dancing horses

dancing horses

Saturday, February 28, 2015

So I need to calm down

I was very disappointed that the vetting had to be postponed. In fact, I overreacted. In fact, I'm still over reacting.

I know it's irrational. It's been re-booked and the seller has arranged an indoor. The shipper knows. But I'm not having an easy time of it.

Ed is doing his best to calm me down. Last night he said "this is not like you at all. Why are you so panicked ?it will be fine"

And then it hit me as to why.
"because a couple months ago I rode in the morning and then buried my horse in the afternoon"

So there you have it. I'm still dealing with the fall out of Steele's senseless death. The thing that seems to help the best is writing. Feel free to stop reading what is, essentially, part of my grieving process.

I'm terrified that things will go wrong because they go wrong. My worst times are at night- in that moment between waking and sleeping when all guards are down I find myself back in the swamp. It doesn't happen every night but it happens so often that it's starting to feel familiar.

Reason tells me that there's no reason to worry. Not really. I just need to keep repeating it to myself.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015


There's been a delay in the Pre-Purchase Exam- Virginia is frozen over so the vet had to postpone.

In the meantime, Simon has discovered d'Arcy's winter jacket

Monday, February 23, 2015

Ice Baby

I am so over winter.


Yesterday was a rainy day, on top of all the snow. Some barns have collapsed and locally two people just finished riding when the riding arena collapsed. In the morning I went to the indoor track to go for a run. It's been a long time since I did it but I managed to run 5 km straight.

While it was nice to have mild weather it became apparent that the water was getting dammed by the piles of snow. As a result, Lexi's stall flooded. I had to empty out my spare stall so that I could move her over to that one. Armed with shovels and my ice scraper I began to dig more trenches to give the water a place to go.

Nothing like cutting through water logged snow and ice in the rain to make one feel, well, homicidal. 

After futilely trying to stop the flood into Lexi's stall we took a break. Ed headed into the house and I brought the horses in. Lexi was fine with her 'new' stall but Irish got all upset. Heaven knows he doesn't like change but I thought he was over dramatic. Plus he was completely unappreciative of all the work I did. 

I fed them and headed outside. I surveyed the situation and the solution came to me. You see, a few weeks ago in trying to get Lexi's stall door open to the outside we chipped away the ice. This created a basin for the water to pool and it was seeping to the inside. The other doors were blocked by snow. So I started shovelling and packing snow up against the door. I stomped it into the basin. 

I headed into the house, grabbed a beer and two advil and told Ed "I've either solved the problem or made it worse." I sat down and drank my beer before continuing on making supper. 

Turns out that my solution worked, so yay for me. 

That night I was asleep as soon as I turned out the light and didn't move all night. 

This greeted me in the morning: 

Belle is not impressed

We could skate on my driveway. Fortunately I have these spike cleats that I put on my boots so I don't slip. Best $20 I've ever spent.

I had to fortify myself so that I could tackle this morning's work. Fortunately I was off on monday. 
Lexie's stall

I cleaned out Lexi's stall and cleaned up the barn. It looked like a bomb went off but yesterday I was too tired to tackle it.

And my other project- digging a trench for the water to melt away from the barn. This drift is about 4 1/2 feet tall so I'm going to 'chip away' at it over the next several days. If anyone needs an upper body workout let me know.....

Tonight it's going to down to some ridiculously low temperature. 


I hate February. 

On a happier note, Charlante's vetting is Thursday. My vet passed the x-rays, this is for the physical. Now If I could just get shippers to call me back. Also, thank you everyone for the votes on my photo. I really appreciate it. 

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Winter Fun

While I was in Virginia we were hit with a massive blizzard. We now have so much snow that there's no more places to put it.

And we were luckier than PEI: check out these photos http://www.buzzfeed.com/mjs538/snow-what-snowf

I have to lead the horses in and out because their  sliding doors to the outside are buried. However, we now have a routine so there's no hassle. I haven't had much time to enjoy the snow. By the time I've finished my chores and snow removal all I can think of enjoying is a hot chocolate and baileys.

Or wine.

And snacks. 

