Tuesday, April 30, 2019

2nd Birthday

Almost missed it, but today is Liam's 2nd birthday!


Liam continues to be an excellent, no fuss baby horse. He leads much better now, he can stand still to be groomed in the aisle during mild to moderate barn activity, is super brave, and VERY curious. In a pinch, when bravery wanes but curiosity is still there, humans are good to hide behind. He has even learned to push one of the big exercise balls with his nose!

So shy about putting his head out. But these nose was busy touching and wiggling!

He doesn't feel the need to put everything in his mouth (he likes to nose things though). He's finally learned that humans sometimes have these awesome things called treats, and when they hold their hand out to you, they'd like to give you one. This has not caused any mouthiness so far.

He knows how to socialize with other horses. He tends to skip rolls in the mud and is like teflon when he is dirty.

Definitely an A+ purchase, his mind is incredible and thinking. He doesn't leave scary situations, he becomes cautious and curious. He is a sponge, soaking everything up. He feels more mature than 2 a lot of the time, but then does baby things like forgetting he has legs.

"Whoa, stuff looks different from here"

He is not what I expected. He is exceeding all expectations!

Thursday, April 25, 2019

First Farrier Visit

One main item on my mind was having Liam's feet fixed. His prior farrier care was not great. The breeder's barn manager even said as much... I suspect whoever they use is willing to work on rude baby horses, so they keep using them, even though the manager knows the trims are bad.

When we decided Liam would come home on 4/5, he was due to be trimmed again sometime between 4/7 and 4/13. The barn manager didn't have him trimmed because she knew I'd have him done properly after he got home and so wanted to leave some foot to work with (which I agreed with her and was happy she didn't have him done).

Long, but the flare on the left front was especially bothersome.
He also needs more heel all-around.
I didn't think to take any before pics on the concrete!
One of my barn owners (the husband) is a part time farrier and extremely patient. I asked him to do Liam's feet for now because I expected the horse to be rude and jumpy and reactive. Nothing seems to fluster BO Farrier, and if it takes an hour to get the fronts done and we come back for the hinds, not a big deal. He's got all the education to shoe/trim and goes to continuing education seminars, but farrier work is not his full time job so it's not a permanent situation for me.

He agreed, on the condition I put in the time outside of trims to work on hoof handling. Well duh, I want a well behaved creature, so I was going to put the time in anyway! Plus he needs to have his feet picked out every time I have him out to be groomed or handled. BO Farrier showed me how to anchor the hoof against myself so I could use my leg to hold it in place and not my arms... and so Liam couldn't cow kick me, as we learned he will do when he's flustered.

Battle Bruises
Liam ripped his left hind out of my hand repeatedly until I got his leg anchored correctly.
I need practice.
BO watched me battle Liam over that left hind. He was literally ripping it out of my hand and hopping forward with his entire hind end, which threw me back. And since he's an awkward kiddo, his front left was way out to the side and every time I got thrown back I tripped on his front leg, almost going into epic pratfalls. She was like, "How on earth did they trim his feet?!"

By the way, did you know Liam was Teflon coated? And mud-averse? It's fantastic
BO Farrier and I agreed to try trimming his fronts Wednesday this week because they just couldn't go any longer (which would have allowed me more practice with his feet). If it took an hour to do them, so be it. BO Farrier did a test rasping on Monday to take down a little of the flare on the LF, and to see how Liam behaved. He... wasn't great. He spooked and gawked at the hoof stand and tried halfheartedly to leave, but in the end stood like a circus animal on a ball with 3 feet while the LF was on the stand. Whatever keeps you still dude.

I practiced leading with Liam before his appointment, just to "exercise" him a little, and then it was time! He wasn't keen on standing in the middle of the aisle (watching horses hug the walls and not stand in the middle makes my eyes bleed), so he hugged the wall for comfort and let BO Farrier do his fronts.

Everything went well on his fronts, so BO Farrier tried the hinds... which went well! The biggest issue was the left hind, but BO Farrier did a much better job holding onto it so Liam only tried pulling it away once. Sorry farrier. That shit hurts :(

New toes!
Liam has varying degrees of deep pitting/thrush in the white lines of each hoof from heel to mid-bell. He also had a false sole on the left hind, probably from an abscess sometime in this past godforsaken wet winter.

BO Farrier originally wasn't going to use the nippers on him and go this short the first time, but the deep pitting was worrisome, and it extends deeper than he trimmed off.
BO Farrier was able to bring his heels back by trimming this much off, which is great.
Liam was very good for a baby horse with limited handling, I was very pleased. Most of his "naughty" behavior was around him just not knowing how to balance on 3 legs. He seemed to think he could only balance on 2 (diagonal pair, not rearing) or 4, and standing square to evenly distribute his weight was a complete unknown to him. He'll learn! One more positive experience is in the books for him though!

