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Gwen in Her New Home November 18, 2015

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The time came for Gwen to find her permanent home. Several different people looked at her, but there was one person Debra and I both agreed upon that Gwen liked the best. But the timing wasn’t right. A year later (maybe more – time goes so fast) the situation changed. Gwen still needed a good home and her person was now able to take her. And as fate, or destiny, or whatever you want to call it, would have it, Gwen was available.

On Saturday, November 14, Debra hauled Gwen to her new home in Virginia. There she has other horsey friends and will live her life as a riding horse and spoiled diva princess – which is how it should be. Debra, especially, was sad to see Gwen go. After all, she had spent every day with her since Gwen came into our lives. I just floated in and out as needed. But we feel good in the home that she now has. We both knew it was the right situation. We just had to wait for the right time. Gwen will be loved and cared for and that’s all we can ask for in the end. It was our goal from the very beginning…to take this injured, slaughter-bound majestic creature and give her a chance at another life. I’m very proud to say that we did that. Many thanks to Debra for taking such good care of her the last few years. She deserves the vast majority of the credit. Job well done.

 

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Gwen checking out her new surroundings…and making sure there is enough grass to eat.

 

Remember Gwen? July 29, 2014

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It’s been some time since I’ve talked about Gwen. Debra and I got her from Camelot a little over a year ago. If you need a reminder, this is what she looked like at the time.

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And here is Gwen today.

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She has put on weight. Eating is one of her favorite things to do in life. The only remnant of her cut up legs is a small scar on her left front, which was the most injured of the four. She is sound, sassy, happy and very spoiled. We’ve always been curious of her parentage. A number of us thought she was an Anglo-Arab (Arabian/Thoroughbred cross) so Debra sent mane hairs off to Texas A&M for a DNA analysis. They can’t tell you exactly what a horse is, but they can tell you what the horse most likely is. We were surprised with the results. Number 1 and 2 on the list were Morgan and Saddlebred. Number 3 was Arabian. Now that she’s put on more weight, we can see Morgan in her but none of us can really see Saddlebred. So, we’ve decided she is a Morgan/Arabian cross. It doesn’t really make any difference. Gwen is Gwen and we love her regardless, but it was fun to find out.

Debra wanted me to include this quote for Gwen the next time I talked about her. I don’t know the author so I can’t give credit, but it works for Gwen and probably all rescued animals.

“I have nothing to fear, and here my story ends. My troubles are over, and I am home.”

 

Bahea Goes to a Horse Show May 12, 2014

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One of the “tests” that remained with Bahea was how she would be at a horse show. This Saturday I took her to a small schooling dressage show and did training level test 1. Prior to the show, she bathed fine and clipped fine after giving her a few moments to remember what the clippers were. Then she tried to eat them and kept wiggling her muzzle while I was clipping it. She loaded on the trailer perfectly and (along with my horse Nadia) off we went!

Now I decided to show both of the horses on the same day because in that way I was taking up one weekend day instead of two. Good idea in theory, but the girls were definitely more worried about where each other was. Thank goodness that Plantation Valley Stable allowed me to use 2 stalls and my friends Carol and Deb were available to help me. If it weren’t for that I don’t think I would’ve been able to manage them.

Bahea warmed up like an experienced show horse and she stood outside the arena like she’d done it many times before. I’m not sure when her last show was, but it’s been years. Still, she obviously remembered what the scene was all about. Alone in the arena, however, she got nervous and tense. She started grinding the bit and wanted to look around a lot. She tried to be a little extra exuberant in the canter. But overall, she behaved herself well and acted how I expected her to. She scored a 61.45% which was lower than I would have liked but good enough to win her class. Good girl!

Storm clouds rolled in soon after we were done. During a break in the showers we loaded the horses up, but the rain started again soon afterwards. I had the misfortune to drive back to the farm in what felt like a hurricane. It was not a lot of fun and the horses were not happy. It started thundering by the time I arrived at the barn so I quickly managed to unload and get them in before it got too bad. Bless little Bahea’s heart she fell asleep in her stall about 15 minutes later. It was a tiring day for the girl.

