Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Elegant Approach aka "Filly"

Meet Elegant Approach, affectionately known as "Filly." She came into my life in 2004 when I was fiercely determined to ride again, believing I would have time to work with and train a greeney since my kids were 8 and 3. I found her in the online horse classifieds while searching for ponies. There was no photo, only a description stating she was a 14 hand, dark bay tobiano mare, and the price was reasonable. Her owner and I talked for over an hour about Filly and other horses. She said she'd be around her farm that weekend if we wanted to come have a look. My Mom and I drove to see her that weekend, but the owner wasn't home. We ended up going to a nearby barn to look at another pony on our list so our trip wasn't completely wasted.

Later that week, my Mom and I were able to fit in the time to go meet Filly. She was a very pretty dark bay with minimal white and super cool leg markings complete with freckles! I was smitten. The owner allowed me to groom Filly and tack her up on my own, giving us some time to get familiar with each other. She stood quietly in the crossties while I fussed over her. When I was finally ready, I lead her to the arena and asked her owner to ride her. The owner took her time and slowly put Filly through her paces. Filly was a bit hard to push into the canter, but once she did, she cantered nicely in several circles. I was liking what I saw.

Filly was only 3 to 4 years old; the owner wasn't very sure. She didn't know much about Filly's background, just that she bought her about six months earlier from a girl who rescued Filly from a pretty bad situation. She had been told that Filly was a TB cross, but couldn't confirm it. She also felt like Filly had been abused pretty badly. I am guessing the current owner purchased Filly for next to nothing, put six months of training into her and listed her again. This was fine with me, as Filly was going very nicely and I felt confident I could continue her training.

When it was my turn to ride her, I settled into the saddle and rode her at the walk, trot and canter, both directions. I could hardly get her to canter, but she finally did. She was quiet, yet a little mouthy on the bit; this didn't bother me, knowing she was so young. Once I felt like I had ridden her enough in the arena, I walked her around the owner's pasture with another little girl who was there to take a riding lesson. Filly was well behaved and quiet. I was in love and a deal was made.

Filly arrived in Pike Road on May 7, 2004. I didn't realize how thin she looked until I saw this photo of her. Our wonderful vet came out to complete her vet-check. He aged her at approximately 3 years old and was worried about her hocks. She also had a heart murmur. The vet thought her hocks looked enlarged, so he ordered x-rays. Thank goodness, they came back clean.

The two photos below were taken a few days after we bought Filly. You can see from this photo that Filly was a bit thin and poorly muscled:

Our vet recommended only working her lightly for the next year to allow her to mature a bit.

I followed our vet's orders and only worked Filly lightly. We worked in large circles, mostly at the walk and trot, with a little cantering every now and then. We rode around the pasture and down the dirt road. She was going to be the perfect pony. My Dad snapped the series of photos below. These were taken in July 2004.

From the photos, you can see she is quite lovely (you'll have to forgive my clothes...)

I had no idea this was one of the last times I was going to ride Filly for a looooong time.... The next photos show how much she filled out (and bleached out) from May to July 2004:

We had an unusually wet summer and by the end of July she had abscesses in all four feet! One abscess in her right hind caused a large piece of her hoof to break off. It was about 3 inches wide and the farrier had to make a special shoe to support that hoof. It was a nightmare.

I sure wish I had taken photos of her hoof and the special shoe, but that all happened before my blogging days, so I didn't record any of it. It took a full year for her hoof to grow out.

The below photo was taken in March 2005. By this time I was pregnant and almost due with my third child, and Filly was still lame. The only thing I was able to do with her was brush her. Believe me, she got a lot of brushing.

Check out how much she changed from May 2004 to March 2005:

My daughter was born March 24, so there were a few weeks when I wasn't able to do anything at all with Filly. She continued to be a pasture pet, continued to mature, and continued to heal from the massive abscesses.

These photos were taken in September 2005:

I like this one better than the next one. (Again, compare this photo to the one in May 2004)

Now she was too fat!

By this time, I was longing her again and even put some short rides on her. I think this was around the time my son and I were riding in the front yard and a neighbor sped down the dirt road spooking Filly and Tonto. Tonto ran away with D and Filly bucked me off. None of us were hurt, just bruised and a bit ruffled. Looking back, I think this is where the first problems began with Filly. It seems like ever since that initial toss, I felt anxious on her. The other problem was not being able to ride on a regular basis. With a job, 3 kids, and living 35 minutes from where our horses are, it is hard to fit riding in during the week. We were mostly limited to the weekends. This was the time Filly really needed consistency and training.

This photo is from April 2006:

I had to have hernia surgery in June 2006, so again, I was limited in my ability to ride for quite a while. Filly was completely sound now and was waiting on me to do something with her. Once I was healed up from the surgery, work was busier than ever and free time seemed to elude me.

