"And, when you want something, the entire Universe conspires in helping you to achieve it." -The Alchemist, by Paulo Coehlo



Sunday, November 13, 2011

A week's worth of posts

It's been a crazy week. 3 people at work quit at the same time, and there's been a mad scramble to get those shifts covered. It's been rough in the real world, but at the barn everything has been falling into place.

Last Wednesday, I rode Lily out to the equestrian center, and she was an absolute BRAT. She did not want to go down the street; she would balk, back up, or pop up every time I asked her to go forward.  In the middle of the street. With cars coming both ways. And my health insurance hasn't kicked in yet. She was especially bad when we came even with the pasture with the two cows halfway down the street.

I ended up getting off and longing her in the middle of the street when no cars were coming, in an attempt to make her understand that if she made me get off, she would have to work a lot harder than me just asking her to walk forward. I then got back on. More balking, backing up, popping up. We tried this numerous times, and it did not work. I tried spinning her in circles when she acted up, then sending her forward. She figured it out on the first try, and as soon as I stopped circling her and tried to send her forward, on went the brakes again. I was hopping, furiously mad. She knew I was afraid of going splat on the pavement (I know I tense up on the street, no matter how much deep breathing I do), and she was completely taking advantage of the situation in an attempt to return to her little herd. My blood was boiling; I wanted to beat her. Of course I did not. I got off, longed her 3/4 of the way to the equestrian center (did I mention I was particularly tired that day?), moving like a planet with a satellite down the street, and then had to give up when too many cars were coming to be able to keep any kind of consistency. Once at the equestrian center, she was her usual calm self. Tired out by then, of course, but back to normal. I ended up riding her in both arenas: the white one was being used for a lesson, and after the girl disobeyed the trainer for a 2nd time and almost rammed her horse into us (the trainer asked her to stay at the other half of the arena so we could share) I gave up and we rode over to the red arena. The footing there was very deep, to the point where Lily was deliberately avoiding the rail because her feet were sinking to the pasterns in the sand. The sun was going down behind the trees at this point, casting a golden light over the enormous field next to the red arena. The grass sparkled like spun gold, making it look surreal and oddly 2-dimensional against the brilliant light. I just had to go out there into the gold. Lily was very willing to leave the quicksand, and trotted over the small rise that divides the equestrian center grounds from the field. We trotted and cantered a bit in the near end of the field, just for kicks. There is a cow pasture at the far end of the field, and Lily kept looking over that way to see if they had any plans to stampede our way and eat her, but she still paid attention to my cues, and cantered slowly when asked-no bucking, silliness, or trying to take off. 

Lily's version of cattle.
I could feel her own exhaustion now, though, and didn't push it much more than that. After that, we returned home. No major problems this time-she made a beeline for the barn, marching down the street, but I made a point of making her circle so she wouldn't be heading back in a straight line all the way. The first few times she balked, but then she understood that we were still going home despite the circling, and cooperated.

I started her on Mare Magic that same night!

She then had 3 days off due to me working, which were well-deserved because she had been worked 5 days in a row (a first) and most of the rides, though not always strenuous, had been pretty long . She got to spend her days and nights out with Rose, and yesterday Sunday I was back at the barn.

I longed Lily in the arena, and worked on some desensitizing with the dressage whip (she is deathly afraid of whips in general). She was a spaz. Looking for the other horses in the other paddock, tearing around, snorting, acting like I was going to clobber her at any second. Even though I have never done anything to hurt her. But this is her when she is in heat. She goes into this weird fear mode. I'm sure this was part of her problems with her previous owner and trainer. I let her run around on the longe in both directions, then asked her to walk. She would not. Gentle pressure on the line. Nope. Half halts on the line. This brought her to a walk, but when asked to change directions, she took off again. After about 10 minutes of letting her run around again, I asked her to halt and rubbed her entire body down with the dressage whip, both sides. She remained perfectly still, but she also wasn't paying 100% attention, still trying to look for the other mares. I extended my arm to the side away from her, and waved the whip up and down in the air so that it made whooshing sounds. This got her attention. Off Lily went again, tearing around in a circle. I asked her to stop, still waving the whip, and she changed directions. I asked her to stop again, she changed directions again. We ended up doing this little dance, her basically zig-zagging in front of me, until suddenly it clicked in her head, and she stood still, looking at me, while I whooshed the whip in the air on either side of her. She remembered that I am not here to hurt her. She received a LOT of pats, praise and kisses for that one. I then had her yield her front end and then her back end, and she responded obediently. I then had her walk forwards, back up, stop, turn, trot next to me. She had to mirror what I did without me asking. She did excellent!! The whip came in handy for tapping her when I started to jog and she tried to just walk fast behind me, but after one tap she understood that she was to pick up a trot and stay next to me when I jogged. It was a beautiful session. By the end of it, I was doing all sorts of maneuvers with Lily matching my every step, despite a big loop in the longe line!