 Tomorrow we're supposed to get a lot of rain. Yesterday, as I was engaging in my usual after work fun, aka shovelling,  I saw that the shed roof had quite a bit of snow on it. Having that collapse would be a major pain in the behind (the tractor lives there). So I decided to climb up and shovel it off. Don't be too impressed

See- I just had to climb up the snow bank ( FYI the shed is about 7 feet tall).

I hopeful that the rain wont cause flooding but, since I can't do anything to stop it, I've decided that it's the beginning of the spring thaw. 

Somewhere under that snow is my fence and grass.


I received this photo of Charlante in Virginia today:
It's good that she's getting used to snow, but she does not look too impressed. But if she's going to become a Canadian citizen she better get used to it.

And speaking of winter, I'm entered in this contest on FB for a winter blanket. The photo with the most likes wins. I love this photo of Irish, Steele and d'Arcy
Board Meeting
so if you can click on this FB link and 'like' it, I would greatly appreciate it.
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Bits-N-Bridles-Tack-and-Feed-Store/557275177631188?sk=photos_stream&tab=photos  My photo is in the 7th row. Yes, it's shameless but you know how I feel about blankets.

Thank you. :)

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Southern hospitality

Virginia has always been on my list as a place to visit. And, even in February, you could see it's beauty. At least where we were. We saw rolling hills, mountains, beautiful estates and charming shops. The people were as nice as the scenery. 

In looking at hotel options I had many to choose from. I started by googling tack shops in Charlottesville. I found Dover Saddlery. Another place that I've always wanted to go. There was a hotel a block away- The Hampton Inn. Horse people will understand the choosing of a hotel based on proximity to a tack shop. The Inn was very nice- the beds were comfy, the breakfast good and the staff fabulous. Karen and I had a lot of fun at Dovers. It did not disappoint. 

I scored some new breeches:
The staff warned me that they were on the 'small side' and they were right- going up a size was required. 
My pet peeve about breeches is that they seemed designed for the pre-teen body. Which I don't have. These fit well. 
A new long sleeved top:
I'm glad I bought it, I needed it as a layer on Sunday

And lastly this lovely halter. I love leather halters but they get stiff in the cold- this combination of leather and webbing seemed perfect:
I bought navy. 
Catherine was an excellent hostess taking us around the countryside. I asked her if she knew an author I like- Rita Mae Brown. Turns out that her farm is on the same road as Catherine's. So we stopped by to get a shot. 

me by the entrance to Rita Mae Brown's farm

if you haven't read her books she has a series around the fox hunting that are a lot of fun to read. It's obvious that she knows horses and I enjoy her description of the characters who participate in the sport. I'd love to try it sometime.....

So I had a weekend of looking at beautiful horses, shopping,  eating fabulous food and meeting great people. Sounds good doesn't it? I have told Ed that we have to go back in better weather for a vacation. 

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The Decision

some of my FB friends are accusing me of upping their blood pressure with this saga. Another told me that I was not allowed to go to bed until I gave the conclusion.

So my apologies and let me conclude this story for you.

Sunday morning I woke up after a long sleep. The day was very cold (-12) and windy so we had decided to wait until the afternoon to ride. Our hostess took us to downtown Charlottesville to show us the lovely walking mall they have. It was lovely, even on a bitter cold February day so I can imagine how lovely it would be in the summer. We had a wonderful brunch at a restaurant and then headed out to the stable.

Unfortunately, it was still windy and cold but we carried on. I asked to ride Charlante first. She was a bit 'up' because of the weather but when I went in to pat her and pick out her feet she calmed down. We took her down to the ring and I watched her being lunged. She was quite excited but still incredibly well mannered. A few scoots but she never came against the line. I then got on her. This time we could walk off without help. I watched the videos after and her tail was actually blowing sideways. It was clear that she was not impressed with being out in the weather with the whole world blustering around her. But I asked her to soften and bend and she did. Of course we were not able to maintain it but we got better. Well I got better and realizing where she was going to lose it and correcting it ahead of time. We trotted a bit and then I asked her walk and then trot. Once we passed the gate she wanted to go out but I stopped her with my outside rein and leg. Which she protested. I was insistent and I was curious as to how we would work through this small hissy fit. What I realized that was she was so sensitive that you have to give right away. So I put my leg on and as soon as she moved forward I took it off and praised her (I will have to remember this in the future  I thought) I also remembered my lesson with Jane to sit up and use my seat to encourage her forward (thank you Jane).
you can see the riding ring- lots to look at

the house under construction to the right. the red skip had a
big blue tarp on it saturday but it blew off and was against the fence.

