Saturday, February 28, 2009

Let Sleeping Horses Lie

I just went outside to get Misty and practice loading her into the trailer. She's still green at loading and hasn't been in a trailer for 8 months. But I'll have to wait because I just can't disturb this scene.

I love Fjord manes. Marley is a red dun, so his dorsal stripe is light in color.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

A Horse Named Wati

Indonesian Flag

Wati was the name of a sweet and special mare.

My father's employer moved us to Jakarta, Indonesia when I was in high school. It was just the two of us and it was quite a culture shock for this California girl. I was home alone a lot because I couldn't drive on the opposite side of the road. I drove with my dad's supervision once and I didn't even make it to the end of our road before he was yelling "Watch Out!" in sheer terror. So, I abandoned the idea of driving in Jakarta. That's a good thing because the rules of the road were a little vague over there and driving could be dangerous. I remember a common practice of drivers at night was to turn off their headlights for oncoming traffic, so as not to blind the other driver. Yikes! I'm surprised there weren't more head-on collisions.

As I said, I was alone a lot so my dad found a stable where he could lease a horse for me to ride. He sent a company car to pick me up after school and drop me off at the stable. I was so excited and anxious to get to the stable that I would say to the driver, "Cepat! Cepat!" (meaning "Fast! Fast!") and the driver would maniacally weave through traffic at speeds only an invincible teenager could withstand.

There was an English lady boarding her Thoroughbred at the stable and, out of the goodness of her heart and a common love of horses, she gave me free riding lessons. This was my introduction to English riding and jumping. We had our lessons in a big grassy area at the center of the stable's race track. Excuse my form; I was just a beginner, but I want you to meet Wati. That's her stable boy in the 2nd picture.

Shame! Shame! Shame! No helmet! Today you won't catch me doing a slow walk in an arena full of soft dirt without a helmet.

I didn't know much about Wati's background other than she was imported from Australia. I didn't even know her breeding, but I suspect she was a Thoroughbred. One day I decided to take Wati for a relaxing canter around the track and that's when I discovered Wati was an ex-racehorse. That was a wild ride! I'd never gone that fast on a horse before and there was no stopping her. I had to just hang on and wait for her to go her distance, while the stable boys cheered me on.

Wati...Cepat! Cepat!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Backing 101

Backing was an adventure this evening, and I don't mean backing a horse, as in mounting a young horse for the first time. I'm talkin' backing my new horse trailer! Crazy! I understand the concept of turning the steering wheel to the right when you want the trailer to go left and vice versa. But it felt like a sophisticated dance and I've got two left feet. I tried to park the trailer alongside our house, but I had to traverse a slight serpentine pattern around a parked car and a mound of dirt. Couldn't do it.

At least I was spared the most difficult part of trailer backing according to, which is "...having many people watch you, waiting for you to screw up."

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

A Horse Trailer of My Own

Wahoo! Yipee! Hip Hip Hooray! Today I picked up my brand new horse trailer! A Titan Avalanche, 7'6" tall, 2 horse slant with front tack room and swing out saddle rack. The manufacturer moved the tack room wall forward to give my full-bodied girl more room in the front stall. That's my old pickup truck, purchased used for this very purpose. It's a '94 F250 XLT, turbo diesel, 4x4. An oldie but a goodie.

This is a BIG deal to me. When I showed in my earlier years, I boarded at a hunter/jumper stable and my trainer hauled my horses for me. Renewing my passion and "getting back in the saddle" means I need transportation to clinics and training and lessons and trails. This is my first ever horse trailer...and my first time pulling a horse trailer!

A couple of curious onlookers below. I hope this means they are looking forward to taking a ride. Not for awhile though. First I'll put on some miles with the trailer empty.

Oh, oh. What's that thing doing here? Does this mean our life of leisure is coming to an end?

Monday, February 23, 2009

Painted Sunrise

This was the view from the corral this morning. Getting up early to do barn chores is awe inspiring on a morning like this.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

A Child's First Pony Part II

So your kid is begging for a pony. Having once been such a “beggar” myself and a former first time pony owner, let me share a few suggestions when considering the purchase of your child’s first pony. This also applies to buying a full sized horse, so feel free to substitute “horse” for “pony”.
  • Assess whether your child really wants a pony or is this just a phase; a new “toy” to be discarded when the novelty wears off.

    Owning a pony is a HUGE commitment. Make sure your child is ready and willing to take on the responsibility of caring for a pony. And make sure you are ready too, because you will need to oversee the welfare of the pony and write the checks. Oh yes, the checks! There will be lots of checks to write (or debit cards swiped, gasp..I'm dating myself) . I'm reminded of a saying I saw on a t-shirt once: "Go Broke, Buy a Horse". But that could be another topic altogether.