After that, I turned her out with Rose and Lil Red while I cleaned her stall. This is the first time that the 3 of them have been out together since the last attempt when Lily first arrived, where Lily was chased away from Lil Red by Rose. This time, Rose came over to greet Lily over the fence when I brought her over to the paddock. She allowed Lily to come in, and they stood head to tail sniffing each other, with Lil Red on Rose's other side. I stood watching. And then...Rose stepped away and allowed Lily to greet Lil Red! I ran for the camera and took a slew of pictures. Lily is officially part of the herd!

It was suuuper cute to watch. Lily and Red instantly hit it off. Almost too much-they would stand head to tail, squealing and squirting. Yup, Lily confirmed that she IS in heat (I'd been assuming and hoping that this was the cause of her erratic behavior, but had seen nothing yet to prove my assumption) and apparently so is Lil Red. The first time they squealed, Rose came over, pinned her ears, and separated them, as if saying, "Knock it off, kids!" Then she walked away to another corner of the paddock and left them alone, acting very much like a chaperone. *lol*


Rose making sure Lily is still Lily

Lily has a new favorite friend


The little herd

Lily posturing for Lil Red. Yup, my mare is a hussy.

Rose the chaperone. "I see you looking at me!"

"Oh, that's why-you have a treat for me!"

"I know that camera is edible!"
She is the best herd leader. She is very motherly and caring while still being firm with the others, and is always the first to investigate anything new for the herd. Including anyone standing by the fence who just might have something in their pockets for her! *lol*

I cleaned Lily's stall while Julie gave a lesson on Miami. After that, I had the opportunity to ride Rose.

I have never ridden an Andalusian. Rose is half Andalusian, half Quarter Horse, but she looks 100% Andalusian. I have seen her trot and canter in turnout, and she naturally arches her neck and floats across the ground. It's just the way she moves, the way she's put together. Judy can't ride her due at the moment to an injured hand, and asked if I would like to exercise her for her. This is a major honor-Judy owned Rose's dam, and has been training Rose from the moment she was born. No one else has ridden her except Judy. This is a monumental privilege. So today Judy was going to show me how to handle and ride Rose.

She had me longe her first. Rose is 100% alpha, 100% of the time, and while she loves and respects humans for the most part (she can be a little pushy on the ground if you let down your guard), she will make you earn her respect. I love this mare and her personality. Judy stood to the side and gave me directions, showing me what maneuvers and cues Rose was used to, and how she is used to being worked on the longe.

I usually walk a big circle while I have the horse longe around me, just to allow them to make an even bigger circle. Rose is used to having the person stand still in the center. Judy trained her with the regular verbal cues, and I was to wave Judy's carrot stick at Rose or thump the ground with it if Rose did not pick up the next gait when asked to. Rose "challenged" me a couple of times, changing gaits when not asked to, or invading my space in the circle, in which case I was to tell her "Out!" She knew the command, but eventually decided to not listen to me when I gave it, requiring a tap with the rope end of the carrot stick on her belly to encourage her to step out to the end of the line. This worked well, and she needed no more reminders after that. She was goofy and playful on the longe, bucking a couple of times and galloping madly when asked to canter, but she had not been worked in awhile and needed to get all that energy out. Judy laughed watching her.

Once she had settled down, we brought her back to the barn, where Judy tacked her up for me and we went back to the arena. Rose seemed confused when she saw that I was the one that was going to ride her, not her mom. She stepped up to Judy for Judy to get on her. Really cute! Judy talked to her and held her while I mounted up. Rose is a big girl by my standards. Most of the horses I have owned and ridden lately have all been in the 14.3-15.2 range, and narrow. Rose has the typical wide round back of an Andalusian and is a little over 16 hands. 

She was a dream to ride. Her walk with me on her was tentative (she kept looking at Judy, as if asking "Why are you down there?", and I of course was tentative with my commands too, figuring out how much pressure she needed of legs and reins for her to respond. When asked to trot, however, she arched her neck, lifted her front end, and floated. Her trot is big and smooth at the same time; I could have sat it even easier than posted to it. "WOW!" It just escaped me, which made Judy laugh. Her canter was easy to cue, but I did not have the leg strength that Rose is used to, and ended up needing the assistance of a dressage whip to tap her lightly and get her going. She had a hard time with the canter, though, because the arena footing has gotten very deep, and she struggled in the far side, where it was deepest-we kept losing the canter because she'd struggle and I would lean forward in an attempt to help her, and then she'd come to an absolute stop, as she is very sensitive to changes in seat. Even so, what I felt of her canter was also wonderful-very rocking chair-like, her front end lifting even more when she engaged. I've never had such a ride. It was wonderful!