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Semi Wordless Wednesday: Anniversary Trip Edition

Husband and my 6th wedding anniversary was this past weekend. We took a FANTASTIC trip :)

The bridge at Hoover Dam.
Colorado River and bridge. Managed to not take a pic of the dam itself 🤦‍♀️
Phoenix Zoo... where we took a selfie with a saguaro instead of an animal. 
Rula Bula, Tempe, AZ. Because Iron Druid Chronicles.
The BEST fish and chips. 5/5.
The vastness cannot be photographed.
Grand Canyon National Park, South Rim
Grand Canyon National Park
A very striking tree.
Start of the hike to Ooh Ahh Point.
Very tall walls.
One view at Ooh Ahh Point
60 miles of cow country to get to Canyon West. It's like a terrifying game of chicken, only with cows hiding in the dark.

View from the helicopter on our way down to the boats.
Another view from the helicopter on the way down. 
Looking up from the path to the docks.
Colorado River at Separation Canyon
Zoom! 35+ mph down the Colorado River

Helicopter view of the rim at Canyon West
Extremely bright rainbow to finish the trip
Four Queens Casino, Las Vegas, NV
Look! We turned $20 into $0.29!

This video is worth the 4 min watch, I promise.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Fancy Word Sequence (repose)

Of course, I came up with a name for this post a while ago and then instead of hitting close, I hit publish. Oops. So those of you that read via Feedly, you got a "404 No Content" problem.

Hey look! He's not derpy!

Liam is not registered... yet.

I know, I know. "You bought him unregistered?!" Yes, I did. I did my homework first though, I contacted Westfalen NA and asked exactly what they needed to register him. He's eligible- mom and dad are both approved. I need to do a DNA kit, get an insemination certificate, get a foaling certificate, and bill of sale. Then he needs to go to inspection this summer for permanent identification, even though he's a gelding.

Maybe he's secretly a baby cow.

But all of that means... I get to officially name him!

Event Trainer was going to call him Lawless because he broke all the foaling rules before he was born and probably shouldn't be alive.

The breeder that handled his foaling and young horse care tried to breed a full sibling- she ordered more Lordanos semen and the mare didn't catch, so she was unable to produce a full sibling. That made me go back to the suggestion of Limited Edition.

Horse vs ball standoff

I'm not really sold on either of those, so here are the rules:
  • The name can be a word or series of words, but the first letter MUST be an L.
  • No love themed names (Lover, Lover Boy, etc)
  • Preferred: Not an overused name. Would love something that starts with Lord.


Suggestions so far:

    Limited Edition
    Lord of Letters
    Lord of Logic
    Lucid Dreamer

Umm, you're two. Why are you so beefy?
Also, his hind end belongs to a different horse than his front end. I'm hoping since his thick legs seem to match his bum, the front end will grow soon.

"Funny but we're not using them" suggestions:
    Lunch Meat
    Lunch Box
    Lord Beefcake

That white nose stands out!
He isn't food aggressive at home, but he was at the breeder's.

Lawless has quite a few horses in the USEF, Limitless has even more, and Limited Edition has A TON. Enough to make me not want to use it.

I'm keeping 'Liverwurst' for when he's bad, Event Trainer and I both think it's hysterical.

Where did my floaty horse go? He's probably tired from a long day making new friends and playing!

So blog land, give me some fancy word sequences that start with L!

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Liam is Home!

Liam is home!!!

Unsure about his life.

It was rather... exciting? The trip rattled him A LOT and we had a mishap in the trailer during unloading. Everyone is fine, except the trailer... Note: Liam will double barrel kick when scared. Do not stand behind him.

He walked off the trailer like a gentleman, despite being visibly upset and soaked with sweat. There is no media, sorry people. Unloading him safely was first priority. He walked around the parking lot like a gem, and then very cautiously walked into the barn. He was surprised by the concrete floor and then the other horses (concrete floors are VERY distracting). He became instant best friends with one of the horses he shares a wall with, a Dutch Warmblood who is also chestnut and very chromey.

So sweaty.

Of course at this point, I am FREAKING OUT. "What have I done?!" went through my head multiple times- I just took possession of a 2 year old who is large and rude and will double barrel kick. I was panicking that I'm in over my head with a baby horse, and we haven't done anything yet! This was on top of the "new mom" emotions that go something like this: "OMG it's like a new baby, 'here you go, make sure it grows up healthy and well mannered!' and they hand you the horse and drive away!" #responsibilities

I took Madonna for a quick spin while Liam settled- which he did beautifully. After sniffing both neighbors, he settled in to eat hay long before I went out to ride. He did scream a small amount- he's got such a high pitched whinny! It's very baby like. It stopped when no one answered him, all of the other horses were too busy stuffing their faces with hay.


