I’m Coming Back!

I have not died, dear readers. I have been consuming your blogs rapidly on my lunch breaks (our workload recently exploded) and I will soon be back with an update on all things Oakley, likely tomorrow. Here is a spoiler: it involves vet bills. Sigh.

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A List of Questions

…that needed answering in the five days since I bought Oakley:

Where is he going to live?

I’ve spoken before about how much I love my current barn, but I knew that once I had to foot the bill for full board and training, it would be time to part ways. Trainers M&L run a wonderful program but it’s oriented towards having horses in full training and showing on the A-circuit essentially year-round. That simply isn’t me. I’ve taken a hiatus from showing for the past 4-5 years to concentrate on academic and career pursuits, and when I jump back into showing, I definitely won’t be pouring my dollars into showing at A shows; I’m really B-circuit girl at heart. So I informed M&L this week that we’d come to the end of our relationship for now. I feel really lucky to have been a participant in their program for so many years; their dedication to great care, crazy high standards, and ability to have a good time wherever they go has made for a great run together. But: onwards. I stopped by yesterday to pick up my stuff and say goodbye to Schmoodle, who refused to pose for pictures but instead insisted on trying to munch on my hair. It was poignant to drive away for the last time in the foreseeable future, having said ‘goodbye for now’ to my barn friends and my Schmoods. I’m sure life will intersect our paths again down the road in due course, though.

Worst poser ever!!

Worst poser ever!!

Luckily, I’ve been casually horse shopping since the beginning of the summer so I have had plenty of time to think about new boarding options. One option crystallized in my mind quite early on: former barnmates of mine at my current place, two teenage sisters, moved here last year when their family decided they needed a less expensive option. Their mom is a life-long rider and horse show mom who has been around the area’s horsey scene forever, so her opinion bears a lot of weight with me. I reached out to her and she gave the new barn two definite thumbs up: they’ve had great results at the new place over the past year.

Another factor: my best friend, KPT, is moving to Ottawa imminently from a city six hours away (YES!) and is bringing her horse with her. We grew up riding and showing together so our plan was to see if we could find a program that suited both her seasoned 1m10 jumper and my greenie (and our limited budgets). 

On Tuesday, I headed out to this barn to have a visit. I brought with me the handy dandy Excel spreadsheet KPT and I obsessive-compulsively put together to ensure we asked all the necessary questions, because we are data fiends. 

I was pretty impressed by all the answers – so this is where Oakley will be moving! It’s not as fancy as my old place, but the horses all looked slick and happy, and the barn manager seems to have that necessary obsessive streak; their clientele is about 80% B-circuit to 20% A-circuit; they won’t be going to Florida this winter and leaving us sans trainer; and they have a track record of producing well-educated horses and riders at all levels. AND they had two open 14×14 stalls for our giants horses who are 18h and 17.2. Fingers crossed, but I think Oakley and I will be happy there.

How is he going to get here?

My Ottawa shipper (Trainer M) was heading out of town this weekend (it’s Canadian Thanksgiving), and my Montreal shipper has retired, so I scrambled on Thursday to find someone who could ship Oakley up here ASAP. I ended up with the guy who shipped KPT’s horse the eight hours to his new home last year. They’re a small operation but they have a big, well-appointed trailer complete with cameras, and they’re going to pick Oakley up on Monday morning for his journey westward. As it’s a long weekend up here, I’ll be able to spend that afternoon with him at the new barn. Yay!

What is he going to do in the interim?

Oakley has been living a leisurely life of turnout and longeing while he awaits his ride to Ottawa. He also got a new set of shoes on Friday so he will be ready to rock and roll when he gets here. We’re going to stop by the barn in Montreal on the way to family Thanksgiving today so I can drop off wraps and a fluffy shipping halter [side note, fluffy shipping halters are my favourite thing, every horse looks so adorable and cuddly in them.]

SO FLUFFY

SO FLUFFY, stock picture pony

Very importantly: What stuff does he need that I don’t already have?

