Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Humble Pie, a dish best served salty.

The best laid plans of mice and men as they say....

Zahra and I were having a very solid prep for our first show. Everything was going smoothly, we were on a good track... the weekend before the show we were all set to do a dressage lesson with Janet Foy to smooth out any inconsistencies, and then go cross country schooling for the first time away from home, just to make sure she knew she could jump solid obstacles besides the ones we have at home! Alas, as I recently recounted, Zahra decided to take a gallop through the countryside and was laid up for the week before the show.

So, between the lost preparation time, and the big ol' hole in her leg, I had to abandon any aspirations of being "competitive" in any way. My entire plan, my mantra for the weekend, was "make it a good experience." As long as Zahra had a good experience and learned about the show environment, then it was a win.

I was giving myself a big pat on the back for being such a good horseman, putting my horse's needs first, so what happened next caught me off guard. We've had a little trouble getting her into the trailer in the past, but in the end, we'd always been able to get her on. Not so when it really counted. We worked for over 3 hours trying to load her into the trailer. She got all the way in once in the very beginning, before she flew backwards and hit her hip on the divider on the way out. After that, she was not going back in. Even after we removed the offending divider, it was too little too late. Zahra is the perfect storm of incredibly athletic (like a thoroughbred), but incredibly stubborn (like a plow horse). A TB will see reason eventually and get on the trailer. A plow horse can be coerced. But Zahra was the worst of both of these, and chose to rear and plant instead. Finally, at 10:30 at night, after going through all the stages of grief: denial (I'll get her on the trailer if I just keep at it!); anger (why won't this stupid horse get on the trailer?!); bargaining (Look at all these yummy treats I'll give you if you get on the trailer!); I came to depression and acceptance at the same time. I sat down with my feed bucket on the lip of the trailer until Z walked up to me to eat, and then I cried as I pet her, trying to make her believe that this was all I was trying to get her to do all night-- just stand by the trailer and eat grain, like it was the easiest thing in the world. Because, with horses, for better or worse, it always has to be a good experience.

Wild horses of OBX, NC. I would have had better luck loading one of these guys on the trailer.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Why Eventers Leave the Midwest

Alison Springer, Becky Holder, Eric Dierks, Jon Holling, Ralph Hill.... what do all these people have in common? They're Area IV eventers who got the **** out of dodge! But what drove them away? The unbelievable long, cold winters? Of course. But that couldn't be all of it-- after all, the nomadic eventing life revolves around going South for the winter anyways, so why not come back to the Midwest for the summer? We have a few decent events, and any four star eventer would have a glut of business from all the people scrambling to take lessons. So there must be another reason.

Culturally, we're not as horse oriented as out east, and I learned that lesson in a BIG way in my recent attempt to secure a beautiful cross country course here in the Wisconsin for the next generation of young eventers. The original owner died a few years ago and had his land set up into a trust for future use. He was a lover of the sport-- importing horses from Ireland, bringing in top notch trainers, and building all of his jumps to the absolute highest standard. I have never seen another place on earth where you could jump UP a bank, land in water, 2 strides, up another bank, INTO WATER!!! It was a pretty cool water complex :)

Recently, I sent the most professional proposal I could to the members of the trust, with the full weight and support of the WDCTA behind it, only to be rejected because the land had been re-insured, and could therefore no longer host equine activities. I didn't know the owner very well, but I knew him enough to say that anyone who knew him at all would tell you that that was not what he would have wanted.

So my point is, cherish what you have. Build relationships where you can. Steer clear of the politics. Do whatever you can to do your part to ensure that our sport continues... because if you don't, who will?
The alternative? Trail Rides through Suburbia.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Zahra's first injury

Horses will be horses. And when they get cocky, they think they know better than you do. Zahra and I had a great groundwork school / photoshoot at Jon and Mary's new water complex. She was galloping through the water, off the "small" banks (Training/Prelim size), and was generally feeling full of sass!

When I felt that she had done as much as she needed, I started slowing her up. As she's trotting, she dropped her head to get a mouthful of grass, and I thought "Oh why not, she was so good..." Then she stepped over the lounge line, and I thought "crap." So I gave a yank and tried to reel her in, but the lounge line no longer had any leverage, so she pulled the opposite way and began trotting away from me. I ran after her, trying to slow her down, but she knew she had me and picked up the canter. I lost her, and she galloped for home, popping over two barbed wire fences along the way.

When I caught up with her back at the barn, she was standing quietly, a small, steady stream of blood squirting out her hind leg. We hosed it off really quick to see how big/deep it was, wrapped it up really tightly, and called the vet. 5 stitches later, she's as good as new!

I can't tell you how lucky I feel to have gotten off so easily. I had images of War Horse running through my mind as she galloped away from me, but instead, she got away with nothing more than a glorified scratch!

Lessons learned:
Even when the horse is being super, there is no room for sloppiness.
Zahra will probably tuck up her hind end a little better next time.

Monday, May 7, 2012


First and foremost, let me say WELCOME to the newest member of the O'Shea Eventing Team. Nicki Butler is a certified Reiki masseuse, as well as preparing for her Masterson Method certification. She is also a fellow member of the WDCTA State Board, and my great ally to bringing eventing back into their de facto mission!

I asked Nicki to come work on Zahra because of the tension we were feeling in our flat work-- specifically her continuing inability to pick up the right lead consistently. She's happy to pick it up while jumping, but not on the flat. We've tried lots of tricks, but as soon as she figures out how to sneak past them, to the left lead she goes! Or cross canter if pressed...

So Nicki evaluated her. First we did a quick lounge each way, and she confirmed my suspicion that it was the right hind that was weak.

We returned to the barn and she began running her hand along the "Bladder Meridian." The Bladder Meridian is one of the most often treated meridians on the horse. It is located along each side of the spine and contains some of the most important Acupuncture points in the body. Anytime Zahra blinked or reacted in anyway to the touch, Nicki would pause, or run her hand back over the spot again. Zahra began the session quite nervous... assuming Nicki was going to cause her discomfort in some way (needle pokes or something). She put on her "baby face" of nervousness when we began working on her right side, so Nicki would switch back and forth constantly, until finally about halfway through the session, Zahra began to relax into the bodywork. She snorted and yawned and pawed the ground as she released the tension in her body, section by section.

Nicki gave me several exercises to work on with Baby Z before our ride each day. I got a chance to ride Zahra once after the session, and she felt FABULOUS!! After a weekend of running around with friends (Congrats to Adam and Amanda for destroying the Door Co. Half Marathon!!), I am very excited to get my hands on that horse!!