  • Enroll your child in riding lessons for several months before promising to buy a pony. Consider sending him/her to a horse camp like my dad did for me. Is he/she interested in more than just riding? Is he/she enthusiastic enough to do their own saddling and bridling, or does he/she just want to show up, hop onto a tacked up pony, ride for 45 minutes, then rush off to more entertaining activities while someone else unsaddles, grooms, and puts the pony away? Does he/she have the verve and compassion to take on the dirtier side of pony ownership (scooping poop, picking out stinky hooves packed with manure, grooming, cleaning water buckets, caring for tack & equipment, etc)? There is a lot of hard work and responsibility that, to the right person, is part of the joy of pony ownership.

  • When the time comes to start shopping for your pony, enlist the help of a knowledgeable horseman who has a commitment to safety. Your child’s riding instructor should be helpful in matching your child’s skill with the right pony so that the ownership experience is fun, not frightening.

  • Look for an older, well trained pony with good manners. A calm, 10+ or 15+ year old mare or gelding that has “been there, done that, and seen it all” is usually a much safer bet than a younger, prettier pony with little training and experience. Don’t buy a stallion. I would even avoid a gelding who was previously used for breeding because they may still act ‘studdish’ at times.

  • Encourage your child to keep learning. Once the pony is purchased, the learning process has just begun. Keep up with riding lessons on the new pony, join a pony club, attend clinics & events. Ponies and horses are great teachers. We never stop learning from them.
If anyone has other suggestions for first time pony buyers, or if you have an experience to share about your first pony, please post a comment.

Happy pony shopping!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

A Child's First Pony Part I

My first horse was actually a pony. An equine is considered a pony if it measures 14.2 hands or less at the withers. One hand equals 4 inches, so a pony can be up to 14 hands and 2 inches, or a total of 58 inches. A horse is technically 14.3 hh (hands high) and above.

I loved my first pony, but should you decide to buy your child a pony, please don't follow my example. You see, my dad didn't know much about horses so he had a friend do all the shopping. My first pony ended up being a young, Welsh Pony stallion. Yes, that's right - a stallion! It is preferable that the words "young" and "stallion" are not descriptive of your child's first pony.

I called my pony Clyde. His breeder had a sense of humor. His registered name was Clyde's Dale Review. He was out of a mare named Cinnamon Bon Bon; the pair was known as Bonnie & Clyde. And did you catch the play on words? "Clyde's Dale"...a Clydesdale is a large draft horse while Clyde's Dale Review was a little pony.

Clyde was supposed to be gelded (castrated), but my dad never got around to making that particular appointment with the vet. I dunno..maybe its a guy thing. Fortunately for me, Clyde was a gem of a pony and we got along great and I had no trouble with him. Although he did break out of his stud pen a couple of times and impregnated a pony mare in a nearby pasture. Yeah...don't get a stallion.

In my next post, I'll share my thoughts on good qualities to look for in a child's first pony.

I do miss Clyde and sadly have no pictures of him. Take lots of pictures of your ponies!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Horse Camp for Kids

I want a horse! Please, please please can I get a horse? How many parents have heard that one a million times? Kids can be very persistent. I begged and pleaded for several years unitl my father began to weaken. Finally, he agreed to buy me a horse, but wanted me to learn how to care for one first. So he sent me to a horse camp for kids in Oklahoma for 2 weeks. What a blast!

At camp, we slept in a bunkhouse, ate cafeteria-style in the mess hall, played games, swam in the pond, and were transported into town on a tractor drawn wagon where we were turned loose to buy candy! It was heaven. But the best part was that each of us was assigned a horse to take care of as our very own during our stay. Mine was a black and white Paint named Homer. I learned how to groom and saddle Homer. He was a sweet and handsome fellow. We went on long trail rides, camped out with our horses, and even participated in a cattle drive.

One day while we were enjoying some open riding in a big field, another rider passed close by and his horse kicked out at Homer. This particular horse was known to be a kicker and always had to be at the very end of the line when we went trail riding. Fortunately Homer was spared injury, but my shin wasn’t so lucky. Ouch! When I got back to the bunkhouse, I pulled off my cowboy boot expecting to find a bruise and was shocked to see blood. After a trip to the doctor and a long nap on the couch in the main ranch house, I was ok. I couldn’t ride for a couple of days, but I still got to care for Homer and brush him and fuss over him. A little blood and stitches aren’t enough to discourage a true horse lover.

Homer, you were a good teacher and I will never forget you.

It's My Sister's Fault

When I was about 9 years old my big sister began taking me horseback riding at a rental stable. I remember vividly the butterflies in my stomach. I wanted to ride so badly, but I was also scared. As we left the main road, and traveled up the long, winding drive to the stable, my sister would say, "Now, don't be scared because horses can sense when you are scared." Holy Cow!!! Was that supposed to put me at ease? Instead, it turned those little butterflies into raging pterodactyls in my gut. Heck yeah I was scared! But that didn't stop me. Even when one of the rental horses ran off with me, I wanted to come back for more. I was hooked. Soon the begging and the pleading began. "Dad, can I please, please, pleeeeeeeze have a horse?"