A Final Goodbye To My Friend

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There is still a 1,000 pound hole in my heart and even after three months, tears regularly pool in my eyes as I try to process and accept that the horse who rekindled my love of horses will no longer greet me as I enter the barn. The photo I took the day Cigar joined the family shows him sticking his tongue out as I clicked the shutter. If only I knew then what a wild ride it would be. Cigar would test the limits of my patience, the limits of my credit card, and my ability to forgive. I think somehow he knew I always would be there for him.

He joined the family in December 2005. His inability to work in a group without thinking it was a race prompted me to try dressage. While I found dressage to be challenging and a worthy pursuit, Cigar would challenge the judges to find something positive to say. “Nice Braids!” was a common comment (though truth be told they were not). He found the 20×60 meter ring to be tedious. He was never happier than when he was allowed to stretch his legs and gallop. His ears would prick forward and you were merely a passenger while he found his stride.

This year was a challenging one for him as you could see his body failing to do what he loved the most. He started the year with hoof issues. A heart murmur was detected by the vet in early August. It was the return of the lymphangitis in September which was just too much for his body to fight…In the end, I knew I had to let him go to run free over the bridge, free from all pain and eternally happy.

His brother has been lost without his constant companion and cohort in crime. We were fortunate enough that one of Ms. C’s other clients sent her horse to the farm for rehabilitation, so Toad helps quell some of Ike’s loneliness.

I love you Cigar. I will miss our conversations. The barn is very quiet without your nickers. I will always carry you in my heart.

alison

Walking And Chewing Gum…Or Not

For some, being graceful is effortless. Just watch a ballerina or Miss America glide across the stage…And then there are those of us who had mothers who called us “Grace,” but it had an entirely different meaning.

My mother tried to instill graceful movement in me from a young age. I was enrolled in ballet, tap dance, baton, and gymnastics. They all ended with me failing to thrive and show any measurable progress. I was never enrolled in any sport with a ball; eye/hand coordination is key to success in that realm. Probably at wits end, my mom let me try riding.

Shockingly, I was not half bad. I could somehow balance on a 1000 pound moving equine even though I could trip on a perfectly flat surface and fall up the stairs.

Unfortunately, my lack of coordination is now haunting me as Ike and I forge forward with our attempt at our USDF Silver Medal.

Sure we had success last fall with our debut at Fourth Level. But, as I pointed out to my friend, Fourth One is really “Fourth-Level-Lite.” When I finally read tests 2 and 3, I realized how unprepared we are. Tempi changes, the canter zigzag, and partial canter pirouettes all grace us with their presence. And, FYI, bump up your cardio…you are going to need it to make it through these tests. (Just reading the PSG test was exhausting.)

You would think at my age counting to 4 three times would be a no-brainer, but, alas, I apparently cannot count and give Ike the correct aids for a flying change at the same time. That whole can you walk and chew gum at the same time scenario. Apparently I cannot. Hopefully with continued practice we will figure things out. (Truth be told, I am certain Ike could do it now if I was more proficient.)

On the upside, Ike is demonstrating his ability to sit on his hind end. We have found better medium and extended trots this year. Ike also gets a gold star for his canter zigzag and quarter pirouettes. He also continues to show what a big heart he has as he tries his best to learn and progress with me. Our path might be crooked and filled with potholes, but we are navigating the silver-tinged road together.

alison

The Things We Do For Love: Equestrian Edition

Love is one of those strong emotions. It can make us feel giddy and secure. It can give you butterflies in your stomach. With love behind us, we feel like we can move mountains.

Love can also make you do foolish things. And, because you are in love, you do things that you never thought you could or would do. When you love horses, that love can sometimes make you look or act like a crazy person…so to honor that equestrian-style love, I decided to share my “love” list with you.

1) You are willing to spend unmentionable amounts of money on vet bills that far exceed what you spent to purchase the horse. I am looking at you, Cigar.

