Monday, December 30, 2013

Niall Quirk clinic at October Farm in Plainville, MA

Last week I traveled to MA to accompany my barn owner, P, and her horse Merlot, who were participating in a Niall Quirk clinic. He comes to my barn frequently but she also likes to support him at other barns, plus it's always fun to check out the facilities at another place!

Niall hails from Ireland and is an excellent instructor. I took a lesson with him two summers ago over fences and learned a lot about how to rate Lucy without ticking her off. P events but took this year to really focus on dressage and she has come a long way.

I brought my camera and Niall asked me to take some photos for his website. I've never taken photos with the intention of showing how an instructor teaches; usually I focus on the horse and rider! But it was a good challenge, especially with my new camera.

With Merlot, Niall usually starts him on the lunge line.

Then he does some work in-hand. Here they're working on piaffe.
Niall is explaining to Prudy what he's doing and when to ask for more vs.
let the horse have a break and praise him.

It had recently snowed, but the weather on this day was warm and sunny, so the
snow was coming crashing off the roof of the indoor in grand fashion. You'd hear
a few scrapes, then it would get louder, and then all of a sudden the whole sheet of
snow would let go and slide off the sheet metal roof. It was deafening, and scared the
heck out of poor Merlot! Prudy was nervous about it but Niall did really well getting
her focused and confident, and she had a wonderful ride.

Though it's an unorthodox shot, I really liked this one of Niall in the background!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Ho ho ho! A decidedly un-horsey Christmas.

Not gonna lie, I almost didn't even go see my horse on Christmas day. Kenny and I traveled to New York to see his family and got home at 1am on the 25th. He had to work all day and he left around 6am, so it was just me and Cairo at home on Christmas. I spent the day cleaning the floors in my house and job hunting. Not very fun!

I did go out and do a night check and give snuggles to everyone. It wouldn't have felt right if I missed kissing Lucy on the nose on Christmas anyway! Santa, aka Amanda, even left treat-filled stockings for each horse on their stall doors, which was so adorable and sweet.

Because of the holiday, Lucy sat and didn't do a whole lot. I was visiting family, and Amanda was celebrating with her family. Today was the first time in about a week Lucy did any work and she was a nightmare.

No really, she was totally bonkers.

She was so tightly wound and spent most of the time standing on her hind legs. Amanda wanted to take her on a walk on the trails and Lucy could not even handle walking like a normal horse. A few times she just hopped up and down in one place. We all kind of just looked at her with question marks over our heads. Lucy ruined the trail walk for everyone (the other girls had their horses too) and we ended up in the outdoor ring, Maddy working Lucy on the ground. The end result was a much calmer and happier horse but I'm not going to lie, I was totally unimpressed with her. Ashamed even. It was a "hate more than love" kind of day for me.

I don't blame Lucy for being so pent up; it's been really cold and icy and she has sat around. But that is not an excuse to rear up at people and act like a huge buffoon. Today was just one of those days I wanted to give her away to someone else.


I know it will get better and she always does better when she's in constant work so that she doesn't get so bored, but still.

I am looking and feeling more and more pregnant, and feel pretty helpless when it comes to Lucy's antics.

Oh well!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013


Here are some of the commissions, saddle pads, and ornaments I've done so far this season! Some I cannot share because they are surprises. Some of the pads are still for sale on my Etsy store (click for link) and I am also running a 25% off sale on saddle pads through Dec. 31st -- use the code 25PERCENTOFF.

Monday, December 16, 2013

A comedy of errors: horses, winter, and water

I sometimes remember that we aren't even technically in Winter yet, and it blows my mind a little bit. We've been getting daytime temps in the 20's, lows in the single digits, freezing rain and snow and all of the crap associated with Winter. How can it possibly still be Fall?!

Today I got to battle with the water situation at the barn. Last week, the spigot we use met an untimely demise due to a very solid freeze. While it's out of commission, we are using the water connection on the neighbour's house. Lucy and Brantley share my 100-gallon Rubbermaid tub and it was getting pretty low, but when Maddy went to fill it this morning, she discovered the heaters hadn't been plugged in last night and all the tubs were frozen solid. She plugged them in and resolved to fill them later.

Well our little ponies must have been a thirsty bunch today, because they drank so much water out there that the heater was almost completely exposed by the time I got to the barn around noon. I just bought this thing and I know that is a really fast way to fry a heater, so I knew I had to fill the tub. No problem, even with the broken spigot, because I could connect our hose to the neighbour's house. I skated my way across the driveway, which is a sheet of ice, and grabbed the hose.