As I alluded to earlier, I started shopping for Oakley basically immediately upon agreeing to purchase him. Upside of buying a horse well within your budget: more cash money to spend on fun things! So far I have bought or ordered a halter, schooling boots, a saddle pad, a new bridle, and assorted first aid-type things (mostly to treat the dermatitis he’s got on his hind fetlocks – more on that soon). I’ll be sure to report back on all of these.

The BIG things that still remain to be acquired are:

1.       Blankets. I have a stable sheet but no heavy blankets for Mr. Oakley. I think I will wait for the vendors at the Royal Winter Fair in a couple of weeks to get the bulk of these, and will probably mooch off KPT’s discards in the interim.

2.       Possible saddle fit remedies: Oakley is high-withered and has no developed topline to speak of. I will need to pay close attention to my saddle fit on him, and it may need to be fixed with padding, a breastplate, etc. I sure don’t want to take any more permanent measures, as with any luck he will be muscling up significantly in the coming months.

I am SO excited to get started with a new horse and new program now that all the moving parts have come into place, and I can’t wait for all my family and friends to meet him. I have to admit, though, that part of me still feels like the other shoe is about to drop, or that I’ve overlooked some crucial problem that is staring me in the face. I tend towards fatalism when I’m really excited about something: maybe I’m afraid of disappointment if something goes wrong? Maybe I just can’t believe that after all this time, I have decided I’m financially stable enough to buy a horse and have it in consistent training, and I have trouble trusting my own judgement to this effect? Can you guys relate to this or am I unique in this aspect?

In any event, in this case I’m just going to lean in to the excitement and embrace every bit of the new horse honeymoon. Can’t wait to see that chestnut face – MY chestnut face! – peeking out from the stall on Monday!

Day One

After a week of sleeping fitfully, checking my phone for messages compulsively, and trying to avoid feeling too much excitement in case it all fell to pieces…today was the day.

I signed the ownership papers for Oakley.

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Oakley’s a nine year old TB, and appears to be 18 hands. (Oh my god.) He’s been at the barn of my former trainer in Montreal for the past year, to be trained and casually marketed; he’s jumping 2’6/2’9 courses and has a lovely base on the flat. I actually saw him go a little earlier this summer, when the barn hosted a B-circuit show, and I remember thinking how cute and brave he was. I had casually started my horse search then, and my trainer mentioned him offhandedly, as he was considerably over my budget. His owner is apparently reeeeally tired of paying for him to be in training, though, as I got him for just over one third of her original asking price.

Last weekend, I headed down to the the barn in Montreal to try a different horse, a mare, but I realized within two canter strides that she just wasn’t my type of ride at all. I got off, a bit discouraged at having come all this way just to try a horse I categorically couldn’t (or maybe more accurately, wouldn’t) ride. My trainer took me aside and said she had a sneaking suspicious that Oakley’s owner could be convinced to drastically lower her price – so I said I’d try him out.

Remember after my first horse shopping weekend, I asked you guys whether you had clicked with your horses immediately? In this case, I could tell right off the bat that this horse was my kind of ride. Despite being BIG, green and wiggly, he had a lovely connection in the mouth, accepted my leg well, and made it easy to find a rhythm to the jumps. So instead of over-thinking it, I went with my gut, and I asked my trainer to arrange a vetting.

The vetting wasn’t perfect – he’s going to require a bit of hock maintenance – but it’s nothing too drastic and I feel comfortable that we’ll be able to manage him well. I thought long and hard on it after the vet called to give me the x-ray findings – obviously, I would have preferred a 100% clean vetting. But in the end, I found it wasn’t a deal-breaker for me in terms of the amount of anxiety it would cause me if I bought him.

He’s missing a lot of weight at the moment, and generally needs some TLC, not to mention some big time muscling up. But I rode him again today after signing the papers and it reinforced my decision totally. He’s just lovely, not to mention sweet as anything in the barn.

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Agh, those ribs. He needs some major fattening up.

So this week I have to get my ducks in a row regarding his boarding situation, then he’ll hopefully be in Ottawa next weekend. I’m so excited!!

(And yes, I may have already begun a craze of online shopping for him. Because arguably the best part of getting a new pony is all the new STUFF they completely, 100% need, am I right?)

