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

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

More Questions!

So here's ANOTHER questionnaire! This one was featured by Karen over at Thee Ashke and achieve1dream at Equestrian Journey. A lot of the questions are repeated, so I used some of the ones achieve1dream had subbed for the repeat questions, or made up my own. Made up questions are noted.

1. Favorite thing about riding?
Communicating with my horse.

Plus it's my favorite view. :)
2. Draft horse or pony?
Pony. I've ridden drafts. They're very good at pretending to be dumb and totally outsmarting you. It's especially bad if they've been allowed to realize how big and strong they are. I love ponies! They have so much character. They can be feisty but if you manage to win a pony over, he will do anything for you! (And no one else! Haha...)

3. English or Western?
English. I just learned to ride English and stuck with the English sports. I happen to like the lighter, more minimal saddles, too. However, if I'm riding an iffy horse for the first time and have access to a Western saddle, I'll be using a Western saddle. They are great for training because they lock you in so much more than an English saddle.

4. Dressage or Hunter/Equitation?

5. Green horse or trained horse?
It's awesome to start a green horse yourself. And it's also awesome if you're able to get your hands on a well-trained "made" horse. So I'm going to have to say both!

6. Worst fall?
The day a horse flipped over on top of me. I was working at an equine rental facility training horses. The horses were incredibly dangerous: they were used to getting their way, as every time they acted up on the trail, their riders would bring them back! The minute someone told them "No. We're doing this," the behaviors escalated. On most days I felt like a professional stunt rider. On this day I was trying to get a large pony to move forward and he was balking. When nothing else worked, I smacked him lightly with the ends of the reins, in lieu of a crop. He popped up. I smacked him again as a reprimand. He reared. I should have stopped then, but not wanting to let the horse win, I smacked him a third time. He reared and flipped over. Deliberately. I managed to shove myself away from him as he was coming down, but my left leg still got stuck under him.
I quit that job a month later because I still couldn't walk; the only horses I could ride were the gaited Peruvian Pasos I was breaking to saddle (the only sane horses on that property.) I have arthritis in my left hip today as a result of that fall. I've never had it xrayed, but on some days it hurts enough that I'm pretty sure there's bone chips floating around in my hip socket.

7. First fall, what happened?
I was 13. I was at summer camp at a brand-new riding facility in Puerto Rico, El Bosque Ecuestre La Sebastiana. All of their first school horses were OTTBs just off the track. We were being taught to post at the trot while on the lunge. Do you see anything wrong with that picture?
The horse I was riding that day, a ginormous light bay with a Roman nose named Asisi (I still remember his name) bucked going into the trot and I came flying off.
I was a very overweight kid. I had a hard time balancing, especially at the canter. I fell off every other day, actually breaking the camp's record for most number of falls. And I still fell in love with jumping.
The riding school? It's one of the biggest show barns in Puerto Rico today; the head trainer has ridden at the Panamerican Games. Within 5 years of opening, it made a 180 degree transformation!

8. Have you ever wanted to quit riding?
I've never WANTED to. But there have been times when I've had to. When I was a teenager, I had a hiatus from jumping because my family couldn't afford both my horse and jumping lessons. In my early twenties, I took another hiatus because I developed SEVERE allergies to horses (think anaphylaxis). I was determined to ride, and was able to overcome those allergies thanks to lots of meds and sheer willpower. I don't need to take any allergy medicines today to be around horses. When we first moved to South FL, I had to stop riding for 3 years because Charles and I were both in school and I had neither the time to ride nor the money for it.

9. Favorite thing about your horse?
Her sensitivity.

10. Least favorite thing about riding?
Those moments when I've been afraid.

11. If you could change one thing about your horse, what would you change?
Larger feet and heavier boned legs.

I love cobby types.
12. Do you prefer to ride inside or outside?
Outside! But it's nice to have an indoor when the weather is horrid.

January 1st 2013 at the old barn.
Choosing to ride Lily outside in 30 degree weather despite having an indoor. :)
13. Do you show?
Not at the moment.