I then changed direction and we went the other way. She relaxed back into the work.  Every time she responded I let her know that I was pleased with her. A gust of wind from behind moved her into canter and rather than correct it I decided to ride it (I can fix that over time I thought). Again it was so effortless. I gave her lots of praise and we returned to the trot and then a walk. I halted her by the gate and chatted with Catherine and Karen for a bit. It was clear that she thought I was done but I wanted to do one more test. I asked her to walk away from the gate and back to work. And she did, without balking although it was clear that missy was not impressed. I loved how sensitive and keen she was. the question was did I have want it takes to bring her along? This is horse that required finesse and sensitivity.

I asked her to halt but she wouldn't stand. So we walked a bit and I asked her again. Again she wouldn't be still. I won't get off a moving horse so I channeled Royce and said in a clear voice 'whoa' while I sat still. She became rock still and I dismounted. We walked up the hill with her tagging along respectfully beside me. Her owner walked beside me and said "I like how you ride her. You ride with your head and not with your hands"

I brought her into the stall to untack her and Catherine went out to get Agente. However, I made up my mind and making everyone suffer in the bitter cold seemed pointless. I went out the barn and called to not worry about him, I had made a decision.  We all smiled and hugged. I may have teared up.

why her? Well I liked how different she was then Steele. I won't be tempted to compare her. I liked her potential.

But mostly I just felt my heart give a little leap every time I sat on her. I think that she and I can forge a partnership. So pending vet check I will the owner of a mare. Or rather owned by a mare.

me in multiple layers....

sales pic
Next steps: vet check, insurance, transportation....

Monday, February 16, 2015

But wait, there's more

I'm not trying to drag this out for dramatic effect.

 Really & truly.

It's just that there's so much to tell and I don't want to write the War and Peace version of a blog post.

After trying the lovely and regal Reina we headed to Afton to try out two more horses.

The first was young mare named Charlante. She was born in 2010 at her current barn and through a series of events ended up back there. Her last owner didn't want her any more because a trainer said that 'she'd never make Grand Prix'. I laughed and said that I probably wouldn't either so that was okay.  She was a lovely dapple gray with a feminine face and slightly shy, reserved demeanour. If I stick with the 'Downton Abby' character theme, she reminded me of Anna (can you tell that I'm a fan?). She was just shy of 16 hh.

I watched her being lunged and then ridden. She had a lovely floaty trot and canter. The weather was cold and breezy and while she was alert and a bit worried she was very well behaved. Then it was my turn. I settled onto her back and gathered up the reins. She was reluctant to walk off and leave the people she knew so Catherine (who's a USDF instructor) led us into the ring and then coached me on riding her. I find her very responsive, sensitive with an active brain. Her trot was forward and smooth. She was not always easy to keep bent to the inside but given that the ring was up on a hill overlooking a beautiful (and windy) valley and there was a giant blue tarp over  a skip at a construction site up on the hill that all made sense to me. When I asked her to bend back to me she did. Her canter was effortless- it was silken. I was starting to have a lot of fun. As I asked more of her I felt her tuning in more and more. We were no where near perfect- it was too early for that I felt that with a bit of work we could really click. I could feel that there was a lot of potential for collection and lengthening with proper development. When I dismounted I took her for a walk around the ring. I wanted to see how she was with me on the ground- would she go towards the 'spooky things' and stand there with me. the answer to that was 'yes she would'. She stood at my shoulder and waited for me. I led her up to the barn and to her stall. I was half in love with her by then.