Afterwards, Judy and I gave Rose a "bubble bath", and she got to go out with her herd again. I left the barn to go home for lunch, then returned about an hour later to ride Lily. I rode her in the paddock by the barn, where the footing is better than in the arena depth-wise, but there are still a lot of rocks-she kept avoiding the areas with rocks and I didn't insist, of course. We did a lot of trot & walk transitions, halts and backing up, and transitions to trot from a halt. The barn is at the top of the slope, and the far corner of the paddock is at the bottom-most part of the slope. You barely see it when you're on foot, but you can definetely feel it when you're riding. Lily struggled a little in that corner initially, wanting to break down to a walk to go down and up, but after a couple of tries with me pushing her to maintain the trot, she got it. It was a relatively short workout-about 30 min-compared to the long rides we got in last week (most of them over an hour long), but it was intense work and she's not used to working on an incline like that. At the end of the workout, I had her stand and worked on her staying still while I got on and off. After last week's argument, she had just developed a new habit of backing up when I got off, and I've been meaning to seriously work on correcting her bad habit of walking off immediately after your butt touches the saddle when mounting up. After the 3rd repetition, she got it. It was nice to have a normal workout with her; Lily was back to her calm, cooperative self. I gave her a good bath after that and turned her out with Rose.

On Monday, I turned out Miami, Lil Red and Rose in the arena, and we started out repeating the previous day's workout, but with more backing up, halts and lateral work in the paddock. I tried the Buck Branaman trick of getting her to move one step to the side with a weight shift. She responded...with 5 steps in the direction I was shifting towards! I would ask her to stop, shift the opposite direction, and stop her on step #3. We repeated this until she was only doing one step in each direction. Lily was ready to go, however, and let me know by pawing impatiently after the 4th repetition of this exercise. "This is boring! Let's go!" I laughed. So we kept on working. About 20 minutes into our session, Fionna and her daughter Jennifer showed up to feed lunch. Jennifer brought in the other 3 mares, and I moved with Lily to the arena to ride for another 10 minutes. Lily slogged through the sand, and I was glad I had decided to wrap her legs with polos for extra support. We ended up mostly walking, and had officially started our cool down when Fionna came over and asked if I'd like to go with Jennifer to the equestrian center to ride. I accepted-this was the chance to take Lily out with company.

Lily was a little reluctant to leave the barn area, but I pointed her in Red's direction and she got the hint, and settled into a long walk about a horse length and a half behind Red. We walked briskly all the way down to the center, and Jenn and I warmed up in the white arena.


Jen & Lil Red lead the way
Jen is a really good rider-she's only 14, and used to barrel race on Lil Red. She has a good seat and good leg on her little mare, not like some so-called Western riders who are just sloppy. After 10 minutes or so, we split, me staying in the white arena and her moving into the red arena to do rodeo maneuvers (spinning, turning, short sprints). She then took Red into the field, where they did gallops in both directions. Lily and I got some good trot work in and some nice extended canter work, and Lily felt great-energetic, happy, not tired at all, even though by this point I had been on her for over an hour and a half including the 15 minute walk down to the center. I had been concerned she'd worry about Red's depart, but though she was keeping an eye out for where the little Quarter Horse was, she listened to me. After another 10 mintues or so, she was sweating, so I walked her out and took her over to the hose by the clubhouse to rinse her down and got back on. The water was cold enough to make Lily protest initially, but it was a hot day (83 degrees in the sun) and the chilly water did her good. By then Jen was done with her gallops and we met by the red arena to head back to the barn. Lil Red set a blazing pace at a walk, marching her way down the street a good 5 lengths in front of Lily and me. I've never seen such a small horse (she's about 14.2 hands) walk so fast! A couple of times Lily asked for permission to trot to catch up, but I didn't want her to develop the habit of chasing after buddies who are moving away from her, so I half halted her each time to keep her walking and she soon relaxed into her own long pace, with no signs of separation anxiety as the distance between us and Lil Red increased. By the time we made it back to the barn, Lil Red was still panting after her power walk but Lily was mostly cooled off, and was happy to stand loose in the shade of the barn awning next to me while Jen hosed down Lil Red.  Afterwards, I gave Lily a liniment bath.

