Sunday, November 6, 2011

Cowgirl Eventer

Weeeellll... Flint's first event didn't exactly go as planned. And when I say "didn't go as planned" I mean that he spent the whole time expressing his opinion that he was NOT ready to compete, so I scratched. Needless to say, Flint has been in a sort of "cowboy camp" since returning home.

He now ties (for long periods of time at the wash rack); he now lunges (in side reins over trot poles); he now goes through water (round/on the bit, and can even back through it); he now trail rides (in western tack and halter); he is learning to rope (shhh it's a secret).

Obviously he did not appreciate his life as a show horse in an extremely friendly training situation, so now I am just showing him how easy and fun it would have been had he decided to go to dressage warm up with the big boys. For as much heart that this horse shows once he's finally "broke" he will be something special...once he has decided he is ready to be broke is probably how I should have worded that. We are headed to Texas Rose Horse Trials Nov. 19-20 - but not to compete (I'm not throwing money away again); before he gets the privilege to "Enter at A" he must prove to me that he can leave his diaper bag at the stall and be led (yes, he didn't even lead at the last one...) and ridden around the show grounds.

The most frustrating thing about last weekend was the fact that I HAD done my homework - he's been to local shows, clinics and schoolings. I knew that taking him to an event was going to induce a little melting more so than the clinics and local shows I have been hauling him to, but I never would have guessed he would become completely unrideable. I am working on finding a vet nearby (nearby being the key word) who can scope him to rule out ulcers; beyond that he can rear and leap in the air (he has perfected this Lipizzaner-type move that will require me to go see a chiropractor when it is all said and done) all he wants - I've taken off the tall boots and put on the Justin's, I am officially eventer turned cowgirl when it comes to Flinter - his attitude will change!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Let's Get Controversial - Why I'm Pro-Slaughter

Most people are very surprised when they find out that I am pro horse slaughter. Now don't get me wrong, in a perfect world I love for there to be no horse slaughter, but we hardly live in a perfect world. In general I believe the mistake 99% of humans make when dealing with animals is humanizing them. We want to treat our dogs, cats and horses as if they are people - we give them names, we "connect" with them, we give them our emotions; when in fact we forget that they are not human at all...

Like it or not horse slaughter is a necessary "evil" in the horse industry. As it stands now - with slaughter being illegal - there is no base value for a horse. Back in the day - when slaughter houses were legally operational - every horse had a value based on the per pound price that day. Without a legal way to dispose of horses in a profitable manner the market is ridiculously flooded, therefore causing the value/price of every horse to drop. Horses that used to be worth $5,000 back when the slaughter houses were operational are now worth less than $1,o00.

Don't get me wrong - in my perfect world every horse has a purpose and a loving family that is able to care for and feed them properly until they are ready to be humanely euthanized and then buried in the family plot along grandma. Unfortunately the world in which we live is hardly perfect (I feel the need to keep reiterating this). It is easy to say that every horse has a use, but let's face it - it is not true. Whether out of laziness or financial issues we all know at least one person who has a horse 5 years or older that is not broke, most likely not castrated, and in most cases dangerous to the normal person. As pointed out by one of my friends on Facebook, horses like this are not able to be given away even to rescue programs. In a town not far from me people are actually turning these types of horses out on public land because people simply can't afford to feed them anymore. How nice would it be if they could take the horse to the sale barn and make $800 off of it to feed their family?
Should they have had the horse in the first place? Probably not, but they do and now they need to find something to do with it in this time of economic strain.
Why don't they humanely euthanize the horse? Because it becomes very pricey when you start talking about disposing of a 1,200 lb corpse.

The number one cause of the need for slaughterhouses? Overbreeding and breeding for the wrong reasons. For some reason people can't comprehend that breeding crap to crap just produces more crap. I know that sounds incredibly crud and my mother would probably give a dirty look for the language, but it is the truth. Take a look at the cattle industry - they breed to IMPROVE the genetics of their herd. They cull out what they don't like and choose their herd sires and heifers/cows based on what is genetically superior. Trust me, I don't pretend to understand cowboys (lol, now THAT's another blog post) but the are obviously better business people than 99% of people in the horse industry.