Then it was time for a gray gelding named Agente. He had grown since his video and had a strong conformation with lots of bone. He was a year younger than Steele and still had a lot of growing to do. He was definitely going to get well over 16h. I looked at his face and stepped back. It was so much like Steele that it surprised me. I turned to Karen "I don't think I can ride him". She calmed me down (again) and pointed out that it was just his head. The rest of him was not the same. She told me to watch him being worked and just go one step at a time. I decided that she was being sensible. So we followed him down to the ring. His movement was strong with lots of impulsion. He seemed to fling himself into his job. Like Charlante his lunging manners were excellent. I watched Catherine ride him and he was obedient but distractible. He had not been worked that week and he had energy to burn. Then it was my turn. I found that he was quite happy to have me up there but one of us had to be in charge and he was happy to make decisions if I wasn't going to. I had to keep his brain occupied with me and then all was good. His trot was very bouncy but rhythmic. I could feel that there was a ton of untapped power in there. After a bit I decided to push him a bit and I asked him to canter. He wasn't sure what I wanted right away (he hadn't been cantered under saddle for while) but I urged him through a faster trot (not ideal I know but I wanted to see how he'd react). He broke into this lovely bouncy canter. I. t would be easy to push him over tempo at this point so I worked on keeping it steady. When I asked for a trot transition he came right back. I walked him up the hill and he tagged behind me happily enough. I realized that there was a spark there too.

On the way back we got dropped off at Dover Saddlery (of course I booked a hotel within a block of it) and indulged in some equine retail therapy. We then headed out to supper early to beat the Valentine's Day rush. Over a mexican dinner and a margarita we discussed the horses. I asked Karen her thoughts. She noted that both were nice and I rode both well, but there was one horse that I lit up on when I rode.  I agreed that one seemed to capture my heart already. I realized that I was exhausted. After dinner it was all I could do to walk back to the room and stay awake until 9.

As I was dozing off and thinking about the day I recognized that I had two very real prospects that I would be happy with. The choice was between muscle and power or grace and elegance.
Not a bad dilemma really, when you think of it.

So where did I go?

In my searching I quickly realized that if I wanted another Andalusian (and I did) that I was going to be looking farther afield than my back yard. I did not want to start over with another yearling. I needed a horse that was backed or ready to be backed.

Here's the thing: Andalusians are scattered across North America. Here's the other thing: Steeles's bloodlines are Carthusian. He goes back to Evento (the first Spanish horse to compete in the Olympics) and Invasor 111 and Gaucho 111. Horses with that pedigree are not easily come by.  Ed told me that if I wante to go to Spain go ahead. How can you not love a man who says that? But that seemed extreme.

I did find a few horses that I kept returning to. One was in Oregon. And there were two in Virginia.  The seller also had a third one she was selling as well. I kept looking at their videos. I showed them to a friend who had her trainer in Spain look at them.

A few emails were exchanged and I booked a ticket to Virginia. I was so happy that my friend , Karen, was able to come too. She would be a second set of eyes and moral support.

Due to bad weather, I booked a room the night before at the airport hotel. When I arrived and checked in I decided that I had lost my mind. Who was I to be travelling to Virginia to look at horses? What on earth would the breeder of these beautiful horses think of this adult amateur from the back country of Nova Scotia?

I sent a text to Ed telling him that I was freaking out. He told me to relax. And that I wasn't obligated to buy anything. Before when we discussed it he had said to me "when you met Steele, it was love at first sight. It will be different this time because of what you lost.  But if there's no spark don't buy. It won't work. " he reminded me of this conversation and the asked "so when does Karen get there?"  Ha! He wanted someone there to calm me down.

Karen arrived and did calm me down. Our flights the next day were uneventful and we landed in Charlottesville Virginia.

Charlottesville is beautiful, even in February. The people are very nice as well. Catherine Sutton, the trainer, picked us up at the airport. She was our hostess for the next 2 days and she did a fabulous job.

I had three horses lined up to try on Saturday. The first was at a trainers barn   A bay mare named Reina. The owner met us at the barn. Her first question was 'what are you looking for in a horse?'  I was frozen and could not answer. All I could think was that I wanted Steele.  F I choked out that I had just lost a horse. Of course they wanted to know what happened. Fortunately, Karen explained it- I still can't talk about it.

Reina was a lovelyand regal  mare- she surveyed us from the wash stall. She reminded me of the Dowager Duchess on Downton Abby. I watched a young lady ride her first. She was a nice rider.  Then it was my turn. I hadn't ridden since the day Steele died. The weather was cold and windy and the others were surprised that I took my coat off.  But I'm Canadian (and I was dressed in layers). Despite the wind and all sorts of activity Reina was so well mannered. It's hard to ride a new horse in front of strangers but as I rode I could fell muscle memory returning. I started to smile. I realized that the joy that comes from just sitting on a horse was still there.  I began to have fun. I rode her for a bit and then dismounted. I checked her over in the was stall after and her manners were impeccable. But there was no spark. She will be a lovely mare for someone- just not for me.