2) You learn to overcome your dislike of needles to give your horse his daily doses of antibiotics.

3) You pick ticks from your horse’s anus.

4) Why else would you sit in a cold barn for hours with a colicky horse?

5) You stop caring that you have hay in your hair and dirty nails as you stand in line to buy diapers/apples/carrots at the grocery store.

6) You consider selling an organ to pay for that dream saddle. Two organs will get you that dream horse.

7) You fight back the nausea as you carefully pull the catheter from your horse’s neck.

8) Searing hot summer temperatures and sweat burning your eyes doesn’t stop you from your regular barn visit and ride.

9) You gladly purchase shoes and handbags from eBay so your beloved can have their monthly supplements and treats.

10) Sheath cleaning. Enough said.

11) Still giving your horse a hug even after he poops on the back of your head while you were picking his hind hoof.

12) Still promising to bring them home from the show even though he pretended he could not canter. Yes, again, I am looking at you Cigar.

13) You worry more about them sleeping at a show than you do about the cleanliness of the hotel you booked for yourself.

14) You forgive them when they cough green goo on your brand new white show breeches.

15) You promise them that they will never have to fear the unknown of an equine auction.

16) For two weeks in the dead of winter with the coldest temperatures in years, you commit to soaking and poulticing a hoof to combat an abscess.

17) You spend thousands of dollars to win some pieces of satin that will collect dust and dead bugs in the folds.

18) You learn to (eventually) laugh at the hoof-shaped bruise on your foot, the black eye, and your bloody nose.

19) You celebrate their birthdays and gotcha days.

20) You commit to being there for them until the final goodbye.

Horses can complicate your life, but I would not have it any other way. The love they give in return is worth every moment.

alison

Birthday Boy!

Hard to believe that Ike turns 11 today. My gangly 3 year old pony is now a 1300+ pound dressage mount who is gamely trying to understand how to interpret my aids for tempi changes and canter pirouettes.

While we may have had our Fourth Level debut last September with Test 1, we are still not quite ready for Tests 2 or 3. Every time we have stepped up to a new level, I think “holy crap this is hard,” but I have to say that this step is the biggest yet. Fourth Level is really just Junior Prix St George. It is not for the faint of heart.

Thankfully, Ike’s heart is a big one and he is a willing partner in our next goal of achieving our USDF Silver Medal.

Onwards and upwards! Happy birthday big boy!

Alison

Go No Whoa

One week off + Cooler temperatures = One very energetic horse with no whoa

One week off + energetic horse = partially eaten stall door

Energetic horse + equine brother who won’t play = broken fence boards

Energetic horse + no grass = galloping fool who took his gate off the hinges…again

Anyone have a horse sized treadmill we can borrow?

Fun Photo Day

Fun photo day! Ike is enjoying the final days of his fall vacation. He has spent the week trying to engage Cigar in some roughhousing, taking his gate off the hinges, and pushing down fence boards. Maybe a week off is just a little too long…

So what do you like to do with your horse when they are enjoying some well deserved down time?

alison

Peering through the fog towards Regional Finals

In four days we will end our show season as we head down centerline for the UDSF Region 1 Adult Amateur Third Level finals class. No matter what happens this week, this year went well above my expectations. Ike and I met all of our preseason goals…well, okay, they were more my goals, but Ike played along since he is such an agreeable fellow. How could I not be happy with a horse like Ike?!

Our finals class is HUGE. The entire show is HUGE with over 450 horses entered. I saw a post on Instagram from Heels Down Media earlier today that I will keep in mind at the show, “A rising tide lifts all boats. Someone else doing well doesn’t take away from your own success.” With that in mind, our goals for this show are to equal our Fourth Level score from last month and aim for a 65% in our finals class. We came close in August, so it is not out of our wheelhouse. Let’s just hope that the remnants of Hurricane Michael don’t try to dampen our fun.

Best of luck to all the competitors! We have all worked hard to make it Lexington. Enjoy the experience .

Alison