After the indoor cleared out, I pulled Liam back out in a rope halter and 12' cowboy lead rope to go walk around- if he was going to try to get away from me, I'd have 12' before he managed it, plus closed arena doors. I also put on my helmet. I felt like a proper pony clubber! (even though I only did one year of pony club)

Everything is an adventure for him! Walking out of the stall onto concrete. Looking at the forge. Looking at the sink. Looking at the other horses. OMG look the concrete becomes dirt. OMG there's THINGS in the dirt. Mounting block. Poles. Cavaletti blocks. A pole WITH FLOWERS IN IT. Muck buckets. Chairs.

He was SUPER.

The first thing I did was try to get his focus on me, even though he'd only been on the farm for 2.3 seconds. I couldn't even walk him around because his shoulder kept coming over me and he was puffing up... and well, he's way too big for that. He'd clobber me if he decided to bolt. Something I learned from the Friesian I vetted is a spot on the chest to make them back up: where the neck comes into the chest, make a C with your hand a poke the horse right there, with the curve of the C going around the neck where it attaches into the chest. I've found a very light poke will cause a correct reaction in most horses.

So I'd stop walking, he'd keep going and walk into the rope halter, and I'd poke my hand into his chest right there. He'd stop immediately and swing his head back to look at me. I'd then make him back up by poking him until he had an eye solidly on me, and give him a big scratch on the neck and tell him he was so smart. I'd take the same C shape and poke him in the neck when he'd throw his neck at me. It took 5 min tops for me to easily get his attention for at least 5 seconds, and he'd respond immediately to my prompts to pay attention, even if I had to lather, rinse, repeat every five seconds. Eventually I didn't feel unsafe walking next to him.

Next we investigated THE THINGS. He's rather brave for a baby horse who had his world turned upside down. Maybe that has to do with a baby horse's curious nature?

Very scary.

The first thing we investigated was the pole raised on cavaletti with fake flowers in it. Liam snorted and thought about leaving, but I held my ground and walked towards it a second time and gave him tons of scratches and reassurance. He did some side stepping and hid behind me at one point (a boarder who does a lot of more advanced groundwork went in with me to help me keep my brain in my skull said that), but eventually dove into the flowers like a kid doing a cannonball into a pool. My brain quickly changed gears to "OH GOD, DON'T EAT THEM! I've only had you for a few hours, NO EMERGENCY VET VISIT!" But he's a good baby who doesn't feel the need to mouth everything in sight yet, so he smelled the shit out of every fake flower bunch on the pole before swinging his head back around to me and putting his nose on my chest for scratches.

The rest of our short indoor adventure went a lot like that. I'd decide where we would walk to, doing focus checks every 3 seconds, and giving lots of scratches and encouragement. He is SO BRAVE and so curious. He'd look to me for encouragement and then investigate everything with his nose before coming right back for more scratches and reassurance. He hid behind me many more times. We were only in there for 10ish minutes, because I started having trouble getting his focus back and he'd been very good.

New media is required of it, stat.

By the time he got back to his stall, his eye was very soft and his posture more relaxed. He started doing the snuggly things I loved about him: making faces when I scratched all the itchy spots on his chest, neck and whithers (he got rocking and nearly pushed me over when I scratched his chest), and sniffing people faces and blowing air into said faces. There were 4 of us cuddling him and he seemed to think it was divine. There is zero mouthiness to the face sniffing, he just gets right up in there to properly snuffle you.

Our little indoor arena adventure and post adventure cuddling reminded me of why I liked him so much and I instantly felt better about him. He is a thinking horse and very personable. His world was turned upside down, and an hour or so after arriving he was able to focus on me and even learn a little. After working him a little in hand, he was already less pushy in the stall and better about his feet not invading personal space. I want to carefully encourage his bravery and curiosity. I want him to feel capable of ANYTHING so he'll stand his ground when he's afraid. Hopefully that will be enough to keep those hind feet on the ground!

Husband and I planned a trip this upcoming weekend for our 6th anniversary, which unfortunately means leaving Liam for a few days (we planned it long before Liam was in the picture). The barn is also hosting a biomechanics and groundwork clinic this Saturday with an exceptional trainer. I talked to BO about handling Liam in the workshop afternoon session (the morning is a lecture) to get his groundwork going. She's handled a bunch of babies and started several, so he will be in good hands that can give me a lesson when I come back!

Me, for the last week!

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

A New Adventure

I bought the 2 year old! (I actually didn't get to meet the OTTB, his owner sold him to a student before I could get there, which is totally fine. I'd assume a student buyer trumps a stranger buyer.)