Today I started to clip Lily's coat again-I clipped her with a #40 blade about 3 weeks ago, since it's been so hot overall, and her hair has mostly grown back. I started out with a trace clip today, with the goal of finishing the rest of her tomorrow after the farrier comes. After that, I just longed Lily for 20 minutes. She did GREAT work on the longe, and did not seem fatigued from yesterday. We did a nice warmup without side reins, w/t/c, then I snapped the side reins on and had her do trot-canter intervals, of 2 circles on the longe at each gait before changing to the next gait. By the time we reversed and changed directions, Lily had enthusiastically figured out the pattern and did the intervals herself! Such a smart girl. On a whim, I unclipped the side reins and snapped them onto a pair of D-rings higher up on her surcingle, imitating more closely the position the reins would be in while I'm riding. This was the result:


She almost looks as good as in the pic Judy took of us!

She was even stretching down in this one. This is the best she's worked on the longe so far. Note to self: clip side reins onto higher D's, not the middle ones!
After that, I took Rose out of her paddock to work with her. I longed her briefly, for about 5 minutes or so, to see how she'd respond without her mom around. She challenged me a couple of times, but nothing major, and I immediately corrected her and sent her off in the desired gait. Charles arrived when I was tacking her up, and held her for me. Rose is afraid of the crossties + cement floor combo: when she was younger, she slipped on a wet cement washrack while crosstied. So Charles came in handy for holding her for me while I got all her tack out and got her ready for the ride.

Rose was way better than the day before-much more responsive, very willing. I did not need the dressage whip at all. Charles took pics so I could see myself riding her, and of course I'm horrid-slouching and leaning forward. Ugh. Rose worked properly when I rode her in a sitting trot, where I could stretch up my body and engage my abs. Automatically her head came down and she engaged and lifted. Gorgeous! We did mostly walk and trot, and cantered a little in both directions but Rose's stride is so big that she could get from one end of the paddock to the other in 3 strides. I can't wait to ride her in the equestrian center arenas, where she has more room.
Warming up at the walk

Trotting up the paddock incline

It was a short ride (about 20 min) and by then Rose was sweating and blowing. I cooled her down with the reins on the buckle, and hosed her off well before turning her out with Lil Red and their lunch.
I love riding Rose. I hope she takes me to the next level, so that I can in turn take Lily to the next level in her training!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Full Moon

Lily is adjusting to the new changes in her life, and so am I. The day after we moved into the barn, another boarder arrived: Jennifer and her mom, with their TB mare Miami. I went with Judy to pick up Miami, and between the two of us we got the mare into Judy's trailer with natural horsemanship techniques after about 30 minutes (Judy would gently and rhythmically tap Miami's rump with a longe whip, lash held in her hand, while I placed firm pressure on the longe line. Each time Miami took a step towards the trailer, Judy would stop tapping and I would release the pressure. Eventually she figured out it was easier to get in the trailer than deal with the annoyance of the tapping and pressure).

Later that same day, Judy and I trailered Lily down to the Equestrian Center. I had originally intended to ride her down, but the morning was chilly, it was windy, and the minute I took her out of her stall to load her, she was prancing and frisky, and not paying attention-she kept trying to turn around, looking for the other mares. I took Lily to the arena (against her will) and longed her for 15 minutes, then went into a series of groundwork exercises, making her back up, yield her hind end, stop, start, and do the old lady walk. By then she was listening, and we loaded her up. I was glad for the decision to trailer; I don't know how it would have gone if I'd ridden Lily to the Equestrian Center.

At the Center, she was her usual quiet, calm self. I tacked up and ended up having an hour lesson with Judy in the red arena. Lily did GREAT! A group of people gathered to watch, and one lady even asked Judy for her information for lessons after watching her instruct me on doing leg yields down the quarter line with Lily at a walk. It was a great session for the three of us! I need to work on myself with leg yields-going to the right, we are fine, but to tshe left, I have a really hard time shifting my weight and pushing with my right leg. I've always been left-handed when riding, even though I'm right handed for everything else. Judy had me holding the reins in my left hand and raising my right hand over my head. When I did that, Lily automatically leg yielded to the left-the position made me shift my weight correctly and my little girl followed. It was fascinating.

The next day we rode down to the Equestrian Center by ourselves and Lily did great-calm and cool like she always is, despite an enormous farmer's marked being held in the field by the arenas.  She was looky, but only really skittish in the barn area. The day after that, I was exhausted, and was originally going to just longe Lily. She was so good after longing her that I wanted to just get on bareback and walk around the arena. But I lack the skills for mounting up bareback, and trying to scramble on Lily's back made her nervous, so I ended up tacking her up for the walk around the arena. After 2 laps I was bored, and then just wanted to go down the street. So I opened the gate and we walked down in the opposite direction from the Equestrian Center. Lily was an angel, looking around curiously as we went.

