Equestrian Grad Student

Because horses never stop teaching.

It’s Finally Happening!

Well, not quite. It’s finally starting…ever so slowly…

What is? Why, only the best thing ever! My move to Georgia! I can’t remember if I’ve mentioned this before, and I’m too lazy to read through old posts to check, but my friend Sam and I are starting a business together. She and her husband bought a farm, and she and I are going to operate a training business out of it. It’s all very exciting.

They’ve been working on physical improvements since they bought it and I’ve consulted on things, but I haven’t seen it in person yet. I kept myself busy working for Jess, waiting to for that message from Sam that said she was ready for me.

It isn’t as easy as I’d imagined. There are way more things to coordinate than I’d planned on, but we’re breaking it down into manageable pieces.

Starting with my horses. Abs and Avery just got on the trailer and are headed south. I won’t get to go until the 26th, when I fly down to look at apartments. Moving is a complicated process! I can’t wait. This is hopefully going to be my permanent, real-life, grown-up, forever job. And apartment (at least for a while).

Ohmigod it’s really real! My horses are in transit. Wow.

Guess that means that my extended vacation is over.

A Change in Pace

My ponies are currently enjoying the winter off. Shoes have been pulled, tack has been stored, goodbyes have been said. Temporarily, of course. I’ll probably see them again next week because I can’t stay away too long, but for now I am quite far from them.

I’m back home for the holidays. A death in the family has extended the holidays to include the whole of December, and while it is good to see my family it is also hard to be so far from my horses.

While replying to a comment, I realized that I haven’t updated this since October. Life has been crazy. More crazy than I counted on. In addition to traveling hundreds on miles in the recent past, I also had the misfortune of losing my laptop. I have just replaced it (good thing I have a smartphone!) and am in the process of restoring all of my documents, pictures and music. Backup drives are truly wonderful. I’m so glad I kept it in a separate bag. Anyway, I am sitting at my dad’s house, in front of a very lovely fire, contemplating the next phase of my life. More on that soon, I hope! I’m in that awkward transitional phase between one adventure and the next. It’s REALLY fun.

Just thought a quick update would be helpful, in case anyone was wondering why I disappeared. I’m not currently doing anything with my horses, though I may go visit my old guy (I free-leased him out when I went to college) since he’s only twenty minutes from here. I may even post pictures!


Taming the Dragon

I had a dressage lesson today on my lovely Abigail, and it was almost a real dressage lesson.

As you may have picked up from previous posts, we call Abs “the dragon” because she is rather reminiscent of a fire-breathing dragon when the mood strikes. She looks like a dragon when she goes after other horses, ears so flat they disappear into her snakelike neck. She also uses this snakelike neck to avoid going round in dressage. She’ll bend her neck any way but the way I want.

After getting some moments during our last dressage lesson, I was quite excited by the possibility of perhaps scoring under a 40 in our next dressage test. After this lesson, I’m convinced it might actually happen. Not only was she round most of the time, but she actually started to push to the bridle and swing through her back. Today was the loosest and most willing she’s ever felt. Our transitions were prompt, though trot-canter transitions were not round and it took about half a circle to get her soft in the canter.

I have to remind myself not to nitpick. Obviously, I want her round and swinging all of the time, but I need to remind myself that this is a huge improvement in a relatively short amount of time. Especially for a dragon. Dragons aren’t made to do dressage, you know.

I love my Babby!

Drama and Exhaustion

We got back from the RRTP a little past eleven on Sunday night. By the time I got the horses unloaded, grabbed a quick meal and got ready for bed it was approaching midnight. I was completely exhausted, but managed somehow to not fall asleep for more than half an hour at a time. I kept waking up, agitated almost to the point of tears because…

We have a new working student.

I mentioned her in my last post and promised details. Her name is Kayla, and she is incredibly odd. Now, I’m not usually one to judge. My general outlook on life is something akin to the “you do you” phrase that’s been floating around lately. There are times, however, when you can’t do you because it’s just not appropriate.

Kayla has been a definite challenge to figure out. I usually love figuring out new people. It’s a fascinating game and I always learn from it, usually things about myself. But Kayla…she’s not fun. At first she just seemed overwhelmed. She was quiet when we picked her up from the airport and slow when she started working. After four days of working here, she had not gotten faster and was still making the same mistakes. Whatever, I thought, people learn at different speeds. She’s odd and slow, but she’ll learn. Not horrible characteristics, just not ones I’m used to.

Boy, was I wrong. She wasn’t just slowly going about her daily routine, happy to be a working student. On Thursday night, she sent Jess a Facebook message complaining about everything Riley and I forced her to do, as well as everything we wouldn’t let her do. Until that point, she had barely said a word to any of us, so we figured that she was just a bit awkward. For a quiet, awkward girl she sure knew how to stir up drama.

The complaining wasn’t what bothered me. People complain. I’m definitely guilty of it. What bothered me was how calculating she was about her complaints. She wouldn’t talk to any of us in person, and yet she felt comfortable messaging Jess a whole list of offenses that Riley and I had apparently committed and then had the balls to comment on every solution Jess tried to present.