Of course, in trying to just get the horses, myself and all our stuff, I completely forgot to take any pictures at the show. Sorry about that folks. But, believe me, she was a cutie all cleaned up!

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Finally a video! April 24, 2014

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With better weather finally the opportunity came to shoot some video of Bahea. You can view it by clicking on the link above. It is unedited and gives a good representation of where she is. She knows a variety of movements, but she obviously still needs to build a lot of strength and suppleness, especially in the canter. Under saddle I’m taking the advice of Cheryl Swing…do 20 to 30 minutes of correct work and quit before she gets too tired. With Bahea’s strong work ethic, she will keep on going even after fatigue has set in. Cheryl also suggested doing some canter leg yield, which is really helping her canter improve.

On the ground, Dr. Deb of PECTS has been doing some massage/chiropractic work focused on her hind end to help loosen and stretch Bahea’s tight muscles. We are also doing hind leg stretches before and after her rides, and I can definitely feel a difference. It’s only a little bit at a time, but slow and steady wins this kind of race.

I’m entering her in a small schooling show on May 10 doing training level. I’m looking forward to her return to the show ring!

 

Bahea the Professional Mare March 18, 2014

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I’m so pleased with Bahea’s progress back to fitness. Her hay belly is going down and her topline is filling in so she looks less like a broodmare that’s been out in the field for a few years and more like a riding horse. My plan of joint supplement and slow, steady work (and let’s face it, warmer temps) has reduced her stiffness and the fluid on the front of her hocks. Focusing on her balance in walk and trot has definitely helped the balance in her canter. It still needs work but I’m at least able to play with it a little bit.

For fun last week I first tried some walk/canter transitions. She took a couple of trot steps then went right into canter. I feel like with a little practice she will be back to having those spot on. Then, since her canter was feeling pretty good, I thought to myself “Why don’t we go across the diagonal and ask for a flying change.” So I did. And she seemed to have no idea what I was asking her to do. She didn’t get upset or fussy – she just kept cantering. So I quickly changed plans. “Okay, let’s see if she can counter canter.” And she did so pretty easily through the short side of the arena. I came across the next diagonal to get back onto the true lead and praised her highly. She didn’t need to know that I asked for a flying change and got no response. She did a good job at counter canter. So I got going the other direction and did the same pattern only skipping asking for the change. Her counter canter going to the right was more difficult for her, but she tried hard and stayed true. What a good girl.

The lessons here? Ones you’ve probably heard before. Have a plan. But when that plan doesn’t work that day, be ready to change it immediately to what the horse needs. Don’t be afraid to play with other skills – like the flying change. But at the same time, don’t punish your horse if he doesn’t do it right or not at all. Remember, you are just playing and any attempt is worth praising. And in my case I figured out right away that Bahea doesn’t know a change so there was no way I was going to get after her. She does, however, counter canter so I praised her for that.

I’m very impressed with Bahea’s work ethic. She knows her job and does it. Work in the arena? Got it. Hack around the field on the buckle? Sure. Of course, I’m still waiting for the weather to improve enough to get her out on the trail, but I don’t know why she will be any different there. She is, after all, a professional Arabian mare.

 

Blogging on a Snow Day February 3, 2014

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1546279_650273495341_1362278932_n (2)I’m blogging today. Why? Because we are having another significant snow event and we only own one reliable bad weather vehicle. Since my husband Donavon is the one with the fulltime job he gets the truck and I stay in the apartment. We live in Maryland. Who would’ve thought we’d have so many days where I was stuck in the apartment? Okay, whining over. Last week it finally started to warm up and the existing snow began to melt. Apparently that is why it is snowing again. We must have snow covered ground. At any rate, I actually managed a few good riding days.

Bahea seems to be happy with her new home and she’s starting to know me, or at least that I always have treats in my left pocket. I’m really starting to like Bahea. At 17 she is old enough to be settled, but chestnut mare enough to have an opinion. The first two times I rode her she tried spooking in a couple of different spots. Her methodology seems to be to stop dead and then shift quickly into reverse. However, it only takes mild encouragement for her to go forward, and I’ve found that she gives up quickly when she realizes it is not successful. Thus I really think the spooking is a test and once deemed worthy (or at least knowing what to do in case of rapidly backing horse) she will quietly accept you as the rider and one in charge.