Urban trail ride!
Heading back, she started walking fast to get back to the barn, so I made her walk on past the barn. But then we passed a pasture with a cow and a bull, and the following had 2 horses, and she started to behave like she'd never seen these 2 pastures before, and tried to balk and back up. With some effort, I pushed her forwards, and we continued until we came to one of the big hunter/jumper barns on the street. All of the horses were turned out in the paddocks across the street, a new sight for her, and this was just too much. She balked, backed up, and refused to go forward. She just wanted to stop and stare at the horses. Then, when I tried to kick her forward, she half-reared twice. I spun her around, brought her to a stop, where she felt like she was going to explode, got off and made her walk at a fast pace next to me. By then I was exasperated with her-this kind of behavior was unlike her, and my exhaustion was giving me a short fuse. I did smack her when she tried to stop and stare again. By God, there are 3 horses back home. Get over it.
 
After passing this barn, we were pretty much at the Equestrian Center, so I got back on and ended up working her in the white arena for 20 minutes or so. She worked beautifully, so I cut the session short and we headed back home. I had figured she would be back to normal heading home, but was wrong. She tried pulling the same crap with the balking and backing up. I leaped off, smacked her on the neck and made her walk forward, growling menacingly every time she tried to turn her head to stare at the horses in the paddocks. If she became too eager walking next to me, I would make her stop and back up on command. By the time we were past the h/j barn, I had her attention again, and got back on. The rest of the ride home was uneventful. In the wash rack, however, she decided that she just had to break one of the cross tie eyehooks, and backed up until she made it snap, before leaping forwards. This was completely and entirely unprovoked, and something she had NEVER done before. I did not understand why she was so out of sorts. My guess was that she is coming into heat, which often makes her act ridiculous like this, and would explain her unusual interest in other horses-she has a gelding deficiency. She spent the night outside in the arena, still by herself. The plan is to put her and Miami out together eventually, but Miami had had a case of green snot, and though she seemed fine (good appetite, bright, active), Judy was keeping her separate for a couple of days to make sure she wasn't comng down with a cold before turning her out with other horses.

Today I slept in and stayed in bed most of the day. The stress from the move, the fact that it happened while recovering from a second throat infection, combined with that time of the month, daylight savings (my body still feels like it is an hour later than it is) and some financial concerns, had all just piled up on me. After serial napping, however, by the afternoon I felt like a new person, and headed out to the barn, where I tacked up Lily with her bridle and surcingle, and longed her for 20 minutes. We did intervals of trot/canter, which she seemed to enjoy. Her trot was lovely and floaty, and she was super responsive to voice commands. Afterwards, I took her for a walk down the street in the fading light to go past the cows and the two horses in the pastures. She stopped to look at the cows because they were right next to the fence. The cows stared back at her. We turned around after passing the two horses, and Lily walked next to me the rest of the way home. She did startle twice at objects only she could see. Sigh. Hopefully by next week the skittishness is over with.

We turned Lily out with Rose, and Little Red went out with Miami, who had not had any more green nasal discharge for the last 24 hours. Lily and Rose have been doing fine by themselves; there was friction only when Little Red was in the mix-Rose would chase Lily off. The second time we had all three together, Rose was better about allowing Lily to be close, but I still wasn't comfortable with the idea of turning the three out unsupervised.

Miami is on a different kind of hay, T&A, which Little Red had been eating up until recently. Judy had suggested turning them out together while Miami got switched over to the timothy we were feeding Rose and Lily. I thought this was a good idea. The girls were all fed their grain in their stalls, Miami and Little Red in adjacent stalls. As soon as they were done, they all waited anxiously to be turned out. Miami started to squeal and kick at the boards between her stall and Red's, which was a first ever for her. There must be a full moon factor in the mares' behavior. Jennifer thought Red and Miami might not get along in turnout, but they are both so easygoing that I had a feeling they'd be fine. Judy agreed, and we turned out to be  right. Once in the arena, they immediately took to each other, sharing their hay. Rose, who became anxious when she saw Little Red led away from her, calmed down as soon as we put Lily out with her. It was a beautiful night, with a clear sky, and the moon was so bright we could see our shadows on the ground while walking to the cars.

The full moon also seems to be bringing out the worst in people as well. After some deliberation, Judy decided to manage our old barn, since the owner was going to shut it down after M's eviction. This has created drama of epic proportions, resulting in the banning of Judy from M's barn as an instructor, and the beginnings of an exodus-Elisabeth, Stanley, Mark and Dianne are all planning on leaving M's new barn to return to the old barn under Judy's management. All of them would be returning due to financial reasons, but we know M will most likely not see it that way. We'll see what happens.

Paddock by the barn, all finished! That's Miami in the background, at the arena gate.

Brand new shade tree in paddock. The new barn owner rocks-he set up the paddock within 3 days, and had this tree planted today.
Lily turned out in the arena. I love that there is shade in both turnouts. 