But there were two more horses to try...

Sunday, February 15, 2015

So Now What?

When Steele died it broke my heart. He also took with him all my dreams of the future in regards to horses. I had all sorts of plans for us:

  1. Get into a regular lesson program
  2. go hacking 
  3. attend clinics
  4. travel of the property to do fun things
  5. And we were going to start showing this year 

That all turned to dust in an instant. As I was mourning the loss of Steele I was also mourning all that we weren't going to be doing. It felt unbearable. 

Do I give up on horses? 

I could not see that. I cannot picture my life without horses. I just can't. 

I also couldn't bear to think of replacing Steele. How would that even be possible?

I was feeling torn and confused. Ed was encouraging me to consider another horse. Not to "replace" Steele. He wanted me to have something to look forward to. He believed that if I had a horse to work with I would begin to heal. 

One night I had a dream: 

I was in the middle of some forgettable dream when I was suddenly in a small glade in the woods. It was night and Steele was grazing there. He saw me and said ‘oh hi. there you are.’
I stayed there with him for while (no idea how long) and then I started to walk away. I had to leave and come home.
Steele followed me as we walked through the street of a small town and past fields. I thought that he would leave me but he didn’t. I decided that if he followed me I would take him away from there. I reached my trailer but it had been partially dismantled. Steele watched as I tried to fix it.
“I’m don’t think I can come with you”
“yes you can. I’ll just get this fixed and we can go”
He watched me quietly and I finally got it back together. I turned to him and he said “I can’t come with you”
I started to cry and then he blew in my ear like he always did. ‘Goodbye” and he was gone and I was awake

A friend helped me to interpret this dream:

Your dream, to my eyes, is very allegorical.  You find Steele in a state of calm grazing, which you wanted to share with him until a point where you knew you had to return 'home'. Steele walks with you ( a 'journey') through streets and fields, trusting you as you travel together, as he did in life (he did not leave your side).   
You wanted to 'take him with you'... but first you had to 'fix' the disassembled horse trailer (the container of your equine aspirations). Steele quietly watched your reassemble the trailer, yet knew he could not be the one to travel in the trailer with you.  His message seems to be - rebuild your dreams of having an equine partner, it is  OK, my spirit is with you but someone else (another horse) will fill your trailer. 
His breath in your ear imparts his spirit, even as he says 'goodbye'.  He knows this is what you need, in your own time. He knows you will use what you learned in your earthly journey together, and he will be with you as you move forward.
A few days later I started to click on horse ads. I could only do a few seconds and some horses I had to stop looking at all together as they reminded me too much of Steele. However, I kept clicking and it became easier.

And  that is how I found myself on a plane.

Sunday, February 8, 2015


I follow Behind the Bit's blog. She also makes fancy brow bands and a few weeks ago she was having a give away. When I saw it I knew who it was meant for:

Obviously this was meant for a redhead named Irish. So I entered the contest.

I was thrilled to find out that I won. It arrived this week. Today I gave Irish a good grooming and put it on him. He was not the most cooperative of models but I persevered. Tell me what you think:

Thank you Stacey!

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Who Says Romance is Dead?

Valentines day is fast approaching. There are literally thousands of romance novels featuring horses. And I must confess that I enjoy them (as long as they get the horse bits right). The beautiful but troubled heroine, the dashing and slightly exasperating hero. The horse that brings them together. Love and passion come together against the backdrop of barns, hay and riding.

Let me now say that that has never been my experience.

In fact I would argue that horses interfere with romance far more than they foster it.

Example #1

After Ed and I have spent the hottest day in July picking up, transporting and stacking hay we are not looking at each other with lust. We are too busy craving a shower, a cold beer, a hearty supper and collapsing into bed. If either of us mentioned romance at all the other would collapse into hysterical laughter followed by a mental note to make a referral for a  psychiatric evaluation.

Example #2

A weekend away requires planning on the level of a military excursion. First I arrange for the sitter. Then I make sure that she has everything she needs. There is the last minute packing because I'm so busy getting the horses and barn ready that I forget that I need to get ready myself. Then there is the frequent texting I do to the sitter asking if everything is okay. It's not that I don't think she can handle it. It's just me fretting. (For the record, I do the same thing if I leave Ed behind but this is about romance so of course he's with me).