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YAY

All Atwitter

I feel like a giant jangling bundle of nerves today. Because…

I’m getting a horse vetted tomorrow afternoon. It’s not one of the ones I’ve already written about on here.

I don’t want to say much more about it in case he fails, as I will be mucho sad in that case and am convinced I will jinx it by being too excited.

Oh my god.

That is all.

Class Action

Fall is officially almost here, as the uOttawa Equestrian Team has arrived back at our farm to begin their 2015-16 season! They are short on lesson horses right now so Schmoodle was pulled into service yesterday. The team captain is a lovely rider and they had a good lesson together. I’ll admit I was flattered when I came into the barn where Schmoodle was chilling post-lesson and he immediately perked up and looked for a cuddle. Aww, he does love me. (I am an anthropomorphic sap, yes.) Poor Schmoodle, he isn’t getting much face time on the blog this week.

schmoodle

Helloooo, I’m still here!

Our last ride, on the weekend, was really good despite the conditions being windy, rainy and spooky. He was as rideable as could be expected and gave me a really good feel – no more mouth of iron. I took a new tack and decided to halt and chill out for a few minutes when I first got on in order to let him wrap his brain around the spooky stuff in the ring, then concentrated on really sending him forward, ignoring any body contortions, and using lots of small figures and changes of direction to get the bend though his ribcage – no lateral work at all except spiral in and out and canter, in which I also incorporated last lesson’s counter flexions. I just kind of ignored any tension in his topline as long as he went forward. Lo and behold, I got a lovely round horse, still on edge, but working with me instead of against me.

Anyways, since Schmoodle was pulling double duty yesterday, Trainer M asked me to ride Classy, the barn’s oldest and grumpiest going Grand Prix horse. Classy must be about 20 now but still jumps around the 1m40s and small GPs, albeit with some protests. He was a breeding stallion for many years and maintains many vestiges of his studdish personality, including a huuuge cresty neck. He has a wild eye and breathes louder than any horse I know. Before I got on, M, who currently does him in the big classes at the horse shows, said, “He is terrible off the right leg and will probably be a huge asshole. After about half an hour he’s really fun, though!”

class action

Classy a couple of years back. He’s quite the horse.

Basically, it was like sitting on a cross between a rocking horse and a dragon. Once I got the hang of him and realized the snorting and crow-hopping were more bark than bite, he was indeed extremely fun to ride, although he couldn’t be more different from Schmoodle. He’s super well-schooled on the flat (…when he decides to cooperate), and once I figured out what to do with all that horse under me and realized he really wasn’t going to just charge away when I put my leg on, he gave the most amazing feeling – his canter is like butter. We did some lovely lateral work and lead changes, and then called it a day. When I gave him his apple snack before putting him away, his whole demeanor changed and suddenly he was a droopy-lipped, kind-eyed old man. Poor old Classy. I don’t think he gets a lot of cuddles, probably because he always looks so threatening, so I tried to make a fuss out of him. He’s a pretty special guy, who’s done national standard Grand Prixs, taken his previous rider (who is actually also Schmoodle’s owner) to Young Riders and her first World Cup qualifier a couple of years ago, and jumped around the high A/Os on the West Coast as a pinch-hitter for a client whose own horses were injured last summer. Suffice it to say he’s been there, done that, got the t-shirt.

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Post-ride chilling. (Somehow, I have managed not to have to wrap legs for a couple of years, so I was pretty impressed at how these ones turned out.)

The Internet was on the fritz when I got home, so we amused ourselves by staring adoringly at the new kitty. He is perfect. I have become an obsessive cat lady basically overnight. Google has started suggesting cat-related searches for me. SEND HELP.

Anyone else get a kick out of riding a different horse, especially one you’ve known for a long time?

Bonjour

Hello, (theoretical) blog readers.

Much to the detriment of my workplace productivity, I recently discovered the universe of equine bloggers. Since I am, as my blog title would suggest, a very analytical sort, I figured this blog will be a good place to track my riding progress, reminisce about my (not very) glorious junior horse showing days, and basically put some mental order to this sport that has consumed my life since lo these many years (and maybe make Internet friends?). Not to mention I now have an excuse to take more pictures of my horse’s adorable face!