Monday, November 7, 2011

Uprooted

On November 1st, 2011, my life as I knew it at the barn suddenly changed.

My barn manager, Mary, has been trying for almost a year to get a second barn to manage. She wanted our current barn to be her partial board place, and to have a second larger, fancier barn for full boarders interested in lessons and showing. There is a lovely little barn down the street with 12 stalls, 2 arenas (one of them legal dressage size with lights for riding at night), 4 paddocks for turnout on a hill (this = no flooding when it rains!) and a real round pen whose current manager, Alexandra, had been having financial issues. My barn manager had looked into leasing this place when the rumors of financial issues had started, but the current manager's lease didn't expire until January 2012. The owner of the property, however, liked Mary enough over the phone that when A decided to terminate her lease early, the owner immediately called up Mary.

Mary was thrilled with the news and of course she signed the lease to this barn at the beginning of October. A girl who was leasing one of Mary's horses, Trixxie, became very involved with the advertising and organizing of the new barn's lesson program and after school schedule for children, designing a new website and ads across the internet. She had enough connections through her job that she quickly had people signed up for lessons, aftercare and full board weeks before the new barn was to open. Mary, however, had still not warned the owners of the current barn that she was planning on managing a second barn. I knew this would not be a problem with the owners, as they are a kind laid back (and slightly eccentric) couple of older foreigners that keep to themselves for the most part but have always been willing to help anybody out. They are one of the few people on our street who are on good terms with everybody else and make a point of keeping it that way. They rarely came down to the barn, but would always say hi to us boarders when we crossed paths on the property, and even gave me advice with some serious horse problems I had when I first moved in, despite not knowing me from Adam. I knew they would  be happy and supportive of Mary if approached in a timely and diplomatic manner. Every week I asked Mary if she had given them the news yet, and began to stress when 2 weeks before the Grand Opening, she still had not informed the BOs of her plans. I could not understand the procrastination, especially with the new barn being advertised now in every popular horsey search engine under the sun.  One week before the opening of the new barn, the BOs got wind of Mary's plans. The husband congratulated Mary on the new barn offhandedly one morning, and Mary, instead of using the opportunity to sit down and give him a full update about what was going on, became defensive. She assumed that the boarder she had been having problems with had gone behind Mary's back and told the BO about Mary's plans. The BO had actually just seen one of Mary's numerous ads on the internet. The stories of what happened next are conflicting. Mary says she told the BO that she was taking over the new barn and 6 of the 12 horses at the current barn were moving over to the new place. BO says Mary just stormed into the house, announced she was leaving and taking everyone with her, and never offered further explanation. The BO assumed that none of the current boarders would be staying after November 1st. However, he still waited for Mary to sit down with him and his wife to talk. The talk never happened. On November 1st, he served Mary an eviction notice, giving her 10 hours to leave with all of her belongings, and us boarders received a new lease agreement in case we were interested in staying. Most of the boarders automatically chose to leave with Mary to the new barn out of loyalty, assuming that the one boarder with whom there had been issues would be taking over as the new manager at the current barn (that boarder, L, had been trying to undermine Mary constantly for the past year and had actually called up Mark that morning to give him the news of the change of power even before Mary knew what was going on. We still suspect she was involved somehow in the final Fall of Mary. Yeah , this is like a coupe d'etat out of the history books.) Mark and I sat down with the BO separately for long talks. Mark went in first, and came out so confused and undecided that I had to go in to talk to the BO myself. I was at the house for 2 hours, in which I learned about so many truths and lies that my head is still spinning from the sheer amount and magnitude of them (including the lack of contract between Mary and the BO, which is why he could evict her without notice). Reality as we knew it literally unravelled before my eyes. My conversation with the BO, however, changed Leanne's destiny, resulting in the denial of her lease agreement by the BO as well. By the time I left the house deciding I would stay despite Mary's leaving, Mark and Dianne had already told Mary they were leaving with her along with the other boarders. They would have stayed if they had known Leanne would be leaving too, but  it was too late for them to go back on their word to Mary.  I would be by myself and Lily would be in an empty barn if we chose to stay, and with the BO leaving on a business trip the next evening, there would be no one at the barn to feed Lily breakfast and lunch when I went back to work on Thursday. We had to move, and quick.

I called Judy. She had just taken over a tiny 4-horse barn close to the Equestrian Center about 10 minutes away, and I knew she still had 1 stall available. Her full board was more affordable than what I was paying for partial + my hay, feed and shavings. Judy was horrified over the news, as her and Mary were on good terms, and told me that of course I could move into her stall as soon as I needed to.