These photos were taken in April 2007:

One of the glorious times D and I were able to ride around the pasture together without incident.

We rode occasionally, weather and time permitting.

I spent a lot of time doing this:

Praising and longing -

because I still felt uneasy on Filly. She always felt like she had a hump in her back and was ready to explode at any minute. She had a right to, since she had not had much done with her the past 3 years.

Then, the summer came and with it came big problems. The photo below was taken May 20, 2007. Filly was so glossy and beautiful! She had come a long way from the photo taken upon her arrival to Pike Road.

Then by September 2007 she looked like this: http://pikeroadgirl.blogspot.com/2008/08/visit-with-filly.html. She began reacting to bug bites and began rubbing herself to the point of self mutilation. Filly became so agitated, she didn't want to be touched. She was completely and utterly miserable....and head-shy. I couldn't reach up for her ears without her running backwards.
Luckily, a dear, kind friend came to her rescue and allowed me to move Filly to her barn. The bugs were minimal there, so after a while, Filly stopped rubbing. She grew her mane, tail and body hair back. When she was healed up, my friend worked with Filly and me and tried to get us going again. We spent a lot of time on the longeline, but Filly had developed some very nasty habits. She'd be going around at the trot nicely, then with no warning would be flying backwards. She never reared, but she did this running backwards thing several times. I came off every time and lost more confidence with each fall.
So here we are in July 2009:

My son, D, wants to ride Filly so badly. I've longed him on her a few times at the walk and a little at the trot, but nothing demanding, or too long. I am so afraid for a blow up.

I've tried talked to a trainer in our area and she has agreed to put some rides on Filly for me when I am ready to begin working her consistently. She is only slightly head shy when you mess with her right ear and allows me to bridle her with no problems now. Every time I am around her, I play with her ears. That's an improvement.

She has truly not done anything THAT disastrous, I am just a weeny!
Photo from August after I longed her for a bit, then bathed her:
Photo from early September before working her. I actually got on her this day, but didn't have anyone to take photos. I rode her for about 5 minutes, then got off. Since this day, it has been raining off and on so much, I haven't been able to do anything with her other than brush her.
I hold out hope that once she is finally in our back yard, I can and will work with Filly consistently enough that we can at least hit the trails and enjoy being together. Until then, I guess I will have to keep telling myself to cowgirl up and work through my fears while Filly stuffs her face and enjoys just being a horse.

No News

Well, nothing to report on the fence/barn progress at this time. Everything is at a standstill: 1)because of all the rain we'd have the last couple of weeks and 2) we are trying to refinance our home and it has been more difficult than we could have ever imagined. It looks like we are getting 2 new air conditioners for our home though...much needed and a long story.

Keeping our fingers crossed that we will continue with the progress soon. The rain has been great for the grass, but not for anything else!

I was hoping to get D on Tonto again this past weekend, but it was so wet, there was no place to ride. Same with lunging Filly - no safe, dry place to work, so we had another spa day. They are all shedding their summer coats getting ready to poof out into their winter fluff. I'm dreading the winter...too much mud and cold for me. Oh well, I'd better get ready for it anyway!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Midnight Magnolia aka "Maggie"

It seemed like time to do another post on a beloved horse. Meet Midnight Magnolia, loving called Maggie. She is a registered Quarter Horse and is now 31 years old. I first met Maggie back in 1985 when a friend (Horse Crazy Girl #1 from an earlier post) owned her. She had several horses and would let me ride Maggie since my pony Buck was too much to handle at the time. This little mare was the gentlest, most level headed horse I have ever been around...and thank goodness for that because we did A LOT of stupid stuff with our horses when we were younger....

HCG#1 decided to sell Maggie in March of 1986. I had become so attached to her, I couldn't bear the thought of someone else owning her. My parents were kind enough to buy Maggie for me on March 22, 1986. That was the same day HCG#1 rode my pony Buck for me and got bucked off, breaking the growth plate in her ankle (I think that is why I can so easily remember the date...it was one of the greatest days and worst days of my life!). The break required several surgeries, then the doctors decided to take the growth plates out of both ankles. Poor girl, she was in 2 leg casts and a wheel chair for several months recovering from that ride.

Below is a photo of Maggie about 2 months after purchasing her. Not very conformationally desirable, but she made up for those conformation flaws with her kindness and sanity. She was exactly what a idiotic 12 year old needed and every parents' dream horse for their child.

Here is a photo of Maggie in December of 1987. I had brushed an incredible amount of prairie mud off of her and was so pleased with myself, made my Dad take some photos of a cleaner Maggie. I should have had him take "before" and "after" photos! Don't you love how I put her in a leather halter with a stud chain for her photo shoot? (what was I thinking??) Poor girl - if you need an example of "sickle hocks" or "long back," she is the poster child...

Here we are at HCG#1's barn in December 1987, getting ready for one of many trail rides. I must have lived in that sweatshirt...it is in several of these old photos!