Oh wait, except it was 20 degrees today and whomever used the hose last time didn't drain it, and it was totally frozen! I was about ready to bang my head on the side of the barn, and of course I had cleaned and dumped the tub already, so now the horses had no water at all.

I called Kenny in desperation, and he came right over to the barn and filled the whole tub for me by hand with 5 gallon buckets!! I was so grateful. The water tub should be all set for another week or so and I hope by the time it needs filling again, we will be above freezing and able to use the hose.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Occasionally, I am impressed. Today I was REALLY impressed.

Let's face it; most of the time I am sighing deeply and shaking my head and either fixing the damage or trying to prevent more damage when it comes to Lucy. She's not known to be a preventative thinker. She usually reacts and then thinks, "hey, that kind of hurt." Then I get to pay the vet bill.

Well today, she impressed me, like, BIG TIME.

I fed the horses this morning to give Maddy a break, did stalls, and went home for a few hours to work on various projects. I had to go out and run some errands around noon time but on a whim, stopped in at the barn to give Lucy a kiss. It's nice to live so close to the barn that stopping in for no reason is convenient!

I drove down the driveway and saw Lucy standing in the far back of her paddock, facing away from the gate. Her chest was close to the fence and her blanket was pulled way far up over her butt. She didn't look alarmed or stressed and she often hangs out back there. I laughed at her to myself. Ha ha, what a silly horse with her blanket all messed up like that! I wondered how she managed it.

I parked the car and walked over to the fence, and called her to come over and get a treat. She didn't move a muscle; just stood there and looked at me pathetically. Usually she comes right over, often at a trot or canter, so I immediately was concerned. What was wrong? Was she hurt? I hurried over to check her out and found this:

she had hooked the front buckle of her blanket on the fence and was stuck!

standing quietly, just waiting to be rescued.

Some of my longtime readers may remember Younger Lucy, who regularly broke cross ties and halters. It got to the point where I bought a breakaway halter and also bought the replacement little leather tabs in bulk at the same time, because she busted it about once a week.

She used to never tie, would freak out at the slightest hint of pressure, had meltdowns if you so much as tugged on her at all, etc. If she was on the cross ties and backed up a step for whatever reason, she'd feel herself "stuck" and instead of just stepping forward to release the pressure, she'd blow backward and then go for a nice tour of the farm with both cross ties attached to her face. She was a mess. I have patiently worked with her on all of these issues over the years and now she is good enough to cross tie for however long you want to leave her there for (even alone), will tie to a trailer, will single tie in the barn, will kind of sort of ground tie, and is getting much better with pulling back against pressure to go forward.

Still, what happened today was a big ask as far as I'm concerned. I have no idea how long she was stuck like that for, but it doesn't really matter, because I am shocked it wasn't an immediate meltdown. If she had panicked, she could have destroyed the fence, destroyed the blanket, but most importantly, she could have gotten REALLY hurt.

I snapped a few photos really quickly, and then asked her to step forward just a hair to release the pressure on the fence. I unhooked the buckle and said "You're ok!" and she backed up just slightly, testing whether or not she was still stuck. Once she realised she was free she spun around and trotted off. Too cute.

She looked really sore in the hind end but I didn't worry too much. It's kind of hard to tell from the photo but she had the hind end surcingle straps wedged waaaay up her butt :( and I'm sure that was not comfortable at all!! I went later on to check on her and lunge her, and she was totally sound. She was also pretty wild so I did a bit of ground work with her, and then lunged her in the Vienna reins. She finished soft and obedient at the trot and canter, so that's great!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013


It snowed yesterday! Not a lot, but hey, I'll take it!

I took my camera to the barn, of course. I had an idea for a great shot!

Lucy was so cooperative and didn't mind being strung with lights like a Christmas tree. She is the best.

My entry for Aoife's Christmas contest
See Niamh's paper cut Etsy shop here:
See Aoife's blog here for more info:

Brantley got to model, too.

Then we turned the two of them out to play. Hilarity ensued.

OMG, Brantley...

our two Arabians

Time to go in! I love that she trots to me when called. It helped that I had a cookie, too ;)

Monday, December 2, 2013

Show Report

Thanks for all the supportive comments on my last entry. Truly, the only day I felt sad about getting laid off was the day it happened, and it only lasted about 5 minutes. I am not the type to let things like that get me down. My resume went out to a pro to be revamped and I spent the week searching job listings and applying to ones I liked. I am feeling hopeful that this layoff may be a blessing in disguise, and I may end up in a better job where I am valued and appreciated.

