Archive for August, 2009
Meet Nitro. My 16.3 hand 23 year old (retired) second level dressage horse. I’ve owned him since I was 13 years old (12 years) and he’s still just as much of a pain as the day I brought him home. I love Nitro, and I owe much of my skills in being patient with horses to him. Nitro, who earned his name due to his EXPLOSIVE behavior, really tested my patience – a lot. You would think at 23 he’d be settling down in his later years. Definitely not. I took home what I thought was a sane 14 year old horse who had done some stuff in his life. What I got was a drugged horse that was a home-bred mess and had sat in a field for 10 years of his life – I paid way too much for him. Everything he knows/learned I taught him. We advanced struggled through the dressage levels together. Sometimes I smiled, sometimes I cried and threatened to sell him. Majority of the times I threatened to sell him. But he somehow wormed his way into my heart despite all of his flaws. He’ll live with me until the day he dies.
That being said yesterday was one of the days I threatened to sell him. Oh dear sweet Nitro, you make everyday an adventure!
I arrived at the barn around 5:30pm – slightly confused. Normally all of the horses are in their (correct) stalls, while the Trick ponies (Minnow, Boomer and Blitz) have access to their stalls with their dutch doors open to a small paddock. Two other horses have dutch doors that can open to the paddock if we choose, Nitro and my sister’s horse Jet. So when I arrived at the barn I was slightly perplexed as to why Blitz was locked in Nitro’s stall (happily munching his hay) and Nitro was wondering around in the paddock with the other ponies. My first thought was that someone made a mistake – we have a few self-care boarders. But upon further inspection I realized that the stall Blitz was in was actually just pushed shut and not latched. The conclusion – one of the ponies (oh those evil ponies) unlatched Nitro’s door and set him free. Blitz then went in his stall to eat and someone (or him) closed the door behind him. My guess is that it was Blitz. Blitz is the only one with real motive to do it. For one he idolizes Nitro, who is the herd leader and keeper of the farm, and two Blitz is very much guided by his rumbling tummy. I’m sure Nitro’s leftover hay looked like such a treat.
So you may think the story stops here, you would be wrong. Nitro, being the high strung horse that he is, was really worked up about being out with the ponies all day. Whinnying to his pal Diego who was stalled down the isle, worried about where his “herd” was. Only a daily basis Nitro is only in contact with one horse, a boarder named Diego – with a fitting show name of Outlaw. So noticing how worked up Nitro was getting I opted to turn him out in the pasture first instead of leading both Diego and Nitro at the same time like I usually do. So I turned Nitro out and went back to get Diego. Meanwhile Nitro was getting even more worked up out in the pasture. When I got back to the pasture with Diego Nitro had backed off some from the fence. I safely got Diego inside and was turning him around to shut the gate before I set him free. Just as I was slipping Diego’s halter off and starting to walk out the gate Nitro comes charging us. He proceeds to try to double barrel kick Diego – who rears in defense, knocking me to the ground. And just my luck the fence swings open and I have two huge horses barreling out of the pasture.
My first thought is oh crap please let them head back to the barn. With Nitro (who’s not the brightest crayon in the box) I should of known that wouldn’t happen. No, instead he takes off down the driveway with Diego in tow. Luckily the farm is tucked away off the road, surrounded by farmland. Except for one big house up on the hill. And of course they head for the big house – with their newly manicured lawn – and it had been raining for several days. As I watch them run through the neighbors lawn and over the hill and disappear out of sight I have a mini heart attack. I run to the barn grab halters and a bucket of grain. I sprint after them hoping to keep them in sight – which didn’t happen. As I approach the McMansion the neighbors appear saying they saw horses run past their house. I continue around to the back to see a view of rolling hills – and no horses – another mini heart attack. I shake my bucket of grain and thank the lord the horses appear in the distance. They begin running straight for me – then I realize they aren’t stopping. I shake the bucket feverishly as the barrel past me…almost knocking me over again. Diego, dear sweet, fat, Diego suddenly makes a sharp U-turn and b-lines it for my bucket of grain. Among pants for breath he scarfs the grain and I quickly halter him. Few – atleast the boarder’s horse is caught. I look up to see Nitro gallop off into the fields. For a moment I think maybe he’ll never return – then I remember I do love him and it would be a shame if he never came back. So I opt to take Diego back to the barn first and return to look for Nitro. The neighbor says he loved seeing all the excitement – I laugh but think to myself are you crazy?
