Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Winds of Change

As you can probably guess by the title of this blog post, the lesson on Friday with the trainer at New Barn went extremely well :)

The hubby surprised me on Thursday by saying that he had the following day off, and wanted to accompany me and Boca to our lesson. I was really excited at being able to get his input, because the husband is a wise man who generally makes very good, reasonable decisions.

Friday was a killer day weather-wise. The temperature was expected to be in the 90s, which is about at hot as it gets in New England, and the humidity was right up there. I was sweating rivulets just getting the trailer packed and hitched and getting Boca spiffed up and ready to go.

We had a nice 40 minute drive with the A/C blasting to calm things down on the perspiration front. The New Barn (NB) is located about 39 miles east of the current barn, bordering on land that that is the gateway to Cape Cod. The area is very picturesque - miles of cranberry bogs and shingled houses with backyard barns. It is a costal farming area, with tons of land and hints of the coastline.

When we pulled down the drive of the barn, hubby was impressed, and thought that they layout and facilities was actually nicer than my current barn, which was interesting, as I hadn't had that first impression.

I was actually half an hour early for my 9 AM lesson. I don't like to be rushed or late for anything, but definitely not while pulling a horse trailer and introducing a horse to a new environment. Also, to me, I should be in the tack at least 5 -10 minutes prior to the start of my lesson. It's a respect thing. A trainer's time is valuable and should not be wasted by an un-prepared student.

Boca, for his part, was a little wide-eyed, but sensible about everything. I unloaded him, tied him to the trailer, and tacked up, while waiting for new trainer (NT).

I don't have any media from our lesson, but needless to say, I worked my butt off while trainer was trying to get Boca to use his. He has this spectacularly massive front end, which he has used his whole life to, in essence, pull himself around. I was huffing and puffing trying to get him to w/t/c without leaning on his massive shoulders and actually use his (as my Polish great grandmother would call it) "dupa".

Trainer absolutely loved Boca, and had many nice things to say. She said that she thought we were not far off from being capable of putting together a quite nice dressage test, which was definitely news to me. She thought Boca looked like 'a fun ride' and noted he was 'quite sensitive'.  She had a lot of great ideas on developing him further and getting him fit. She noted how his expression lit up when we started jumping, and how he definitely enjoys it.

Much sweat. Very hot. Indoor wash stall (!!!)

It was really nice to get such positive feedback on my horse. I can honestly say I thought she was genuinely complimentary of him, and it was refreshing. That has not always been the case, and it was uplifting to have someone genuinely appreciate him for something other than just his good brain and easy-going nature.
The lesson pretty much sealed the deal. I am a bit of a risk taker by nature and have always embraced change. The facilities are nice, the people are nice. The box stalls are large, airy, well bedded and clean. There is all-day turnout for Boca. The property abuts miles of trails and cranberry bogs. Feed and care appear to be exemplary. There is the opportunity to ride in a program, with someone to oversee our development. And best of all, I can afford full board!
Before I left, I told the trainer I would be taking the stall. She was pleased, and said after meeting me last week, they were hoping I would. Which was definitely nice to hear!
At the end of the day, I gave notice at my current barn. I got the ultimate compliment from the current BO, who is really sad to see us go, but understands us wanting to pursue our goals. It feels good to know that I Boca and I were well-liked, valued members of the community,  and because of that, are welcome back at anytime.
So, the plan is to serve out our 30 days notice and move to the new barn the weekend of August 12th. I'm really excited to begin a new chapter in our journey.
And I'm really, REALLY excited to go on full board, and all the time and possibilities that opens up :)

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Choices - WWYD?

Having choices is supposed to be a good thing, but sometimes having to choose between two good things can feel like a curse.

I really, really like where I currently board. The facilities are incredible. I really enjoy my fellow boarders; we have a great community and I look forward to going every day. The only drawback is that I have occasionally felt the lack of 'being in a program' under a trainer. Because I am pretty much on my own, I sometimes feel like I am spinning my wheels and not progressing - although part of that could be attributed to Boca's medical issues.

The opportunity has come up to take a full board stall at a barn close to my work. The co-trainers onsite, from what I can tell, are friendly and positive, and go out and do tons of fun things as a group. One trainer has evented to the Intermediate level. The other has a Hunter/Jumper background, but is dipping her toe in the eventing world and finding she likes it. The barn goes to many schooling jumper shows, local H/J shows, cross-country schooling and horse trials. They are even hosting clinics with some fairly well-known riders.