I spent the rest of the day helping Mary and my fellow boarders move. It was devastating. I had loved this barn, the horses and the people in it so much, and to suddenly see it stripped and lifeless was more than I could handle. At the end of the day, looking down the barn aisle at the row of open, empty stalls, I just broke down. I couldn't stop crying. Us partial boarders had been looking forward to just being us at the barn with Mary moving the brunt of her operation to the new fancy barn. We were a unique group of people, all willing to help each other out, all standing up for one another, all of us getting along with each other despite the occassional minor bickering. It was truly like a big horsey family, each of us accepted, loved, and respected equally despite our differences in profession, education, age, and race. Each of us brought something unique, different and exciting into the mix. We could talk about anything with one another for hours; if one person had a problem, everyone pulled together for that person to help him/her out, be it a horsey problem or a personal problem. We trusted one another completely and kept each other's secrets. You just don't find this every day; I had not been in a situation like this for 12 years, since I was in the riding team back at my barn in Puerto Rico in my late teens.


Ghost barn

Everyone moved to the new barn, despite the smaller stalls and the virtual current lack of walkouts, and at the end of the day, after making sure Lily was comfortable in her stall at the old barn despite being all alone, Charles and I joined them. Everyone was sad and confused. It was like the day after a hurricane, when you come out of the house to survey the damage and clean up the remainders.  It was that same sensation of uncertainty that follows a catastrophic event. Everyone was sticking together, but no one knew what they were going to do in the long run. M was keeping the current partial board rate for November for those that had moved with her, but would be raising the monthly rate by $100 in December. None of the partial boarders could afford it. Stanley, a partial boarder who followed me to Mary's barn a few months after I left my previous barn where we had boarded together, was already straining to pay the current board rate. He couldn't afford another increase. Dianne already is working 2 extra jobs to keep Pink; I know she can't afford it either. Elisabeth had moved to Mary's barn for the lower partial board rate too. She wouldn't be able to afford her lessons with Judy if the price of board went up. They were all stuck on the same boat. I don't know if Mary will eventually just keep the lower partial board rate as a long-term reward for her boarders' loyalty. She might, but everyone knows she wanted this to be her full board barn, and the fancy barn isn't really set up to be a partial board barn-there isn't enough room for each person's own individual space for the necessary extra belongings required for taking care of your own horse yourself. Each of the partial boarders individually could've filled up the small tack room meant to be shared with 11 other people. Most of them had no idea where they were going to store 3/4 of their stuff. Plus there were 3 full boarders moving in mid-November who now would have no stalls available.

I barely slept that night. Sadness, uncertainty, fear all whirled around in my head, in and out of dreams. The last time I had tried to move a horse to a new boarding facility, the barn owner took my horse. Yup. I had adopted my horse from the barn owner (and director of an equine rescue she ran through her barn) and boarded him right there. I signed an adoption agreement but it was a free adoption. The day after I gave my 30 days notice informing the barn owner that I was moving to another barn down the street with more turnout, the woman terminated my adoption. Astoundingly, there is little help available if you get a free horse. We would've had to go through small claims court, which can take years, and he was an old horse. I was worried he'd die or get adopted out to someone else before the case was resolved. Or that the barn owner would starve him deliberately so she could say it had been me and use that as the excuse for taking him away from me. This woman was notorious for being chemically inbalanced and becoming vindictive against any boarder who decided to leave, especially if they were staying on our same street. She couldn't stand the idea that anyone would want to go board with her "competition" and took it as a personal offense. I saw it each time, with 6 different boarders who left the facility. She reached new heights of madness when I gave notice. So of course I was terrified that Mary would try to somehow take Lily from me, even though we were still on good terms.

Charles and I were at the barn at 8am to strip Lily's stall before loading. Mark had his truck and trailer ready for us, and came over to help us load Lily's stall mats, hay and feed into the truck. Lily loaded uneventfully, and we were off. Mark was still helping with the barn manager's move, so he stayed behind and Charles drove the truck and trailer while I led the way in the in-laws' SUV. I finally breathed a sigh of relief when we unloaded Lily...we had made it!

We took the corner stall at the end of the row. It's a nice sturdy wooden barn, with a long overhang roof and concrete platform in front of the stalls. Fresh sand had been laid down in the stalls, which were quite large-I pretty much needed an extra stall mat now to completely cover the floor. Ceiling fans had been installed that week, and the stall doors had a half section of PVC pipe to prevent the horses from chewing the wood. The little barn is simple, strong, and beautiful, with careful attention to detail. A paddock was being built in front of the barn-the posts and gate were already up, and there was also a fair sized arena where the horses could also be turned out.


Cute barn!! That's Lily on the crossties, and her stall is the one right next to her, in the corner.