Lucy has been doing great this week. She didn't have too busy of a schedule because Amanda was working a ton, and I was busy job hunting and helping Kenny with the house renovation projects. We finished spackling and sanding earlier in the week, and the first coat of primer went on last night. It looks really good in there!

It's funny how the day flies by even when I don't have a job to sit at for 8 hours. I thought I'd have a ton of time to spend at the barn but in reality I do not. I'm sure as I figure out my new "schedule" sans work, that I'll be able to hammer out my barn time. Good news is that Lucy seemed to do well with the extra days of R&R, and was a superstar yesterday at the show.

The morning started out well enough. We planned to leave around 8, and wound up leaving at 8:17. NOT BAD! :) Brantley loaded up great and Lucy practically ran onto the trailer to be with him. Sometimes, a horse's attachment to their buddy sucks. Sometimes, though, it rocks ;)

Both horses were nice and quiet for the ride over to the farm that was hosting the show. Of course it started to rain en route, but a little rain never killed anyone, so we weren't concerned. Amanda and Maddy checked in and picked their classes, we unloaded both horses, and the girls took them for a small tour of the farm so that they could see everything.

After that, Maddy took Brantley into the outdoor ring to lunge him a bit, and Lucy was almost beside herself. Now that is the kind of buddy-buddy attachment I cannot STAND. Amanda was trying to hold Lucy as Lu was walking all over her. I suggested that she take Lucy and do a bit of groundwork with her, lunging on a small circle, changes of direction/speed, etc. Lucy started out very distracted and not wanting to listen, but quickly turned her attention to Amanda instead of Brantley, and soon was looking much calmer and less concerned about where her friend was! We didn't have any additional problems with them needing to be together after that.

Amanda signed up for the Open W/T division, and also the OTTB W/T division. She did a small warm-up with Lucy and noted that she felt Lucy was the type of horse you didn't really drill before going into a class, which was totally spot-on. She did just enough to make sure Lu had a brain in her head, and was supple, and then went into her classes and did so well! Lucy was quiet, calm, and happy. At one point she got a little pissy so Amanda took her out of the ring, gave her a break while the next class went, and then returned back to the ring. Lucy's brain had totally reset itself thanks to her break, and she went better than ever.

I was glad there were other horses in all of Amanda's classes. This show is sooooo tiny that sometimes you're the only person in the ring, and there's no point to that! We can ride by ourselves at home and not pay to do it ;)

Maddy and Brantley had a great day, too, but I'll let her tell you all about it on her blog!

Here are some photos:

warming up in the misty outdoor

how cute is that face?

winner winner chicken dinner! Lucy was all, "DUH..."

Champion of the Open W/T division

Back in the ring for the OTTB division

After this class was over, the judge commented to Amanda that she had a lovely,
calm mare and the judge really liked her.  Amanda pointed at me and said, "she
belongs to Kate over there" and I laughed and said, "thanks for the compliment;
she can be pretty wild and this is her first show back after six months off for an
injury so we are thrilled with her behaviour!"

Then the owner of the farm we were at asked us if we wanted to breed Lucy
to an Arab stud.


Would you ride a Lucy x Arab cross? ;)

She was so chill, didn't care if they were standing around or not, and calmly
hung out while Brantley was in his classes.

Great job, ladies!

The whole crew, from left to right: Natalie (Comic's owner), Brantley,
Maddy, Me, Amanda, and Lucy!

Loading up to go home was a bit of a challenge. Brantley was not having any of it, and I really felt for Maddy because I have been in her shoes so many times. It is extremely frustrating for your horse not to load after a long day at a show/clinic/event when everyone is so tired (and cold and wet in this case). Brantley had whacked his head on the trailer getting off of it earlier in the day, and he seemed to be saying, you want me to get back on that thing? HELL NO! But with time and patience, he calmly stepped on. The only good part about all of that is that after duking it out with Brantley for a while, Maddy suggested we try to put Lucy on first. Lucy had been eating grass a ways away with Amanda's mom holding her while we tried to load Brantley. Now Lucy is notoriously a horrible loader, but to all of our amazement, she walked right on even with Brantley not loading. Good girl!!

After putting everything away, cleaning the trailer, and turning the horses out with very generous piles of hay, we went and stuffed our faces at a local pizza place. Maddy and I returned the trailer to her friend who let us borrow it, and thus concluded our show day!