I feel really torn. I really enjoy where I am, and would really miss the people I interact with on a daily basis. I would miss the incredible facilities.

On the other hand, I have the opportunity to potentially join a team that seems to really get out and do lots of things together as a group.

I guess I am afraid to give up a really good thing, and take a chance on the unknown.
What if I don't like it as much as where I am now? What if I uproot Boca and myself and I'm not as happy as where I am now?

I have a lesson scheduled with the Eventing trainer tomorrow at 9 AM. I am going to ship Boca over and see how we do there. Hopefully, once we are there together, onsite, I will have a better idea of whether or not it is the right fit for us.


Friday, July 8, 2016

Proof of Progress

I know I can occasionally get discouraged by our slow, incremental progress, creeping towards being proficient at ... well, anything.

But - I now have video proof of our pretty significant improvement over time.

I have the attention span of a fruit fly, so I promise these video clips are very short, but worth watching.

As proof of our progress, I present our best canter, Circa August 28, 2014.

Ouch. Poor pony. That is one unhappy, uncomfortable, unbalanced horse.

Compare that to last night's lesson, July 7, 2016.

Is there room for improvement? Absolutely. Am I proud of our transformation?

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Things I Would Do Differently If I Bought Again

In some ways, I think I did a pretty good job buying Boca. I managed to get a near 16h, sound and sane (although the sound part is a little questionable now) gelding that is appropriate for my riding level, for $1,500. All this without the guidance or in-put of a trainer.

Boca's Sale Ad. Florida, circa 2014

But in some ways, I look back and think I might have done some things differently. It's been a long, slow road to get us to a point of serviceably sound and functional at a pretty low level. On the other hand, I have a wonderful, sweet horse that is a joy to have in the barn, that I can pretty much trust with my life, so there is that.

1) Age

When I bought Boca, he was 9 years old. I though anything under 10 was a pretty decent age for a horse. Old enough to be sensible, young enough to have many more miles in him. However, at 11 years old, Boca is already developing arthritis, which will have to be managed carefully. If I were to buy again, I would probably shoot for a younger horse. There are no guarantees in horses, and when your budget is as limited as mine was, beggars can't be choosers. But knowing what I know now, I might try to find a younger prospect.

Mystery Horse

2) History

I have no history on what Boca did from ages 2-9. I bought him from a dealer, who had picked him up at auction in Florida 10 days earlier. I don't know how much or how hard he was worked - or not worked. I don't know if any of his history has any bearing on the physical issues that we ran into. It would be nice to have some idea of what he experienced. It may have given me some insight into managing his health, training or lifestyle.

Awkward yet cute 
3) Conformation

One thing I gave little thought to when I purchased Boca was conformation. Four legs and a Tail? Great! I'll take it. Unfortunately, Boca is kind of a trainwreck conformationally and it makes his job much harder than it needs to be. He has a HUGE shoulder on relatively short front legs. Each of his legs face a different direction (I think God might have been a little tipsy when he molded the clay on this one). His neck is too short, ties in low, and is upright. In short, an elegant picture he is not.

*Not Boca

4) Already Doing the Job I Wanted Him to Do

In all honesty, I knew I was sacrificing something in order to get the bargain basement price on a horse. You don't get sound, sane and well trained for $1,500. What I didn't realize was the amount of time it would take to get a horse physically and mentally ready to do a fairly low level job. I'm not a pro - that much is clear - but I greatly underestimated how much it would take a relatively ammy rider with no trainer and an auction horse to get even to the bottom rungs of the ladder. We're 2+ years in and we're still not there yet. With the hindsight wisdom of the journey we have been on, it might have made more sense to save my pennies and buy a horse that was already doing the job I wanted to do, rather than try to make one. I'm not a horse trainer, nor would anyone mistake me for one.


It can be hard to see people flying past me, on the way to achieving their goals, at what seems like the speed of light.

Despite of all this, I love the horse I own. He trusts me and takes care of me, and that is hard to put a value on. Would I have done things differently? Maybe. Or maybe I would have made the same mistakes all over again, with a less forgiving horse. There are no guarantees in horses.