A woman who must've been a little older than Charles was at the barn with her daughter. She introduced herself as Fionna and handed me one of Judy's boarding agreements. I instantly liked her; she immediately made us feel welcome, talking horses and inviting us to place my stuff wherever we needed to to; everything could be re-arranged later. She had a lilt to her speech that made Charles and I think of Northern Europe somewhere-Charles was guessing more German or even Russian, I'm guessing Dutch. As of this writing, I still haven't had a chance to ask Fionna where she's from. I will keep you posted. This is a game of Charles and I-we love foreign accents, and when traveling will entertain ourselves at the airport trying to guess where people are from based on their accents.

We got Lily settled in her stall, and my five bazillion things organized and stowed away. I had extras of everything, which comes with the territory when you're a partial boarder and have an entire stall to spread your stuff out (we used empty stalls close to our horses' as tack rooms at the previous barn), and took the opportunity to downsize. Some stuff was thrown out, some stuff I took home to wash or store.

That afternoon I returned to the barn for a lesson on Lily with Judy. I arrived early to tack her up and throw her on the longe. This ended up being a grand idea, as Lily was already anxious in her stall when I arrived. She wanted to go out so bad with Rose and Lil Red, Judy's and Fionna's mares respectively. They are pretty much turned out 24/7, but Rose is the herd leader and has bonded very strongly with Little Red in the couple of days they have been together; Judy was expecting there to be some friction when Lily was added into the mix, as Judy had already been kicked by Rose after separating them the first time. Rose and Little Red were wandering in the area around the barn and Rose came right up to me, ears pricked, in typical boss mare fashion to investigate who I was and what I was doing at the barn. I let her investigate me and rubbed her forehead. I really like Rose. She is a large (16 hand) black Andalusian/Quarter horse cross, though she looks 100% Andalusian. Judy hand-raised her herself from the moment she was born. She is a very personable, confident, and motherly soul. I had already interacted with her when Judy had her at her previous barn when I went to take photos of her for a commissioned painting. Rose just radiates personality.

I called Judy to see if it was ok to put the girls in their stalls while I tacked up. I was getting my stuff out of the little tack room while on the phone, and laughed when Rose stuck her entire head in the tack room door to see where I had gone to and what I was doing.

Judy gave the ok to put the two mares away and I quickly tacked up Lily. Judy arrived while I was getting ready to longe Lily. She was antsy on the crossties, and pranced her way down to the arena next to me, full of herself for the first time since I'd owned her, but I had expected this. I had actually expected worse, considering the night alone at the old barn, the move into a new barn, and the little herd that she wants to belong to so much. Lily immediately proceeded to do a beautiful floaty trot, and when asked to canter, took off in a series of bucks around me, another first for her. Not dramatic, kick-the-air bucks, more like bronc-style withers-up, head-down bucks. Buck, land, buck, land, buck, land, all the way around the circle. Judy and I laughed watching her. Lily was exhuberant and happy, snorting, ears up as she did this. It was cute to watch her really play on the longe for the first time. She attempted to bolt a couple of times, too, but I reined her in with the longe line. Once she settled enough to where I could get her to walk on command, I snapped on the side reins and longed her some more. More bucks, though not in series anymore, and then she settled into a forward rolling canter, followed by a nice snappy trot. Judy commented what a nice mover Lily is; I smiled at the compliment. My little girl has talent, we just have to bring it out of her for the world to see.

By then, I felt good about the idea of getting on, so I took off all the longe equipment and mounted up. Lily actually stood still for me and waited for me to cue her to walk on. This was a first. My recent efforts in making her wait after getting on are working!

It was a fun lesson. Lily was very silly-she startled twice at the neighbors, a local small feed-delivery operation-they were moving supplies. They apologized profusely, but normally Lily wouldn't have spooked at someone wheeling a bag of shavings around-she was in a very goofy mood, and it was dusk, the time of day when horses don't see well, which was an added factor. We got her listening, however, and she worked well for me. With some distractions, yes, but she was a very good girl considering all of the sudden changes in her life and routine, and even relaxed enough to throw in a couple of circles of stretchy trot for me, which Judy had not seen yet! Judy took an awesome picture of her-very blurry due to the receding light, but you can still see how good Lily looks when she pays attention and engages.


See? I told you she has potential! :)

Lily also had the chance to be turned out overnight in the area around the barn. We left her stall open so she could venture back inside if she needed to. She was so cute-I opened the door after dropping her dinner and she immediately walked outside, still munching on her hay. Lily followed us around as we finished cleaning up, and would intermittently wander off on her own to explore. I slept well that night, even with Lily outside by herself for the first time at night. It just felt good, you know?  It was a good ending to a sudden and unexpected change. I still feel uprooted, but I feel the change was for the better. Lily is happy in her new little barn, I am boarding with someone I know and trust, and the area we are in is beautiful for riding.