Everyone, meet Liam!

Liam is an almost 2 year old Westfalen gelding by Lordanos and out of a Dutch Warmblood mare (he'll be 2 at the end of April). He was bred by Event Trainer, and that's the only reason I considered a horse this young. I know where he came from, all of his history and care, and he was carefully planned for and cared for.

He checks so many of the boxes for me: 3 solid gaits, snuggly like Penn, shares a birthday with Mikey, is chestnut, has all the chrome, and is the floaty warmblood I could never afford. Cue emotional crying, because that is what happened when I met him and he was like "HI, I LIKE SNUGGLES" and put his head on my shoulder for snuggles and scratches.

So much derp/awkward. He needs lessons on being photogenic, sorry bud. 🤷‍♀️ Probably comes with being a baby horse though.

The only things he didn't check were height and age. He sticked at 16.1h at his vetting, so I expect he's going to be 17.0-17.2 by the time he's done growing (and he needs to grow taller and wider, he looks like he's in a rather ugly growth spurt!). While that's much bigger than I prefer and was shopping for, he'll be an excellent size for me and hopefully I'll be super comfortable with it by the time he's ready to be backed and started. I'll have a year to get comfortable with him and learn about him, and maybe I won't notice him growing! He's younger than I wanted by a year, but he just ticked so many boxes for me that I figured I can do some delayed gratification. He's a possible long term partner- not something I ride to 3rd level and sell. That's worth waiting the year to ride him, and another year after that to really do something with him, I think.

A super wee belly spot!

I had to have a good long think when I considered him: what are my goals, how do I want to get there, and how long is an acceptable time frame to get there? Is some "delayed gratification" worth it?

  • Goal: FEI Dressage, ideally Grand Prix. I don't need to be winning or even competing in CDIs, but I'd be thrilled getting a 60 at GP at a national show.
  • How: Train a horse to Grand Prix because unless I win the Powerball, I'm not going to be able to buy a GP schoolmaster. I'd really love to not have to start over, AGAIN. Having started over from 3rd twice now, I'm getting tired of it!
  • Time frame: I'm not even sure. It's going to be a process of decades probably, especially if I'm rotating out horses, selling one to buy the next more talented horse. It will take even longer since I can only go for monthly lesson weekends. I'm a diligent student, but that's no substitute for weekly lessons.

Say I was able to buy, and did buy, the OTTB. He could do training level this year, and maybe in 4 years he'd be a solid 3rd level horse who can do 4-1 and can be called a 3rd Level Schoolmaster for someone who wants to learn the mid levels. Maybe the OTTB would be able to keep going up the levels, maybe he wouldn't. I would expect him to top out by PSG (doing the things and still getting 60%) if he can keep going. If he's not going to go further, I would sell and buy a more talented horse (hopefully). I redo training to third for another 4 years at least.

In 4 years, Liam will have just turned 6. I expect he'll be competent at first level, and schooling 2nd/3rd level work. I don't expect him to be further along than that because he is a big growing horse and is going to need time. I also do not expect him to top out at 3rd/4th, but only time will tell if he can handle pressure and can do the tempi work of the FEI levels (if he can piaffe and passage in any way, I consider that a bonus). I consider him a better risk than the other horses available to me at my budget, despite me having to wait for him to grow up. He's a possible very long term partnership, which is what I really want.

I feel very... blessed? Loved? -by my barn family. They are the true enablers of this adventure. Event Trainer for offering Liam at a price I can afford. My barn owner is gung ho about bringing a baby horse in. Other boarders have offered their horses to ride in the meantime: Our vet, who owns Madonna, for allowing me to ride her regularly. M offered her older, yet sassy mare, who is big moving and 17h tall so I can get used to the size, and so I have something to pony Liam from. Another boarder who offered her floaty mare so I can get used to riding floaty gaits before it's time to sit on Liam. Then the bunch of other green horses that need rides here and there. Event Trainer will help me start him. They are all the reason I can attempt this new adventure. I feel very lucky.

Is he the nicest baby horse out there? Of course not. Is he the nicest thing I could afford? You bet. He has acceptable minor flaws, and everything we xrayed at his PPE looked great and strong. He's super awkward right now, being a growing baby horse who also appeared to have hives when I saw him last. He'll be a great progression photo series!

I have super limited media of Liam right now because he's at a farm where I have to ask permission to come out (it's a private breeder's farm), and then someone usually hangs out with me while I visit him. Top that with a young horse who doesn't know how to stand still, with or without a person, and I have a camera roll full of super awkward pictures with airplane ears. That situation will be remedied in the next 2 weeks, he comes home Tuesday (aka today!)!