Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Fame's Story: Getting Acquainted With Fame

I didn’t put Fame into training right away. I wanted to give him time to acclimate to being back. In addition he arrived in the middle of April and would have been on the "daily training rate" which once I added the remaining days of the month, would have cost me about as much as paying for the whole month. Most importantly I wanted some time to get to know him myself.
At this time I was sorta working for PetSmart. When I say "sorta" It means what they had promised me was going to be a full time position was in truth not even part of a part-time job. This gave me a lot of time for mucking around. The first week I mostly spent grooming him, walking him everywhere on the grounds, hand grazing in the paddock, more grooming, and lots and lots of petting and snuggling. I was around nearly every day, for most of the day, and longer than R was on any given day. I lunged my horse in the afternoons, R had given me approval, and had told me the pattern that I was to work on the lunge line. 1 complete circle at the walk, 8 trot, 8 canter in each direction. All his horses lunge like this.
Before I go much further I feel that I should tell you that while R is a fair and competent horseman, he also has OCD.
Lunging Fame was not difficult. I clipped the line to his halter, I stood, Fame walked a complete circle, trotted 8, cantered 8, I stood holding my line. Oh what a brilliant horse I thought I had! After several of these lung sessions I was quite convinced that all the warnings I had received about the nature of my horse were false. They told me he hated being ridden, that he was spazzy, that he was nervous, wasn’t good for amateurs, etc. How could they be true? My horse could lunge himself. He was a genius!! I had also convinced myself that all of his previous riders were certainly not like me, and I wouldn’t know if I could ride this horse until I tried.
I wasn’t totally stupid in the way I approached riding Fame, I made my roommate, who is by far a more experienced rider, risk her neck first. She put him around the arena a couple of times before sliding off and declaring, "You’ve got yourself a rocket!"
Now it was my turn. Knowing that I was a novice rider, that this was a horse that had only been driven for the years pervious, and that I knew very little about him, I decided to take it slow, at a walk. The motion was more akin to a typewriter than a true four beat walk, but at least it was kinda slow. I couldn’t keep him in a straight line, but I was up and not dumped in the dirt. It was a start, and gave me the confidence to keep getting up.
We had several other rides like this, Fame did his hoppy walk and I poked around on his back, experimented with my seat, my legs, just trying to figure out what worked for us. But I was a driver, this was the first horse I had ridden in several months, and driving has very little to do with seats and legs. Mostly I drove him from his back, at least we both understood that.
May had begun and it was time for Fame to officially go back in to training. By this time I could keep him in a straight line, and turn him. I wanted to be there for his first official training session since he got back from his year long vacation, unfortunately it was one of the few days that I actually had to work.
Monday’s are walk/lunge days at the barn. Hunter horses are lunged and the saddle seat/driving horses are put in harness and are driven from the ground(no cart) at the walk outside.
I may have missed it but you can be sure the second I got off work I was twenty over the speed limit on my way to the barn. I got there around three o’clock. R was just putting away the tack and cleaning up.
"How was he?" I inquired.
R laughed. "Naughty."
"How naughty?" It was mind blowing that -my- perfect horse could have been bad.
R went from sniggering to seriousness, he answered me honestly, "About what I expected from him. He wouldn’t walk and he was stiff in the poll."
"He has never liked to walk Janell, it was main reason I let him go. He’s a lot harder than Girla. Girla is good even on her bad days, when your horse is good he is excellent, and when he’s off...well I’m sure you’ll get to see some off that for yourself."
For the first time since he’d come from Oregon, I felt doubt, fear, perhaps a bit of and ache. The news of his clubbed foot on my second day of ownership hadn’t even hit me this hard. What if it didn’t work out? What if Fame wasn’t my perfect match? What if I couldn’t succeed? What if I had ended up with a dangerous horse? I was already crazy in love. The concept of possible failure hadn’t crossed my mind. I brushed my horse, let him stand half asleep with his head on my shoulder, then I went home.
I was at the barn bright and early the next day, five in the morning. I breezed through my stalls and my duties. I spent a small eternity grooming my horse and, when Jacq arrived at 9 I helped with groom duties too. The faster the chores where done the sooner they could work horses, -my- horse.
Tuesdays are driving days, most of the saddle seat horses are being cross trained to drive but only a few are far enough along to actually be hooked to the cart. When we first introduce a horse to the concept of driving they must first be able to be ground driven in full harness. Phase two involves them being able to tolerate confinement, and pressure on either side. To teach this we start with two lunge lines attached to each side of the breast collar, and a "volunteer", usually me, holding onto them at the end out of kicking range. R drives from the ground. Once the horse tolerate the lunge lines at his side the volunteer starts adding resistence teaching the horse to pull. The volunteer also pulls the hip in on the corners teaching the horse to yield it’s hip like he will have to when he’s actually in the cart. If the horse is okay with the lunge line he will be upgraded to the PVC pipe. If the horse will do all the aforementioned this with the pipe, then we have more volunteers take items like trash can lids and mucking forks and pretty much anything on hand and scrape them against the wall. We call this the nerd parade. If the animal tolerates that we bring out the buggy, we walk it beside the horse, if the horse is not concerned we will bump him and rub him with the shafts. After this he is ready to hook up. The whole process is done over the course of weeks, maybe even months. R is big on not putting the cart on the horse until the horse is ready. Buggy accidents are bad news, for the horse, the cart and potentially the driver.
Since Fame had done all this before and had been driving well when he left, we started with the PVC. R struggled to get him to walk, but he would pull and he would yield his hips without any fuss.
Wednesday is a day off.
Thursday is a riding day for most horses unless, like my horse, he was in for driving only. We did the nerd parade. We looked nerdy, Fame jigged.
"R, I think he may need another day at the walk," I said as a strained, digging my heels into the dirt, providing as much resistance as I could.
"He hates walking, he’ll be better in the cart. We’ll hook him tomorrow."