I lock my hand onto Diego’s halter and clamp on with a death grip as I walk the prancing horse back to the barn. He spooks at the house, the barking dogs, the dump truck in the driveway, I hold on for dear life. We get back to the barn driveway and Minnow is bronco bucking around his pasture. I yell whoa to him trying settle him because he’s making Diego hard to hold. As I near the barn, there is dear sweet Nitro, staring at me with crazed eyes. Easy boy. He takes off straight towards me – mini heart attack #3 – I clamp onto Diego again. Amongst the rearing and flying fur I close my eyes and HOLD ON. I’ll be damned if I was going to let Diego go again. I somehow manage to keep in contact with Diego’s halter and lead him back into his pasture. Nitro follows. I get them inside, lock the gate, and collapse onto the picnic table. God I hate dislike Nitro.
As I turn out the rest of the herd (Boomer and Blitz along with my sister’s pony Jet and a near-30 boarder’s horse) I think about how I would take my stubborn little ponies over Nitro anyday. The ponies walk quietly to their pasture – two at a time and I hug them for being well behaved. I think maybe its the Thoroughbred blood in Nitro that makes him so wild, then I think maybe its the Welsh/Connemara pony blood. Then I think note to self – never breed a Throughbred with a pony…bad things happen.
I muck the stalls, sweep up and throw down hay. As I turn off the lights I think about a good friend that lost her 24 year old Thoroughbred today. Flyer was Nitro’s pas de deux partner in crime back in the day. I think despite Nitro’s flaws I’m glad he’s still here to fight another day. R.I.P. High Flyer.
So I fully intended to ride Boomerang yesterday….I really did – I swear. My engine just sort of died when I got to the barn. Sometimes I wonder how I fit everything I do into a day. Its difficult to balance all of it. I’m barely getting much sleep lately – thanks to a cranky dachshund who can’t understand why I’m sleeping on the floor and he’s locked behind a doggie gate, I balance a full time job running a business – make that 3 businesses (Green Horse Studios, Pony Paintings, Studio 3), I then feed and care for 7 horses (which includes mucking stalls and daily feedings and turnout), I try to ride/train my horses 5 days a week, and then there is the house remodeling, not to mention having time to make dinner/spend time with the husband. I just made myself tired typing this list.
But honestly, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m extremely happy (even if I’m sort of exhausted lately) and I enjoy having lots of projects to work on. I’m not one who enjoys “being bored”.
So that being said – yesterday I just didn’t have to energy to ride. I feel kind of bad about it actually – considering I have another competition coming up in 2 weeks and Minnow is set to perform again in a week. Ah – I need to get on the ball again!
Anyway, so instead yesterday, I enjoyed some time with my favorite Chincoteague Ponies. I discovered an apple tree in the back yard of my new house – and of course any loving horse owner like myself would bag up as many as they could carry and bring them to the barn for their horses. My ponies better love me after that.
So there you have it….a very rare lazy summer day for me and the trick ponies (and the dachshund too).
So my weekend was filled with heavy lifting due to moving all of my personal belongings into my new house. Lets hope I never have to do that again. I can’t name a muscle that isn’t sore right now. And while we are officially moved into our first home – we’re still sleeping on a mattress on the floor and living out of boxes in the basement. Hopefully this is only temporary as we plan to finish our hardwood floors in the next 2 weeks. The dachshund is utterly thrilled that we are sleeping on his level. He has been using our mattress as a wrestling ring with my parent’s dog, Trooper.
And while things are finally starting to settle down in regards to home life – I was actually able to get my first ride in over a week on Boomerang. On Monday my plan was to go on a nice quiet trail ride with Boomer while my mom rode Blitz. Now Blitz has turned into an exception trail horse (we all fight over who gets to ride him). He goes the pace you want, doesn’t try to grab grass, and is relatively non-spooky. Thanks to clicker training him to “touch the goblins”. Boomer on the other hand isn’t the dream trail horse. At 6 years old I think he still has a lot of growing up and maturing to do, I’ve been told that Chincoteague Ponies actually mature later than most horses. I’m hoping this is the case for Boomer anyway.
I’ve never been big on trail riding – mostly because I love to “fine tune” my skills in the ring. My mom loves to – so I mostly go for her sake and for my horses mind. They can’t be expected to do ring work all of the time. So that being said – lately Boomer has been making me despise it even more. When trail riding him, I admit he tends to push my buttons – my normal calm level headed personality gets pushed to the breaking point a bit. Let me explain.