14. How long have you been riding?
Since I was 10.

15. Why did you start riding?
I have always been a bibliophile and have always, always loved animals. I started drawing at a year and a half of age, and the first thing I drew was animals (fish, to be exact.) When I was 10, I was at a Walgreens with my mom and we were checking out their book section. I found Bonnie Bryant's Saddle Club #2 book, Horse Shy, and asked if I could have it. My mom bought it for me.
I started reading it in the car on the way home. In the beginning of the book, the girls are out riding in the woods and there is a description of the way the light filtered through the trees and fell on Pepper's dappled gray neck as Lisa was riding him.
It was something in that description that did it. I was never the same again. It was like someone had turned a switch on.
My mom would let me have whatever animals I wanted, but I had to do my research first because I was expected to take care of them myself. With horses, I didn't start out asking for a pony like most kids do, no. I wanted lessons. I wanted to learn to ride. I wanted to be sure that this is what I wanted.
My grandmother was deathly afraid of horses. Phobic. One Saturday morning, she piled both my brother and me into the car and took us across town to a place we had never been to before. When we parked, I realized we were at a barn.
Not only had my grandmother found a barn for me to ride at, she took me there in person and signed me up for lessons that she paid for herself. I can't imagine how hard that must have been for her. And that's how I started out with Paso Finos, riding on the broad chestnut back of a mare named Guarani. The trainer was named Dona Soli Sotomayor, who is considered among the most infuential trainers in modern Paso Fino history. It wouldn't be until over two decades later that I realized who this woman was and the fact that she had taught me the basics of classical dressage.
I started riding, and continued riding, thanks to one hell of a supportive family that somehow always managed to make my dreams and wishes come true. My grandmother, my grandfather, my mom, my aunts, and even later my uncle - they all played a part in me becoming a horsewoman.

16. How many times a week do you ride?
Four days a week, weather permitting.

17. Have you ever fallen off at a horse show?

18. Ever fallen onto a jump?
More times than I can count. I've fallen onto jumps, through jumps, over jumps, in front of jumps, on the other side of jumps. Can you guess why I'm over it?

19. Ever been bucked off?
Yes. I can stick most bucks nowadays but in the beginning not so much.

20. Do you have a private or group lesson?
Not at the moment. But I prefer private so the trainer can focus on only me and my horse.

21. In your opinion, does it make you less of a rider if you don't own a horse?
No. You can be a great rider even if you just take lessons or lease. But I think being a good horseperson is way more important than just being a good rider. I've met wonderful horsepeople who have never owned a horse but know more about horse care and management than some really good riders.

22. What discipline do you want to try? Why?
Endurance. I like that it promotes the natural state of the horse and his well-being comes first in training and in competition.

23. Trick riding or eventing?

But both trick riding/vaulting and eventing are BADASS.
I won't do it but I'll happily sit all day and watch you guys do your thing. :)
24. Ever had barn drama?
Ugh. Two words: South FL. This blog originally was going to have a second purpose as a means to vent my thoughts on insane barn managers and crazy horse owners, but then I was too afraid to share. Examples of drama: I was at a barn where the BM was evicted! And then the evicted BM accused the new BM of plotting against her to take over the barn and badmouthed her all over town... Yeah, that kind of drama.

25. How many barns have you been to?
I've boarded at 7 different barns over the last 21 years, and that's including keeping my horse at home. How many barns have I been to? I lost count around 30, and that's still not including places I just went to check out.

26. Do you plan on having horses in your life for the rest of your life?
I can't imagine my life without horses. They are my oxygen.

27. For trail riding, do you prefer a horse that likes to lead or likes to follow?
If I have to choose one, I prefer a horse that will lead. Often times that same horse will be capable of going out alone. Ideally, you want a horse that is fine anywhere in the group; it's just safer for everyone involved.

28. What is your favorite season to ride in?
I guess all seasons except winter. Riding in winter requires a lot more planning, a lot more willpower to just get out the door to go to the barn, and a lot more clothes! Real winters can be rough, too: the footing outside can be muddy, frozen solid, or icy and slippery. All three can be dangerous. I found that even when I boarded at the barn with the indoor, the footing would sometimes still freeze. It was always either that or incredibly dusty; no happy medium.

29. If you could ride any famous horse (dead or alive), who would it be? Why?
I like my horse. But I would love to ride Oxidado:

He can do anything. Don't you want to ride him, too?

Or Merlin. Without the bull:

If you hate bullfighting, don't watch.
But this horse has some SERIOUS skill, balance, and athleticism.
I love the side passes and pirouettes/spins performed while galloping...