Because it’s been years since she’s been in regular work I’m keeping things short and simple. We’re doing large figures and transitions at walk and trot on a light contact. Initially Bahea traveled with her head up and back tight but she quickly is offering to stretch out and down which is wonderful. That’s really all I want her to do right now. She has no topline muscle and quite the hay belly so doing this slow stretching work is a wonderful place to begin. She’s less fussy with her head since having her teeth done (duh) and quite amicable about being ridden. I have learned that she is a face scratcher. When we halt she really wants to rub her face on her right leg (and so far only the right leg). Other than that she is very polite.

While I was told she was an alpha mare with other horses, she has yet to work her way into the herd. She seems to still be biding her time. She stays on the outskirts of the other four, but when those girls move across the pasture and go by her, Bahea follows along, making it think it was their idea to include her. Smart girl. She is going to be a treasure for someone.

 

Introducing Bahea January 21, 2014

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I have another horse to play with – a 17-year-old Arabian mare named Bahea. Now…let me start by saying that Bahea is NOT a rescue. She was a youth dressage/jumping horse that’s been hanging out in a pasture for several years. Her owners were getting out of the Arabian business and looking for homes for their horses. Bahea’s first stop as a horse for an at-risk youth program didn’t work out (through no fault of her own…she just wasn’t the right fit). I offered to take her, get her back into riding shape and look for the right person for her. She definitely has some training on her. She does lateral work VERY easily! I can see her being a good horse on which to learn, but she is sensitive, so she is not a beginner horse. I don’t think she would do anything bad (she is a total sweetheart), but I think she would end up going this way and that as she is very responsive to the leg.

Bahea was bred to be a race horse, although she never did. Her sire is Virgule Al Maury, an imported French-bred Arabian stallion who has been one of the most successful French sires in the United States. (http://www.lonechimneyranch.com/virgulealmaury.html) At age 25, he’s still standing stud in Oklahoma. Her dam is a Polish-bred mare named Bintkana (Pierrot x Baska Lana, by Cytrys). Bahea has more of the Polish build to her. She is relatively small and compact, but she has the chestnut coloring with chrome that her sire is known for passing along.

Bahea is very sweet around people…and very food motivated. She barely leaves a scrap of hay behind. The barn manager at Windy Oak mentioned that they just need to figure out what is the right amount for her. I said that she’s the kind of horse that will eat as much as you give her. Hence the considerable hay belly. (Don’t let that picture at the top fool you. She only looks narrow there.)

Bless her heart she is a trooper. I rode her once before taking her so it’s not like she knows me. Last Monday we loaded her up and hauled her to her new residence, Windy Oak Farm (www.windyoakfarm.com). She loaded and traveled like a pro, settled right into her stall and started munching hay.  The next day I led her around the indoor, outdoor and outdoor jumping arenas. Other than looking around with the occasional whinny, she was quiet. Thursday she had her feet done and Friday she had her teeth done. She handled it all with the professionalism of a quietly confident mare that’s been through this a time or two.

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On Saturday, I got on and walked her around the indoor arena. Since she hasn’t been in regular work for several years, I want to bring her back slowly. She does need some work with bridling as she swings her head around. Otherwise she is good in the crossties. She stood quietly to be mounted at the mounting block, but was hollow initially under saddle, and she did get spooky by the open door. Her trick seems to be coming to a dead stop and then backing up. She goes forward with some persuasion and after a few times of confidently riding her past it, she was fine. I’m still not sure if she is really afraid or is testing me. Probably a bit of both. Eventually, she did relax some and stretch down with her head and neck. We did large circles, diagonals, and 3-loop serpentines. It was fine for the first day back.

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I was told by more than one person that she is an alpha mare (she is a chestnut Arabian after all…). So far, however, my mare Nadia is keeping her away from the other horses. Watching herd dynamics is fascinating. Bahea is keeping a respectable distance so far, but I suspect she is buying her time. I look forward to getting to know this mare better and finding the perfect match for her. I think she’ll do great with a small adult or teenage girl who wants to learn lateral work. She still has many good years left to give and she deserves to find a person of her own.