Usually our trail rides start off with a bit of stop and go. Boomer puts on the breaks and refuses to move his feet. He doesn’t call back to the barn or act frantic about leaving home – he’s very calm about the whole thing. He just doesn’t want to do it. So we have a little battle – me asking him to go forward, him refusing (until we get the clicker dialogue going). Finally I get him moving and now he takes off in little spurts. He’ll be walking – then pow- we’re at a gallop and I can’t stop. He does a lot of tossing his head into my lap to evade the bitless bridle as I try to muscle him to a stop (mostly because my whoas and seat position have no effect on him when he’s like this). I finally get him settled and working on a pace I want. When he’s going along at a clam and relaxed walk I click and reward him. Now he starts trying to grab grass. He makes me feel like a little kid sometimes. My stubborn pony darts for grass while I try as hard as I can to pull his head up and keep him moving. And I’m telling you if he gets his head down – no amount of my muscle can get his head back up. I’m tempted to start using grass reins until I can nix this behavior. So now I’m riding with the reins braced in my hands – ready for the moment he tries to make a go for the grass again.
Once Boomer realizes his grass attempts are futile – then the bucking starts. Its usually only brought on when we start to move. And I don’t think they are angry bucks, I think they are yippee this is fun bucks. But either way a buck is a buck – and its unwelcome. Now Boomer doesn’t have an ordinary buck. Blitz has an ordinary buck, a little protest with the hop of his back feet – or a tiny jump for joy. No I wish Boomer had a buck like this. Instead I ride a bronco. Looking at him you would never guess that he could jump that high – even from a standstill. And the way he contorts his body – ow, it hurts me just thinking about it. I probably look like a rag doll bouncing around on his back. My mom’s jaw drops everytime she sees him do it.
Yesterday’s buck was exceptionally bad. Somehow Boomer managed to buck while we were crossing a big ditch. It was so powerful that he snapped my neck back (which cracked so loudly I think the neighbors could hear it). Needless to say I can barely turn my head today. I’m lucky he has NEVER (knock on wood) dumped me. I’m not really sure how or why he hasn’t – maybe its my long legs that can easily wrap around his sides. I think if he ever figured out he could dump me I’d be in really big trouble. Lets just hope that day never comes.
So by the end of this horrible trail ride I’m usually fuming (quietly to myself as I’m not one to show too much emotion). The trail rides are supposed to be relaxing and something enjoyable for both of us. Instead they end up being a battle of whits and skill. And I’m really not sure who is wining in the end – but I have a feeling its Boomer. Back at the barn I hose off and take care of my pony – making sure I mention to him that he is not getting rewarded for his bad behavior. After no treat he gets turned out to ponder why no jackpot at the end of the trail ride arrived. Or so I choose to believe….who knows if he understands why he’s not getting his special treat when we are done.
It seems to me as if the clicker and rewards are becoming no match for Boomer’s want for grass. I think all of the issues are revolving around him wanting to eat grass and being frustrated when I don’t allow him to. I’m thinking about trying to reward him with grass (from my pouch and not the ground). I’m not sure where to start with him and this trail riding business – but I do know that something needs to be done about it before I really lose my temper (something that rarely happens to me, especially when dealing with my animals). But we’re all human (or alive for that matter) and sometimes our emotions get the best of his. Boomer gets emotional about wanting grass – I get emotional when he wants that grass. Hopefully we can find a happy medium where neither one of us loses our temper.
So something really big happened last weekend that I haven’t mentioned on this blog yet. Mostly I’ve held back about it because I guess its not really “trick pony” related. And while I like to keep this blog mainly devoted to the Trick Ponies of Chincoteague (and the occasional Dachshund post), I couldn’t not post about this because its a pretty big deal, in my life atleast. Anyway….I bought a house!
Really scary actually – I was on the verge of a mild heart attack throughout the whole process. At 25 years old, my husband and I have been saving our money for this day since we were about 16 years old. You probably don’t believe me when I say this, but its true. We met when we were 16 – at our very first jobs. We have both always been really really good savers (I guess something we can thank our parents for instilling in us at a young age). So since we were 16 years old, and started our very first jobs at a local art store we have been stashing away our hard earned cash. Now mind you we weren’t hermits, and he did go out and do things, we went to college (bought expensive books) and basically lived – but cash consciously. No big ticket purchases for us (well ok my husband bought his beloved big plasma tv and I bought a pony last year….but thats it I swear!). But our main goal in saving has been a house. Being design oriented people we both have dreamed of the day when we could own something that would allow us to paint the walls, decorate the way we see fit, and basically do whatever we wanted!