30. Does winning ribbons matter to you?
I like fairness in judging. If I put in a good ride, and everyone else did a crappy ride, I will expect a ribbon. If my ride was sucky, then I won't expect an award. Fair is fair. The day I stopped competing for ribbons and having fun was the same day I started winning ribbons.

31. What is your favorite breed, favorite color, and favorite gender of horse?
I like baroque-type breeds. Andalusians, Lusitanos, Friesians. Arabians are growing on me. And I love Paso Finos and pleasure-quality (as in not show quality) Tennessee Walkers. Gaited horses are underrated. I think anyone with back problems or other painful physical issues who wants to ride should check out gaited horses. They will discover heaven. The average gaited horse is NOT a spitfire. They often have Spanish horse bred into them somewhere in their ancestry, which gives them a wonderful, smart, people-oriented nature. They are born trusting people; it is people that make them fearful later. If brought up right, they are fearless and hardy horses. They were made to carry people on their backs all day long while checking fence lines on haciendas and plantations.
Colors? I love, love, love dappled grays. I also like buckskins. And dark bays. But color is only skin deep. I won't turn down a good horse just because he/she is not a particular color.
Gender? I've said this before on this blog, but I have enjoyed the stallions I've worked with. There is a sass, a sense of humor, and a brilliance that gets lost when they are gelded. There is such a thing as a well-behaved stallion. Tamarindo, the TB stallion I worked with and rode for 2 years, was completely focused on me whether on his back or on the ground, no matter how many mares in heat were standing in front of him. He's not the only one I've met that was like that. I used to like geldings, but I'm really starting to like the puzzle that a good mare presents.

Tamarindo. <3
32. Worst riding experience? I'd rather not remember. Too many questions about falling and bad experiences on this questionnaire. WTF?? Sheesh. So I'm changing this one to: BEST riding experience EVERRRR?
There have been many:

- The first time I got on Lucero when he was 3 years old. I waited for him to act out. He just stood there, then turned his head around and nibbled my shoe with a twinkle in his eye. You know you've brought a young horse along right when he's that nonchalant about being ridden for the first time!

One of my first rides on Lucero. That's my grandfather holding the end of the lunge line.
Yup, no helmet. Different time, different culture. It was ingrained into me in the beginning that you didn't ride Pasos with a helmet. Nothing ever happened, but I did start wearing helmets while on Paso Finos later on when I knew better.
- The first time I did a 3'6" course. I was 17. It was the highest I had jumped up until then. My mom let me take a day off from school so I could just go ride all day and my trainer let me ride my favorite gelding at the time, Luciano, through that course. I think that's one of the last times I rode Luciano; his owner started riding and showing him again after that. My trainer was blasting music on a radio perched on the bleachers. It played "What A Feeling" by Irene Cara (think the movie Flashdance) while we were flying over fences. We did it perfectly. It was one of those rides where you KNOW you did everything right! That song still brings back that memory.