This is a little driving video from back in Augst. Enjoy.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

It's Been A While

Since I backed Famous. This August, a month prior to the show and this September, the month of the show, I stopped riding so I could focus and put the spit and polish on my driving. Once the show was over I put my boy on break. Today I rode. I had a few butterflies fluttering in my stomach, evil butterflies with great big fangs. As a matter of history Fame has a tendancy to get spazzy after a long break.
Due to the construction we are short on set of cross ties(3) which were being used to groom horses being turned out and tack R’s bunch of babies. Famous was polite until I left him to pack my tack to the other end of the barn. Head over the stall and calling after me in a "What gives lady!! You are supposed to take me with you!!" fashion. I shortly returned to his stall and was greeted by a nicker. I clip the lead rope to his nylon halter and lead him to where and unoccupied cross-tie awaited. He lunged at the treat buckets only once. I poped his halter and give him a great big "LEAVE IT!" He snorts but leaves the goodies alone. It took awhile to teach my little cookie monger what "leave it" meant. He’s usually pretty good in the cross ties, but he was doing a little dance today. I flop my old hunt seat saddle on my old saddle seat horse(I keep telling myself that I’m going to buy a new saddle). To his credit I have never had problems tacking Fame.
We walked around the grounds a lot before I was brave enough to mount. I have this great box that I use as a mounting block. Very sturdy and with nothing he could catch his leg on(I’ve seen some horrible accidents at the shows regarding horse and step stools), plus I can keep all my grooming stuff, boots(his and mine), lunge line, and my extra bits in it. My head stall fits in there too and it’s a nice size for a saddle rack, if I have to carry all the stuff at once I can...
Anyway once I am up he settles instantly, which is a nice change, since he used to do a whole lot of hopping around. Em sets my magical box off to the side. In to the arena we go. I was pleased with how good he was. W/T/C inside the arena and on the path outside. It was a beautiful ride. We nearly got ran over by a couple of babies but overall I felt good about it. We'll begin lessons again in a couple of weeks.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Fame's Story: In the Beginning