Now neither one of us has high-paying jobs (actually far from it) – but the fact that we socked away enough cash for a down payment really “payed” off. Not to mention our parents were great enough to have us get credit cards at a young age which allowed us to rack up a pretty high credit score. We were always sure to pay off our bills in full each month.
So now onto the house part. The process was rather nerve racking – looking at houses was the easy part. But when I first saw “our home” I wasn’t totally convinced it was the one I wanted. I liked it, but I didn’t feel that “oh my god I have to live here” feeling. You know the feeling you get when you see a horse you must have! So I took a little convincing to get on board with the home. So we made an offer – which the sellers countered and then of course being first time home buyers we chickened out and walked away from the table. After saving our money for so many years it was hard to us to justify letting it go all of a sudden. But a few weeks later (and after seeing a few more dump houses) we finally came to terms with letting our money go. So back to the table to make another offer.
This time it was accepted and we were on our way into the process of scary home buying. Inspections and snags that come with buying a 40 year old house began to pop up. And with each little road bump we got more and more scared we wouldn’t be buying this home. We worried about affording the monthly payments, we worried about everything. Luckily we had a great realtor that kept us on track, and my dad who is infinitely filled with knowledge about everything never failed to calm our nerves.
So last Friday, we signed a few papers, forked over a majority of our savings, and got keys to OUR HOME! Ahhh! I of course then I hopped in the car and headed to a competition with the ponies – I think I have my priorities straight!
So since I got back last Sunday my husband and I have been hard at work getting ready to “officially” move in this weekend. We’ve been staying at the house until the wee hours of the night painting walls and stripping carpeting. I’m so exhausted, but so happy to be doing this manual labor. And as we are nearly finished “re-doing” one room I feel this great satisfaction. Not only did we buy a house at 25 years old (rare in this economy and at our age) but we’re making it our own with our bare hands. My blistered and sore bare hands that is.
I’m looking forward to many happy years in this home with my wonderful husband and our Dachshund Ammo. Its just a shame there isn’t a little shed barn in the back yard for the Trick Ponies. (humm..project in the future?? haha)
So as a final thought I leave you with a little video about how Ammo decided to help us christen our new home. Don’t you just love a Dachshund!
So during our camping excursion in New Jersey last weekend I had my special little buddy tag along for the adventure. Ammo, my Dachshund, is what I call my “tag along” dog. He’s easy to tote around anywhere and pretty much adapts to any situation. But being 10 months old, Ammo was about to go on his first camping trip. I knew Ammo would be fine with the horses, he LOVES all of the ponies (especially Minnow) and as we take daily trips to the barn he has become quite the farm dog. I still get laughs when people pull up to the farm and see this squaty little dachshund waddle over to say hello instead of the typical lab or jack russell. I have to say I don’t think I’ve seen a dachshund at anyone else’s farm. But infact he is an excellent farm dog. He keeps his distance from the horses (except for his occasionally playdate with Minnow) and when I ride he sits quietly in the barn and out of the way. If I need to tie him up for any reason he stays in his spot without so much as a peep.
So being toted around and tied up while I rode was a non-issue for Ammo. But camping was different. How would he do in a tent, on an air mattress? Normally Ammo is not allowed to sleep on my bed with me – as he likes to be VERY close to the ones he loves and I end up with a dachshund scarf. So for sake of getting my full 8 hours I request that Ammo sleep on his little bed on the couch.
I think Ammo thoroughly enjoyed getting to sleep in the tent with me – this time I had a Dachshund belt – very stylish. But being a small dog who thinks he’s the big guy, with every nightime noise Ammo felt as if he had to protect me. He’d let out these tiny barks and at one point in the night he some how got stuck in between the window screen and the flap that closes it up. (don’t worry I rescued him). So the first night of tent camping was a bit unrestful as I dealt with my guard dog dachshund. But by night #2 Ammo was utterly exhausted from the day’s activities that he pretty much slept all through the night.
Aside from tent camping, Ammo had lots of fun meeting all the fun dogs that came to the event. His favorite playmate is a friend’s Australian Shepherd/Corgi mix puppy named Spencer. Spencer and Ammo could wrestle for hours on end. Ammo even picked up a new girlfriend in the form of a female Jack Russell named Roxie. I think he was sad she couldn’t come home with us.
At the end of our adventure Ammo was happy to go home. He had a LONG weekend and was all too thrilled when a pile of clean laundry was waiting for him at home. I can’t wait for our next camping adventure together!