 The first and only time I jumped 5'. Sunday, December 14, 1997. (I have the exact date because I have a journal entry for that day-it was that epic!) I was 18 and visiting that same trainer at his facility in Kentucky. It was cold cold cold. 30's during the day; it was my first time riding in the cold and I was ill-prepared. My trainer was very George Morris about certain things, one of them being that he liked his students to ride in tall boots and breeches. My boots fit so snugly that I could NOT fit any kind of thick winter socks underneath. So I rode with numb feet. In fact, my feet were so numb that I never knew when my feet were in the stirrups. And my hands? I didn't own winter riding gloves at the time so despite both pairs of riding gloves on at once plus a pair of borrowed glove liners, I couldn't feel them either.
Ron had jumps set up on a very hilly field. I had never jumped on hills nor grass before. I had tried one of his other horses in the morning, a large pinto pony named Snapper, but I had a really hard time getting the gelding to focus - all he wanted to do was gallop around at mach3 speed in the cold. Ron wanted me to ride him with no contact, which was complicated when you couldn't feel your hands nor legs. It didn't help that Snapper would bolt after each jump; it would take 2 turns around the field each time to get him stop. We went up to 3', but the ride was a disaster. Ron, my trainer, switched me to a different horse for the afternoon ride. He put me on his personal stallion (yup, another one! Ron was trying to start a breeding operation in KY) a gorgeous chestnut TB named Golden Reason. We did a warm-up course at 2'6", 3' a couple of times, including a breath-stopping vertical taken downhill and an oxer taken uphill. We were riding with my substitute trainer after Ron had moved back to the States, Diana, who regularly jumped over 4' and was a student of Ron's, and James, another adult rider who also jumped ginormous things. Ron jacked up the jumps and both of them took a turn.
Then he increased the height again. Max height, on all the jumps. I figured we were done then, and sat on Golden, waiting for Diana and James to go again. Ron looked me in the eye and said, "Your turn."
I looked around, confused. James and Diana were looking at me.
"Yes, you."
My heart shot up into my throat. "B-bu-bu.." I spluttered. Remember I couldn't feel my feet! Or my hands!
"You can do it. I believe in you." he said.
I had blind faith in this trainer. He was the first trainer I ever had that truly believed in me as a rider, and he is the one that "made" me as a rider. He had never once guided me wrong. Plus I knew this height was piece of cake for the stallion; he had been a very successful jumper back in Puerto Rico, which is why Ron had imported him as his stud.
I turned Golden and asked for a canter.
I kept my eyes ahead, focusing on each jump as we came up to it, and letting my eyes go beyond it as we approached. The sheer height of the jumps forced me to sit up as we approached each one, allowing Golden to sit back and come up underneath me to soar over each fence.
It was effortless. And AWE-SOOOMMMME. And both Ron and Diana discovered that I was a MUCH better rider when the fences were higher because it was impossible for me to go into rush-rush mode.
I was BEAMING when we finished. BEST.RIDE.EVER.

- The day Cloud taught me that riding is so much better when you allow the horse to have a say. Cloud was 18 and had arthritis in a hip and both hocks. I had stopped jumping with him and decided that I would finally give dressage an honest try. I didn't have huge aspirations for him - he was a QH and he was old. However, I did want to help make him stronger and more flexible with basic dressage. It was frustrating in the beginning because we were both learning and he was very patient and stoic - he wasn't like Lily who will pretty much yell, "You SUCK at communicating today! THIS is what you're telling me to do, THIS is what I'm going to do!" (I've said it before-she's taught me more body awareness than any other horse I've ever worked with!) So we bumbled in the arena. And slowly got better. But I knew his favorite place was the trail; he was a wonderful trail horse. On one of my last rides on him, we started out warming up in the arena and I could tell his heart wasn't in it. He kept looking off towards the field next door (we were allowed to ride there.) I literally dropped the reins on his neck and sat very still, letting him decide what we would do. He walked us over to the gate, which I opened from his back, and down the street to the field, reins still on his neck. I let him warm up on a loopy rein, never asking for anything other than specific gaits. He let me know when he was ready for more, "Ok, now I can do this your way." He gave me one of the best rides we ever had. I realized on that day that the most harmonious rides are those where the horse is allowed to participate and have an opinion. If you listen, the horse will tell you what he needs. He might even teach you how to really ride.

- The day I galloped Pink Slip the OTTB down the power lines at Tradewinds Park. I had been conditioning her for 3 months and her owner, Dianne, was interested in seeing how fast she could go, just for kicks. It started out one day when we went out on the trails with Mark on his QH Beau and another very competitive boarder who decided we should race on the powerlines heading home. Mark decided to wait it out and the other boarder and I lined up. The other boarder's horse took off ahead. Pink started out happy to just canter on that long straightaway. I crouched low over her neck and urged her on, "Go Pink, go!!" Pink lengthened her stride underneath me, overtaking the other horse in two strides and passing him, flying down the power lines at what was really just a fast canter for her. She immediately came back when I sat up and half-halted. It was exhilarating, but I knew she had been holding back. The next day, we rode out again, this time just her owner on Beau and me on Pink. Pink and I cantered away from the park entrance all the way down to the opposite end of the powerlines, then turned around and faced home.
Pink was alert but listening. "Ok, Pink," I said, cuing the canter from a halt. Again I bent low over her neck and urged her on. She switched gears to a faster speed. I asked for more. She switched gears again. It was like driving a sports car. She was galloping, but I knew she still had more to give. And I asked one more time, "GO, PINK GO!!!!" I said. She flicked an ear, hesitated for just a second, and said, "Ok...you asked for it!" Her ears flattened and she leaped forward. She was turbocharged. She..took..off. It made the previous gallop feel like a standstill. I have never been so fast on a horse. The wind whistled in my ears and made tears stream back from my eyes as I ducked down close to her neck, her mane flying back into my face.
We whipped past Dianne at what felt like the speed of light, me laughing like a maniac into the wind.
Pink and me, flying.
Dianne took photos that day.
(In case you're wondering, that's not a real mountain in the background. It was the Coconut Creek dumpster. :/ It sure looked pretty in photos, though!)
As we fast approached the end of the powerlines, I sat up and half halted. Pink easily switched downward gears until she was calmly trotting.
That, my friends, was one hell of ride.