Suffice to say, the girl gets on my nerves. I have many more complaints about her, but you really don’t want to read about them.

That’s Still a Mouthful

I’m at the Retired Racehorse Training Project Symposium. It’s called the RRTP for short, which isn’t a whole lot shorter if you say it out loud. Are-are-tee-pee. Jess and I were stumbling over it all week so we finally decided to call it the “Ruh-tup” to make it faster and easier to say. Unfortunately, we both bust out laughing every time we say it, so it really hasn’t saved us any time. 

Jess has one horse in the Training Project part tomorrow and one in the USEA demonstration on Sunday. There are a few other experienced trainers/riders participating, but the vast majority of them seemed quite clueless. It should be interesting. I’m excited to see the Symposium stuff and the USEA demo, but somewhat skeptical of some of the trainers’ presentations.

Again, I’m not doing so well with the updates. I’m completely exhausted and somewhat stressed and a little bit on edge. We hired a new girl on a month trial, and after four days she turned into the biggest problem I’ve ever encountered in the horse business. More on that later. Right now I’m in Baltimore and Riley is stuck at home with the new girl.

Have I written about Riley? She’s awesome. More on her later, too. At least I hired one good one…

I’m going to try to be better at updates because I really do enjoy writing this, but I’m not going to promise. Promises are stressful. 

Fair Hill is coming up in two weeks, and I can’t wait! It will be my second time grooming at an FEI event, first CCI. It’s going to be a long week, but totally worth it. I hope I can catch up on sleep before it. Then two weeks after that I’m riding at VAHT. The Dragon and I are moving up to Training! Scary but also awesome. After that, things will be quiet for a while, with schooling shows for the babies and jumper/dressage shows for the big kids if they need outings. 

So Much for the Afterglow

Yeah, yeah, I stole a song title again. It’s a very good song, though.

Plantation was amazing! Jess rocked everything (dressage was a bit less that stellar but stadium and cross country were brilliant). As you may have heard already, the second water element on the cross country course ended up being removed after several falls took place at the first element. Jess was one of the few clear rounds to go while the water was still on the course. I  was only able to watch until Jess’ run though, then I had to race back to the vet box to make sure everything was set up for her when she finished. This was my first time in a vet box! It wasn’t nearly as scary as i imagined it would be. Sponge the horse, scrape the horse, walk the horse. Repeat until vet comes to clear horse to leave.

Sunday was a pretty awesome day. Until that evening, when Riley called with news from the farm. One of the horses is acting colicky. Riley doesn’t know how to give IV shots. The vet won’t come out. Finally Jess decided that Riley could give the banamine IM in the horse’s chest and we’d just have to hope for the best. After getting increasingly positive updates on the horse’s condition, we went to bed around eleven.

Since the show was over and we couldn’t leave first thing in the morning due to a vet appointment, we decided to sleep in until seven (sounds like a whole lot of sleeping in, doesn’t it!). Riley kept us updated and the horse is now back to normal. She still can’t have grain but is happily munching on hay and drinking plenty of water.

We got in the truck to head to the show grounds…and the truck complained very loudly before dying. Turns out Jess had put gas in it instead of diesel while she was on the phone with the vet about the colicky horse. Fortunately we were stuck right next to New Bolton and the receptionist turned out to be extremely helpful. She got us a tow truck, recommended a great mechanic and drove us back to the show grounds. The truck is now fixed and we’ve only been delayed a couple of hours.

Even though we’ve not been delayed that much, it still puts us back at the farm around midnight. I’m so glad tomorrow is my day off. So glad we didn’t get stuck here overnight. So glad Jess is finally in a better mood.

Where Have I Been?!

Wow, two weeks since my last update. That’s pretty bad. Someone should have yelled at me!

News…let’s see…I haven’t had a day off since August 29th, we’ve hired a new working student…and I’m at Plantation!

Day off, first (or lac thereof). Things have been crazy here because Jordyn’s time ended on September 1st. That left me working by myself and desperate to hire someone. But finding that someone was proving difficult. Most of the applicants would either not want to come for an in-person interview or have to check with their parents. Finally, a week later, I interviewed the perfect candidate, offered her the job…and she took it! No questions, no needing to check with parents. It was brilliant. Two days later, she arrived. Her name is Riley and she is awesome. Everything is so much better with a motivated second person. Unfortunately, it’s so much better that Jess no longer sees a need for a third person. Which brings me to my last bit of news…

I’m at Plantation! While it’s exciting, it means that Riley is back at the farm by herself. Weeks like this is why I wanted to hire a third working student, because it’s not fair to Riley to be stuck doing everything by herself for six days straight. Jess needs help at the show, which is why I get to go (and I’d much rather be here than there), but I still feel a little twinge of guilt when I think about all the work she has to do.

But I’m at Plantation! Grooming for Jess in the CIC***. Dressage day is over. I’m pretty exhausted, but it was so much fun. I got to tag along when Jess walked cross country. Some fences looked inviting, some looked huge. I figured they would seem huge, as Advanced is not easy, but what surprised me was how technical the questions are. Some of the fences were fairly small, but had insane drops behind them or impossible angles/bending lines to narrow combinations. There were some things that almost didn’t seem possible. I guess that’s why you can’t just sign up for Advanced. I’m hoping that by working up through the levels, Advanced won’t seem so scary when I’m qualified for it. Abs and I move up to Training at our next event, woohoo!