It is very easy to get caught up in pictures and videos published by organizations such as PETA and HSUS, especially if you don't look at the horse industry as what it is - an industry. Not only does horse slaughter raise the value of all horses on the market (which helps the professionals selling horses) it also is another avenue to feeding people. With the direction the economy has turned we have quite a few hungry people in our own country, all of these unwanted horses that aren't being cared for properly could go to feed them.

I wish I had gone about this whole post in a more organized manner, but honestly I'm tired and I don't have the time so I apologize for the hastiness in which it was thrown together - it was one of those things I just needed to get off my chest I guess.

DISCLAIMER: Now I know that I am probably going to piss some people off with all of this, but I feel that everyone is entitled to their own opinions about anything (and Lord knows I'm opinionated!). You can agree with me, you can disagree with me and/or you can hate me, I don't care - I just want people to make their decisions/opinions based on education, not their feelings toward slanted photographs designed to target our human emotions.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Perfect Show Mom

I could not find a single picture of my mother at a horse show; do you know why? Because she was behind the cameras, video and still, at every single one of them. It is classic in the field of family vacations - mothers excluded from most of the pictures because they are the ones taking them all, but in my life it carried over to horse shows. I am extremely blessed in many ways, but the blessing I would like to focus on today is how supportive my family, especially my mom, has always been about my horses and showing.

I can't even begin to imagine the thousands of miles my mom drove dragging the trailer, or the number of yards she hand walked Onyx while I mucked his stall (after I got Coaster however we switched jobs - she wasn't quite comfortable with the 17.2 warmblood, no matter how well behaved he always was...). She met me at the ingate and the finish line of every ride with gatorade and water. Mom would be the first to tell you that she doesn't know much about horses, but I'm a firm believer that is the best attribute to a good show mom, and she was always willing to learn. She always knew when to say something or not and when to leave me be - usually after a less than stellar ride.

In the days of the local hunter/jumper shows she was the secretary at the shows as well as within the local organization and was very active in the Pony Club on an administrative level as well. I can only think of 2 shows in my high school eventing career that my mother did not attend - neither of which was due to lack of wanting to go. As I have gotten older I miss my mom at horse shows. I'm self sufficient at shows, I like to have a ground person for obvious reasons, but nobody can fill the shoes of my mom. She came to a my first show on Flint in June and even after several years hiatus from her show mom duties she still came with a camera, gatorade and water in hand, falling right back into the duty of perfect horse show mom, even when I'm 25 years old.

She is a master trailer driver through all kinds of wind, rain or hail; she reminded me that the only goal was to have fun and do my best; nobody can compare to her videographer skills (even when I fell off and broke my face the camera never waivered). My mother was the rock that I had at every horse show and I truly believe I'm as successful as I am because of her. My mother = the perfect show mom!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Ditches and Banks and Water Oh My!

Today was Flint's first official off the farm cross country schooling. After a brief discussion about behaving himself pre-trailer loading we were off to Holly Hill Farm down in Benton, Louisiana early this morning. *side note* For all of you Arkansas eventers out there, you know the best part of going to Holly Hill is stopping at Burge's in Lewisville for a turkey salad sandwich and a fried pie - that way you feel so amazing when schooling...nothing like fried pie sitting heavy in your stomach! *end of side note* Flint behaved himself quite nicely once we got to Holly Hill. It is very easy for me to forget how slow of a warm up he needs at a new place - usually a good 15-20 minute walk to make sure all the buttons are working before we trot and canter.