There's more, including the ride on Little Bit in WV with Liz on Q, but I won't continue to bore you guys with my stories. Haha...It's nice to relive them by writing about them, though!

33. Ever been on a trail ride?
My first trail ride happened when I was 14 at an insane horse rental place named Hacienda Carabali in Luquillo, PR, right at the foot of the El Yunque Rainforest. You want a real trail ride where they'll take your experience seriously? Go there. Us Puerto Ricans know how to have fun and will take you for an unforgettable ride!
Also: read all posts since July 2013 and those labelled "Trails" (see labels at the bottom of the blog.)

At Wolf Lake in Davie, FL

34. Hunter or jumper?
*Sigh* Whoever turned 2 questionnaires into one did a poor job. See previous questions on this subject.

Here. Have a photo of me jumping.
On Grasshopper the Super Jumper in Tampa, FL.
35. How many times a week do you ride? Another repeat. I'm changing it to: Of all the horses you've worked with/trained/ridden, which one has changed you the most?
It's interesting to look back because it has been a steady progression. Each horse has prepared me for the next one that has come along. It is always painful losing a horse we become attached to, even if the horse doesn't really belong to us, be it because of death, a sale, an illness or retirement, a move, a change in the lesson plan. But without that horse stepping out of your life, there isn't room for the next one. Each one has something to teach. Every single one. Even the ones that I have only ridden once or twice have had something to say, something to pass on. Sometimes it is about riding. Sometimes it's a new perspective on training. Sometimes it is about loss. And sometimes it is about unconditional love and loyalty.
Lily. Lily has been a challenge in many ways. But because of her, I think I am a more intuitive rider than I've ever been. She has made me more aware of my body, of how every little movement around a horse can have meaning. She has taught me that she can do anything I want to do, I just have to know how to ask for it and get out of her way so she can do it. She'll tell me how to ask for it, too. I just have to pay attention! She has taught me patience and to improvise when riding; she's always better if I'm flexible with my plans and goals for a particular ride. She has continued the lesson that Cloud started: your horse is much happier when you ask instead of demand.
I am in awe of her trust in me now. I love how she'll just go where I ask her to. I love how she points things out on the trail now but doesn't worry when I don't worry. We rode in Redneck Park last Friday in full blaze orange regalia, and she pointed out every hunter in camo out there.
We are getting to that state of co-being. I've had it with other horses, but not many. Once you experience that, you want to have it again, especially with a horse of your own.
And if you want to read more about co-being with your horse, Karen wrote a beautiful post about it. Go read her blog. :)
My answer? Lily.
But all of them have changed me.
"The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed." -  Carl Jung