Which brings me to Example #3

The local hotel decided to have theme nights every Wednesday during February. This past weds was a Thai theme. I love Thai food and the closest Thai restaurant is 90 minutes away. So I decided that Ed and were going to have a date night. That in itself is a rare occurrence. Then Ed had to work in the city that day so we decided that I would go home, take care of the horses and we would meet at the restaurant.

How romantic does that sound? Two adults meeting up at a hotel restaurant for dinner? The mind boggles at the possibilities. 

So I head home quickly from work to get my chores done. I put nylon pants and a winter jacket over my clothes and go to get the horses supper. I also had stopped and picked up bales of shavings and some feed. Both horses are hanging around the little paddock. They've eaten up all the hay that I put outside and are hungry.

Lexie comes into her stall. Because hers is the only one I can open I have to lead Irish through hers and into his. So I grab Lexie and put her in the cross ties to go and get Irish. The first time I did this she was confused but she's very intelligent so this time she stands as good as gold.

I head out to get Irish. Who promptly heads out to the big field.
I don't want to come in. 
Fine. I say. You can wait. 

I close up Lexie's stall and put her in. She had fresh water, shavings and hay so was pretty happy munching away and hanging out. I begin to bring in the shavings. After dancing around the field Irish comes back down to the little paddock. I go to get him. He heads off again.
Irish I have a date tonight. I don't have time for this foolishness. 
Where are we going? 
What? no WE aren't going anywhere. 
Can Lexie come? I'm not going without her. 
Neither one of you are coming. 
But you said you had a date. 
yes, I do. With Ed. 
Yes, you know - Ed. 
Oh the male servant. 
yes him. 
I don't know how you can have fun without me. 
We do our best. 

Irish again won't be caught. This time as I approach the gate and he leaves I turn around right away.
 Me: Fine. You can wait out there until I get back. 
Lexie: "Can I have his supper? I've been very good and I'm STARVING"
Irish: "Hey!"

I finish unloading the truck. Irish is standing at the gate.
Hellooooo. I'm ready for my dinner now. 

Sighing I bring him in and feed both of them. I'm now running late. I rush into the house, throw food at the dogs and head out to the car.
I send Ed a text that I'm on my way. He's waiting for me at the restaurant.

As we eat this lovely meal and chat about our day I am trying to subtly pick bits of shavings and hay off of my pants and put them in my coat pocket.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015


Our weather was unseasonably mild up until January.

I was even heard to complain about it.

Next year you all have permission to smack me if I do that again.

Winter has hit with a vengeance. We are having multiple snow storms. If it was just snow it would be easier. But they are combinations of rain, snow, sleet, ice pellets.

On the weekend we had a big thaw and sudden freeze. As a result the horses' sliding doors to their paddock are frozen solid. No matter how hard we worked, we couldn't stop the ice from pooling around the doors and then freezing. This means we have to lead the horses in and out. A pain but not huge. The other problem is that they don't have shelter in their stalls and I have to rig up a method of giving them water that won't freeze solid.

Last night we had another storm. There were actually 3 weather warnings issued:

  1. Winter Storm Warning
  2. Rainfall Warning
  3. Flashfreeze Warning
The weather was to change from -10 to +10. I made it home before the weather got really bad. I'm glad that I left early because once the snow started it really accummulated fast. Each time I went out to feed and check on the horses I had to shovel off the deck. While we did get some ice pellets it never warmed up enough to rain. 

In the morning the dogs and I trudged out to the snow to the barn. I had been smart and put the shovel outside the barn so could clear the doors to get in. I left the horses in for an hour or so while I had my coffee and fortified myself for the shovelling. Ed and I went to work clearing the snow. He drove the tractor and I wielded the shovel. We also cleared out the little paddock so that the horses could have a a path and so that there wouldn't be a flood if it melted suddenly (that can happen here). We also managed to get the door to Lexie's stall to open so that they can have access to shelter and water. 
After all that I showered and headed to work. I needed the rest. 

I really think that Canada needs to adopt a southern Island nation. 

I wonder how difficult it would be to immigrate to Australia.....