What I love about this horse is that he is brave - this horse lives to jump. From the first starter-novice jump to the last novice jump we cleared he was extremely honest. We schooled ditches and banks for the first time and he was a complete rockstar - I couldn't have asked for more, he always knew where his feet were 100% of the time. The only slight hiccup was the water, which I've known is an issue. Once he gets his feet in the water he is okay, will trot through it willingly, it is just getting him to take that first step in...I may have to get creative at the event in October on not getting a refusal. He has come a very long way from rearing and spinning when asked to go into water though, so I'm not complaining - the key to Flint is to not pressure him into situations where he is uncomfortable (water), but allow him to progress forward at a pace he is comfortable with. It only took a few minutes of standing with a loose rein square to the water and asking for literally one step at a time before he marched right in, through and around the water complex. Overall I was very proud of little Flinter today - hopefully we can make it to our local eventing venue (Jubilee) at least once or twice before the show at the end of October; between that and our cross country jumps and various ponds throughout the farm we should be ready!

(I apologize for not having pics or video...I'm quickly realizing how much I miss my mom coming along with us! She is the best show/clinic/horse mom ever! - hmmm, an idea for a future blog post!)

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Fantastic Clinic

Over the past two days I've had the wonderful opportunity to ride with Heather Morris at a local eventing family's farm. Yesterday, prior to loading into the trailer, Flinter had a much needed refresher course on how-to-stand-tied (yes, it got a little western for about 30 seconds) and how-to-be-polite-while-receiving-a-bath-because-it-isn't-my-fault-you-are-grey-and-chose-to-roll-the-night-before...but after this little refresher he was VERY well behaved, funny how that works. After his bath he loaded smartly in the trailer and away we went. When we arrived at the Fletcher's farm he remained calm - if you had seen him at the last clinic you would know he doesn't really "do" new places well - and settled into his stall with a quick roll. Luckily he had about an hour and a half to settle before I tacked him up and mounted - the whole time staying very relaxed which can be very much not like Flint, but hey I'm not complaining!

No "airs above ground" for us! In our lesson he was extremely rideable and Heather had us start working on leg yields at the trot and basically just standing up when tracking right. The thing that I love about this horse is his work ethic, even when he isn't quite sure he truly does want to figure out the "game." It has been awhile since I've "entered at A" Heather helped me a lot with the exact gaits that I want while in the arena and gave me some great tips on how to manage his tendency to curl back behind the bit. I even broke out the old dressage saddle (it only had about 3" of dust on it!) for the occasion and was very impressed with myself on how the old muscle memory put me right back in the correct dressage position. Overall I feel that the main goal for Holly Hill is a long warm up, especially at the walk. Naturally with Flint being an OTTB he wants to get tense through is back (big surprise right?), but when he relaxes and softens through his back and into the bridle he really does have lovely movement that I feel has the potential to be competitive in the dressage ring...if we can keep his famous "airs above ground" to a minimum!

Today we were scheduled to school cross country, which I was extremely excited about for obvious reasons, however a big ole storm system kept that from happening - don't worry I'm not complaining, I know we needed the rain! So instead we worked on gridwork and some lines in the arena. Starting out with the grids Flint was figuring out where to put his feet, but once the line built up to 3 jumps (two one strides with canter poles) he became a gridworking machine. It was amazing to feel how his confidence grew in himself as the grid grew to 5 jumps (x-rail - one stride - vertical - one stride - vertical - bounce - vertical - one stride - oxer). He naturally stayed straight and his transitions at the end of the arena just got better as the lesson progressed. We then moved on to line work, starting with a basic six stride then working in the two stride. Flint's confidence that was built up through the grid remained strong through the other exercises causing me to have to whoa more than I ever have on him before - he was eating them up and looking for the next fence! As long as I can keep his confidence growing and keep it up throughout the event I think Beginner Novice at Holly Hill should be a fun, successful first outing for us. (*fingers crossed*)

The thing that I like about Heather as a clinician is that she can have a lesson with 3 different riders on 3 completely different rides and everyone walks away learning something and feeling like they got their moneys worth. She works on the things that are fixable within the lesson time and gives "homework" that is doable with goals for the next time that are attainable. This is the second time I have ridden with her and both times Elizabeth and I have felt that we walked away with valuable information; we will definitely ride with her every time she comes back as long as our schedule permits.