36. Is there a horse that you knew and loved, but did not own and you wish could have been yours? Tell us about him/her.
Tamarindo. (Copy-pasted from the "A History of Horses" tab above)
I had met him when I was still training with Ron. Tamarindo lived in the lesson horse barn at El Centro Ecuestre, where I rode and took lessons, and occupied the very last stall in the row facing the smaller riding arena. He had one of the nicest views from his stall, but there were maybe 3 other horses in his row and none of them was close to him. He was always by himself, and he was only ridden a couple of times a week; I had seen his owner hack him every once in a while. Most of the time, I saw him looking out of his stall door with a sullen expression as I walked in and out of the barn with whatever horses I was riding. I found the big dark bay with the punky mane attractive, and was always filled with sadness for him, seeing him alone. We had a little store at the barn, run by the one and only dressage rider at the time, and when I bought treats for the horses I rode, I'd always stop by Tamarindo's stall and bring him a couple. I didn't know his name or his story at the time; all I knew was that he was a pretty handsome guy and he was lonely and bored. I had no idea at the time that one day he'd play a huge role in my life. 
Ron moved back to the States to start his own breeding and training business, and one of his former students, Diana, took over the program. Tamarindo was given to her to use in lessons. The day she introduced me to him, I thought, "Oh, this is that horse I used to bring treats to. We already know each other." I think he recognized me too. Like every horse before him, I had no expectations. We spent the first couple of months riding on the flat in lessons. My trainer travelled a lot, so I was recruited into hacking Tamarindo as much as possible when she was out of town to get him fit. I think he thought he was mine; I certainly spent a lot more time with him than my trainer did. It wasn't long before he started nickering at the sight of me, even though I never gave him treats before our rides-only after. I didn't know at the time that he didn't jump; my trainer told me about Tamarindo's early retirement from jumping after we cleared our first 2'6" fences together, to her absolute amazement. Tamarindo officially started jumping again. For me. 
It wasn't always rosy. Sometimes he'd have flashbacks, and for some reason, he was afraid of white fences. 99% of the time, he jumped. But every once in awhile, he didn't-sometimes because he was afraid, but most of the time because of my error. The few times he stopped, he became absolutely terrified of being punished, to such an extent that he literally beat himself up mentally. I was horrified-it was evidence of how badly he'd been treated every time he'd refused a jump when he was younger. One time, we were doing a rollback to a skinny fence and I wasn't able to make the turn tight enough. We ended up facing one of the jump standards instead of the fence, and Tamarindo saved the day by coming to a sliding stop. He HAD to stop or we would've taken down the entire jump. These were solid wooden jumps, not the light PVC that is so popular nowadays. I was relieved. However, in his mind, he'd stopped at a fence, and he immediately half reared in a panic, hopping up and down in place as if I were beating him with a crop (I never even carried one when riding him), and bolted in fear. I was able to bring him to a stop eventually, but it broke my heart to see that such a wonderful horse had been treated so badly. To remember abuse THAT vividly after 5 years of retirement... I started thanking him after every ride, thanking him for everything he did for me, thanking him for trying so hard. I always thought he understood, because he eventually stopped refusing altogether, trusting me completely. 
It never ceased to amaze me that Tamarindo was a such a well-behaved stallion. During the 2 years I rode him, he never lost his concentration over a mare, never nipped or acted studlike. He was a true gentleman, and he had a sense of humor. We had a Halloween party at the barn my first year with him, and him and I dressed up in a Native American theme. I painted him as a war pony. While getting him and myself ready, I had him crosstied in the center aisle of the barn while all of these kids were running around in costumes getting their horses ready. Tamarindo stood quietly and calmly, ears pricked, watching the happenings and not even batting an eye. I remember he was practically smiling as I groomed him and traced Native American symbols on him with fingers dipped in tempera paint and tied feathers in his mane and tail, enjoying the attention. One guy came over while I was working on my horse, and asked, "Is this Tamarindo?" I said yes. His response, "What you have done with him is truly amazing. At any other time, this horse would have been absolutely freaking out at the chaos in this barn right now." I remember looking at this horse with new eyes. With me, he had always been the way he was now. 

Dressed for Halloween!
One summer, we left for 2 weeks to stay at my uncle's beach house on the other side of the island. When we came back, I went to see Tamarindo. He was turned out in one of the small arenas, adjacent to the turnout paddocks. He was at the far end of the arena, nickering at a mare in the next paddock over who was ignoring him. I called him. Tamarindo's head came up and he turned around, ears pricked. He gave a great whinny when he saw it was me. I walked into the arena and jogged up to meet him, as he came trotting up to me, neck arched and ears forward, the mare forgotten. I remember I wrapped my arms around his great neck and he pulled me closer with his head, literally hugging me back. I've never had a horse do that, before or since.
Once Tamarindo and I were jumping consistently well, my trainer decided she wanted to jump him. He refused. He would not jump for her. She had him checked by a vet, and it turned out he had horrible degenerative arthritis in his hocks and needed to have them injected. This made no difference in his performance with me. The last course we jumped together was 3'6".
My trainer, furious, sent him away on retirement. And I stopped riding with her. We later learned that he had gone to a new lesson barn where he had been gelded and was being used as a cart horse. We tried to buy him, but the new owner wanted an exhorbitant amount of money for him and would not come down on the price; we couldn't afford to pay that much money for him. My mom and I would hear about him through the grapevine until the day he died. He died from an infected wound that had been left untreated. He died alone. That was 11 years ago, and I still miss him. I loved that horse. I still wish that we could have saved him.

