’s foot. I made so many memories when I was there that first year. Only one thing was wrong: I lacked confidence and never cantered once when I was there.

After a full year, Feather Run Farm moved. I was devastated.

Luckily, my friend Elizabeth hooked me right up with her instructor, Erika. I started by riding a little Welsh mountain pony called Maggie. IMG_8503.JPGElizabeth is on her bay mare, Ice, in this picture.

At this point I had little to no confidence, even though no fall had happened to me since that fourth birthday party. I guess I was just naturally that way. I hated being scared and it only got worse.

I had always wanted to compete in a horse show my entire life. I was riding a bay Dutch Warmblood named Callie at the time, and I was very excited to try a walk/trot flat class. But I was also dreadfully nervous. On my first show day, I was so nervous I wanted to cry. I got squeezed in between a pony, a jump and the rail, a truck drove down the road, Callie started cantering, and I fell off. At my first horse show. IMG_9365.JPG(You can tell by my face.) This is before it happened.

Of course, that only made things worse. I dreaded every lesson, and when I trotted the only thing that would go through my brain was “Don’t fall off, Don’t fall off.” Even trotting was a scary, scary thing for me. I even almost cried when I rode Maggie down a hill at a walk. I was a hot mess.

And yet, I stayed with it. That’s what amazes me. I could have quit at any time, but in my mind that was not an option. I made it through a couple more shows with Callie, a schooling show and a show at Clemson. I had just bought a new show coat and was very proud of it. But I was so nervous during one of my trot-pole rounds, I quit it. I was always overcome in a fit of jealousy for my fellow students who won literally everything.IMG_0323.JPGeverything’s cool here, except for my face. I can tell the judges are super thrilled.

After Callie, there was a disagreement between my instructor and the owner of the barn, so she agreed to move to Elizabeth’s house, where I began riding her appaloosa, Jeffrey. I was still a nervous wreck, except I was cantering and jumping. Of course, I didn’t want to do that, and I still dreaded lessons, but I did it anyway.IMG_1276.jpg

The shows that I did with Jeffrey were good. In fact, I ended up raking in the ribbons. I guess the schooling show judges liked his cute spotty booty.img_1490The only problem was that even after a couple years of riding, my nerves limited me to the walk-trot class, competing and often losing to kids that were more than five years younger than me. I always let my age get to me. I hated that I was competing in a class with five year olds but didn’t have enough courage to move up. I was still a nervous wreck in general.IMG_2775.JPGhe’s so adowwable though.

The worst lesson of my entire life took place in Elizabeth’s small arena, doing a crossrail at a canter that was situated on the short side. I mistaked the turn. I ended up falling off three times. Surprisingly, I was left unhurt, although I got sick afterwards. As we pulled out, there was still sand in my mouth and even my voice had been knocked out of whack.

one day, my mother told me that she heard through Facebook that Feather Run Farm was coming back. I was surprised beyond belief, but I never thought I would be going back.

I was in eighth grade at the time. When they turned us out to the track at school, I sat alone on the bleachers (like I usually did), tore out a spare piece of sketchbook paper and wrote a long, heartfelt letter to Bethany and Becky. I sent her pictures of me riding Jeffrey. I sent it, and I waited. Eventually, mama reached out to them through social media, and I went to go visit.IMG_3654.JPG                     Here I am on Thasia, in the same arena, three years later.

The rest of the story is simple. I have been back at Feather Run Farm for over a year, and my confidence went from complete and total rock-bottom to the best it has ever been. I am riding and owning a green thoroughbred with ease, and jumping verticals…for fun! I know it sounds super easy for most riders, but personally I am very, very happy with where I am at. I will start going over fences next show season, and I will do it proudly and calmly. I have even been completely calm at recent shows, even after taking a spill with Finn. Nerves do not exist anymore, even when I am learning something new.

IMG_2813a ride that I had a couple weeks ago

That’s why I am taking the next step. I am watching myself progress by cataloging my rides. I know that i’m ready to tackle something new and exciting. It’s been, well, a ride, but I would not have missed a single minute! I’m ready to share my riding adventures of the past and future to anyone who wants to listen. I am ready to get started!