Jess gave me a bracelet that gives me special privileges. It says “Plantation Field Owner” which is supposed to (obviously) be for owners of the horses who are competing. I’m not sure how Jess got it for me. She has one that marks her as a rider. Maybe she got both because she is both a rider and an owner, and the organizers didn’t think that through. Either way, I have a bracelet! This magical bracelet not only makes me feel special, but also allows me access to the VIP tent with free food and drinks (free alcohol, yay!).

Tomorrow is Stadium day, which seems a bit backwards. I guess the reasoning is that since CIC show jumping is larger than either Advanced or CCI show jumping, it should happen before cross country. Jess doesn’t go until after noon, so we may have a leisurely morning in store. I hope so, I could certainly use one.

That’s what I’ve been up to. I promise I’ll be better about updates from now on! I should be back to my normal Tuesdays off since we’ve hired Riley. If that’s the case, I’ll guarantee weekly updates, at least.

Focus On: Avery

Avery is the sweetest, cutest, cuddliest horse you’ll ever meet. He is also a Destroyer of Things. On one memorable occasion, he ate my skullcap. Precious, right? Since I’ve owned him, he has destroyed two helmets (not through riding accidents), a pair of gloves, a bottle of Vetrolin Green Spot Remover, three halters, two cell phones, a set of shipping wraps, a blanket, a cooler and more fly masks than I care to think about. And that’s just what I can remember.

His latest destructive project is his stall guard. He has broken this four times now, twice trying to walk into his stall. After the first break, I hung it up with baling twine because he broke the eye hook that kept it attached to the wall. This makes it a simple fix, but I’m getting tired of fixing it.

Also during the stall-guard-destruction phase Avery has decided that it is fly-mask-removal-week. Every day for the last six days, he has removed his fly mask. Every day for the last six days, I have fetched it from a random corner of his field. Today was the best day of it because…

Avery went out in a real field today! He’s still by himself, but no longer confined to temporary fencing. Aside from ditching his fly mask, he was quite well-behaved!

He has, however, become quite spoiled since his return from hospital. He  now refuses to eat Jess’ feed so I have to buy him the same grain they fed there. He goes through a bag a week; a bag costs $20. He refuses to stay out past two in the afternoon. If he can get my attention earlier, he comes in earlier. He won’t drink his water if he drops his grain in it; he drops his grain in it at every meal. He grinds his teeth when his hay runs out.

And yet, I somehow love him even more. He’s just so cute!

And Then There Was One

Yesterday was Jordyn’s last day. Jess had been advertising for another working student since July, but she was getting sick of dealing with potential interviewees, so she turned it over to me. It’s really fun stuff, trying to hire people.

Facebook is a great resource; it’s the main way we advertise for the job opening. Unfortunately, we get some odd inquiries through Facebook. Most of the responses we get are from college students looking for something to do over winter vacation. A few of the responses were almost impossible to read due to extremely poor writing skills. And a few were worth talking to! We have two interviews scheduled and three people trying to set up interviews. Finally.

I’m still stuck working by myself for at least two weeks. The work isn’t terrible, but I got quite used to Jordyn’s company. As annoying as she is, we got work done. I’m going to miss her just for that.

We’re looking to hire two people, one to replace Jordyn and one to expand. It’s pretty exciting! I just wish someone would start now. Like right now, today. I don’t like working by myself!

We HAVE to hire someone by Fair Hill, because I desperately want to be able to groom there.

Quick, Before I Fall Asleep!

Avery is finally done with his medication. What does that mean? I can finally go to bed at a reasonable hour. Thank Tofu! I’ve been operating on very little sleep. Avery needed his meds exactly every eight hours. That seems like plenty of time to got some sleep between doses, but I was stressed/worries/overtired and could not sleep. I tried melatonin, which made me groggy all day. I tried aromatherapy, which smelled very nice but did absolutely nothing to help me sleep. I tried staying awake until I couldn’t possibly keep my eyes. That was awful.

But now he’s well on his way to recovery. He’s getting out of his stall! I had to build a temporary pen. The first day, it was twelve by twelve and he went out for forty-five minutes. He’s now up to eighteen by eighteen and as long as he’s content to graze. He’s such a polite guy that he waits until I walk by so he can nicker at me to come get him. Most horses would be pacing the fence, but he’s too sweet for that. He just waits patiently.

I was also finally able to give him a bath today. The poor guy was so oily that he was starting to get sticky to the touch. I didn’t scrub his wound or that leg at all, because even though it has filled in nicely and is starting to scab over, I was worried about opening it back up.

No more medications syringed in the dark! I can sleep again. It’s such a relief to see my baby getting back to normal. The prognosis is as good as I could hope for; he can return to full work as long as we do it slowly. I’m so relieved/excited to start working with him again. Of course, it’ll start with tedious hand-walks up and down hills, but eventually we’ll be arguing about collected trot again.