37. Ever wanted to buy a school horse?
I guess technically Tamarindo was a school horse since my trainer had him for her 2-person lesson program, so I guess the answer would be yes.

38. How many times a week do you ride? Repeat question. Changing it to: Field board or stall board?
I did stall board. At boarding facilities in PR, space is at a premium and turnout was limited - a couple of times a week vs several hours a day here in the US. The first barn I boarded at in South FL (the rescue where I had Cloud) only allowed 30 minutes of turnout a day. The stalls were 10'x10'. It was a prison for the horses. The barn after that was the closest to field board I'd experienced: each stall had an attached walkout; Lily's had an additional paddock, and the horses were turned out overnight for 12 hours with access to shelter. Here, it is hard to find barns where the stalls have walkouts or even a lot of windows, which is understandable given the fact that you need to be able to close up the barn in the winter. Enter field board. I am really loving field board right now. Some people think it involves dumping the horse out in a field, and at some places it IS like that, but at my current barn it is not. The horses are monitored and blanketed/unblanketed based on need. If you don't have a blanket, the barn owner will supply one! They get fed the barn hay and grain (you can supply your own grain too), twice a day. They are split up into separate chutes while they eat their grain so they don't steal one another's food. In the summer they have good pasture (no buttercups/weeds), and in the winter round bales are provided (Lily is vaccinated against botulism.) They have a huge run-in shed that is close to the front gate, faces away from the wind, and where hay is dropped when the weather is bad so the horses can eat while they are sheltered. The run-in has fans for when it's hot in the summer.

Munching on their round bale. That's Lily in the purple blanket.

Candy the black Oldenburg and Gracie the red dapple Rocky Mountain Horse model the chutes for eating their grain. Each chute has a small wooden gate, allowing the horse to be locked in until she finishes eating.
Candy says, "YUUUMMMM beet pulp!" (see her tongue?)
Why I'm liking it so much: Lily is free ALL THE TIME. She does not associate me anymore with going into the barn to get locked up. I try to go out every day but make a point of NOT riding every day. Sometimes I just bring her in for a warm meal (her forage + grain mixed with warm water to form a mash) and sometimes I just stop by to say hello to her in the field and do stretches with treats. Result: she will now come to me when I call her in the field. She even knows the car. I used to park in front of her walkout in Florida...she had never paid attention to my car until now. When she's free.

I had to majorly edit this photo so y'all could see her.
This was Lily this past Saturday. I had just pulled up to the field gate. The herd was off somewhere in the darkness, but she showed up all by herself as I was parking the car. She was nickering at me when I took the photo. :)
Plus she is so, so much saner now that she has a constant to her routine. She knows she is always going to go out again, and it's manifested itself as a generalized calm. I like my freed Lily.

39. Ever ridden a horse 17+ hh?
Yes. During my jumper days, everything I rode was an OTTB. Many of them were 17 hh and up. The largest horse I've ever ridden was a Belgian. I think he was close to 19 hh. I was standing on a 3-step mounting block and still had to almost do a split to reach the stirrrup!

40. Ever ridden a horse 13 hh and under?
Yes. There was a large Shetland at the horse rental place where I worked as a trainer. His name was Frodo and he was a little shit. He would rear the minute you went to get on and do all sorts of airs above ground, spins, whirls, bolts to try to dismount you. I had a ball riding him, to tell you the truth. He was wide, fuzzy, and super easy to sit, especially if you were in a Western saddle. The problem was that my boss wanted to use him for kids to ride on...Frodo never, ever gave up. He had a stubborn streak 10 miles long. He was still a handful the day I stopped working there.


  1. You have the best stories, I swear! Loving these questions! :)

    Totally with you on the Western-for-training thing...especially a barrel-type saddle is just the best; you practically CAN'T fall out! And I am seriously going to come and steal a spot in your new barn. Seriously. How much more perfect can you get?!