Last summer the same summer I turned 20 my entire family went on vacation and left me to my own devices. I decided to look into riding lessons and I found I fabulous show barn right in my town. They offered apprenticeships, stall mucking in exchange for lessons. I began riding lessons there shortly after. The owner and trainer noticed that I was a person of promise and after only a couple months my apprenticeship was extended to the groom room where I learned the in's and out's of being a groom. But these are not just any horses. These are show horses, national level show horses. My days were full of wonder, amazement and horses. However I was doing much more work than I could be compensated by lessons alone and my trainer purposed a lease.The horse I ended up leasing was a pure-bred Arab mare named On My Miend(pictured left). Everyone just called her Girla. However I didn't ride Girla, I drove her!! I discovered country pleasure driving and fell in love. I drove Girla and maintained a full lease on a horse from September to March. We were doing very well and my first real show was looming on the horizon. Then the man who actually owned Girla called. He had bought a breeding to Baske Afire (a stallion which auctioned for 2.8 mill a the Scottsdale show) she was to be artificially inseminated, and while I could have continued to drive her I wouldn't have been able to show her, I was paying for a show horse, so I terminated my lease. It nearly broke my heart. But the loss of the mare had cemented the idea of purchasing Fame which had been bopping around in my head for months. Fame was first offered to me as my new show prospect by my trainer. Fame belonged to a former client of his and was for sale only to a good home. My trainer had trained this horse since he was young and knows him inside and out. He thought that Fame an I would be a perfect match. He dug out old show photos of him and I began a lengthy e-mail correspondence with his former owner, arranged to have a vet look at him and even found a local fellow that would make the drive up to get him.After weeks of waiting my new baby boy had arrived. He is a bay, half Arabian, half saddlebred gelding, 17 years old and 15 HH. Another gal that works at the barn called me that afternoon to tell me that my horsie had arrived. I rushed down to meet him! I still remember the anticipatory drumming of my heart. I walk into the barn and my trainer smiled at me."You look like you are looking for someone."
"Where is he?"
"He's not here yet."
"Jacque just called and said he was."
"He's here." He walked over to Fame's stall and called his name. Fame abandoned his snack to see who was talking to him. I opened the gate and steped in.

Fame was hairy, covered in caked on mud, a little underweight but to me he is the most fantastic looking horse in the barn.
I extend my hand, he sniffs it and snorts at it, then lips it. I dare to touch him and I stroke the white star in the middle of his forehead. He then rested his lovely head against my chest. I was smitten. "Love a first sight," My trainer teased. My stall work went slow, I had to stop every five seconds to go look at him again to make sure he was real. Once finished with my duties I took to the task of mud removal. I got most of it off him and gave him a good grooming, and wrapped his tail, gave him a handful of pellet treat and put him back to bed. He sighed circled and layed down in his fresh pile of fluffy bedding that was mounded in the center of his stall. I let him rest, after a very long ride from Oregon he deserved it.

Well it's 5:30 I think I'll make myself some breakfast and get ready to go down for my morning ride.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


"Famous" Who this blog is ultimately going to be about...

Blogging about you horse seems to be the in thing right now among the horsie people of cyberspace, so I thought, why not? The blogosphere is filled with blogs about rescue horses, "fugly" horses, western pleasure horses, working cow horses, hunter horses, eventers, dressage horses, but I haven't seen any blogs on saddle seat horses or pleasure driving horses. So why shouldn't I add my mega bytes to the online horse community.
To begin, I'm 21 years old and I got into horses only last July(2007). Yes I am a newb to this whole horse thing. I've only owned my horse for 7 months(since April) and have only shown once. I've made this blog to share the joys and trails of first time horse ownership. Hopefully my experiences will help some other new horse owner and provide a chuckle for you veteran horse owners.