    1. Lol! I'm glad you enjoyed! I have fun remembering and telling all those stories. It's a good way to get them written down. :)

      This barn is awesome. The price is unbelievable for this area, too, given how much hay they feed and the standard of care (I wish you could see the hay...it's incredible). And the trails...well, you've seen those! Haha...The only thing it's missing is an indoor, but there is one available about a half mile ride away on a neighbor's property. Can't complain. :D

  2. Your answer to #35 brought tears to my eyes, and your story about Tamarindo made me cry (I had read it before, but it really touched me this morning.) It sucks that you were unable to save him.

    I find it so interesting that Lily does better in a field and Ashke NEEDS to be in a stall-run due to being bottom of the herd. (Or a general barn slut, if you'd rather.)

    I love hearing your stories. And you write very well.

    1. Thank you Karen! I cry every time I re-tell the story of Tamarindo, which is why this time I just copy-pasted. He was a very special horse and I hope he finds me again some day. Because of him is that I got into working with rescues.

      Interesting about Ashke. I laughed at the "general barn slut". Hahaha... I used to prefer having Lily in a stall/semi-private turnout situation because she would get so attached to other horses, depending on the other horses' personalities. She can be very co-dependent if she finds another horse with her same personality type (sweet and needy.) The mares in her field are either older or young bossy types, so it works. Her love affair with Circe has settled down and while they hang out together a lot, they're not joined at the hip anymore. We'll see what happens in the spring!

      I'm glad you like my stories. :) I love hearing yours as well! You are a GREAT story teller; your writing is so vivid that it always feels like we are there with you in the moment.

  3. Cool! Horse Shy was the first Saddle Club book I read too. :D

    That sucks about your hip. Ouch!! I can relate to the allergies, but luckily I'm not allergic to horses and dogs (I am allergic to cats though). I'm just allergic to everything else (trees, grass, hay, etc.) lol!!!

    I LOVE the athleticism of Working Eq horses and bullfighters (even though I don't like bull fighting). :D

    We have the same taste in horses. :D I like gaited horses too. I've ridden the good ones and the bad ones lol. I want to get one for my husband since he has a bad back. Chrome's trot is too much for him.

    I loved reading about your best ever rides! Genius question modification. :D

    I've heard of the botulism in round bales thing before, but I don't know the details... all of my horses growing up have always eaten round bales and never been vaccinated for botulism... is that something I should be concerned about or is it only in certain areas?

    I loved all of your answers. I'm glad you decided to do the questionnaire.

    1. I'm glad you enjoyed the answers! :D

      Regarding botulism, when I was in tech school it was drilled into our heads that if a horse gets round bales, it MUST be vaccinated against botulism. Horses can get it if any dead animals are found in the water or feed source (mice killed in the baling process, for example), or due to improper curing/drying of the hay (moisture retention within bales of hay). It can also happen when round bales are exposed to moisture while out in the field - the outside of the bale will always dry out faster than the core. If the center of the round bale stays damp, it creates a moldy environment ideal for the growth of the botulism bacteria.

      Horses are very sensitive to it. They don't need to ingest a lot of contaminated hay to get very sick. If a horse gets it, it takes a long hospitalization and heavy duty IV fluid therapy to get the horse through it. They often die anyway.

      There are 3 strains of botulism. Botulism Type B is the one we vaccinate against, and it accounts for 80% of botulism cases in horses in this country. This is the most common type of botulism found in the Atlantic coast and Midwest.

      The vaccine is less than $30. If a horse has never had it, you booster once a month for 3 months (3 vaccines), then it's yearly after that.

      Probably not all vets are as adamant about this vaccine as mine is. But she worked in Kentucky where all the horses out there on round bales are vaccinated, and she worked at equine specialty hospitals in North Carolina and Ohio State University. The botulism cases she has seen were in horses that weren't vaccinated against the disease, and they all died despite aggressive treatment. I've heard of a lot of horses that live on round bales and nothing happens, including those at my barn, but I figured why risk it? I'm strongly against over-vaccinating, but this is a cheap vaccine, it's not highly reactive (like, say, the strangles vaccine that can kill a horse), and it has a high likelihood of saving my horse's life. So Lily is vaccinated against botulism. :)

    2. This is a great article from the University of Florida on botulism, how horses get it, symptoms and treatment.

    3. Wow thank you so much for the information!! I never knew that. I am definitely going to get his rabies done this year because we've had a lot of cases in our area so I'll ask about the botulism too. Thank you for sharing.