Ready for another trail ride - HCG#1 and her big grey Jesse. That's HCG#2 riding double. We were all close friends and it wasn't until a little later HCG#2 got her own horse.

Here we are at our first horse show. I believe this was the summer of 1987, but can't remember exactly. I still have and use all of that tack!!!

Ready for our Hunter Under Saddle class!

(I wish I had realized my saddle pad was too far forward...)

A photo my Dad took in the fall of 1987:

Riding in HCG#2's future pasture early one fall morning:

In April 1988, I was preparing Maggie for another little open show in our area. As I wrote in an earlier post, I had bathed her and staked her out on a long rope to graze in the yard while she dried. I learned a hard lesson that day - you never stake a horse on a long nylon rope. They are not like dogs. Maggie got the rope wrapped around her back right pastern and just about sawed her foot off. I was heart broken and poor Maggie was in a lot of pain. Our wonderful vet came and cleaned the wound, wrapped it and taught me how to care for her. It took over a year for the wound to heal.

While Maggie was healing, I focused on riding my pony Buck. We figured out he bucked because he loved to jump. Once we concentrated on jumping, he never bucked again, and so began his show career in hunters and Pony Club.

Once Maggie healed up enough to ride, I decided it was time to find another horse. It was so hard making the decision to sell her, but my Mom knew a little girl who was looking for her first horse. Maggie was the perfect one for this little girl. So, in 1989, I sold Maggie. She changed ownership many times after that, but thankfully stayed in the Pike Road area, so I was able to keep track of her.

The girl I sold her to outgrew the "horsey" thing after a little while and decided to put Mags up for sale again. Another horse friend of mine bought Mags and didn't have a place to keep her, so we boarded Maggie for her for a while. It was nice to have her back "home" for a short time. When this friend got busy with school activities, once again Mags went up for sale. Another horse friend bought her for her daughter and Maggie went to live at the training/boarding barn where I worked. Once her children outgrew Maggie, she was sold to the lady who owned the barn for a lesson horse. Maggie stayed at this farm for several years, living a wonderful life getting loved on and teaching kids how to ride. Some how she bowed a tendon and had to retire.

It wasn't long after Maggie's retirement in 1996 that my shetland pony, Amber, was bitten by a snake and passed away. Buck was alone again, so the barn owner asked if I'd like to have Maggie back. It wasn't hard to answer that question! Since the barn was right behind our house, I walked over that afternoon and got Maggie. I put her in the pasture with Buck, they sniffed noses, sighed heavily and started grazing nose to nose. It was like Maggie never left our place. I was honored to be able to retire Maggie at our place. She deserved to live out her days in a forever home.

Every spring, once Maggie's winter coat had shed out, she broke out in the most amazing dapples!

Buck and Maggie were inseparable:

The below photo was taken after Buck lost his right eye to an injury:

Below is Maggie after her bowed tendon healed, approximately 1998. She was sound enough for some light riding and was kind enough to cart my son around, even when he was being a comedian. (and now I see what a bad Mom I am! No hard hat and no shoes on my kid!)

D all dressed up in his cowboy garb, loving on Maggie:
(the hotwire was off in case you were wondering...)

Maggie never gets a break - below she allows my daughter to sit on her.
She doesn't seem to mind as long as grass is involved.

The below photos were taken in 2007. Maggie was still up to light riding then, so D and I would ride around the pasture on occasion. (Look how short D's legs are compared to the last post!)

Maggie on her 29th birthday, May 8, 2007:

Photo of Maggie taken in summer of 2007:

The below photos were taken on Maggie's 30th birthday, May 8, 2008:

My son, B giving Maggie her birthday carrot:
She looks pretty good for 30!

More recent photos taken in February 2009:
Maggie and her little herd. She is still alpha mare (although it is hard to tell from this photo....)

Maggie and Filly staring at my children running through the pasture:

Occasionally Maggie has a burst of energy and takes of trotting. Her body sags a lot and she is thinner than I would like her to be, but overall she seems happy and healthy.

Most recent photo from a couple of weeks ago after spa day (Labor Day):

At 31, Maggie is doing surprisingly well. It seems as if her hearing and eye sight aren't what they used to be, but hey, for being 93 in "horse years," (according to our farrier) I guess it's to be expected.

Maggie used to be THE horse to trail ride on. I can't remember her ever spooking at anything. She was a fast walker and loved to go. She didn't care what direction you pointed her in, she was willing to go anywhere. Swimming was one of her favorite things, too. We used to swim in all of the local ponds during the hot summers. Several of us crazy horse girls would line our horses up in the water and swim circles around them. Like idiots, we used them as diving boards, but they stood there, so patiently, seeming to enjoy it. Thankfully my parents have been kind enough to keep Maggie all of these years later. Since she returned to our Pike Road farm in 1996, I have married and had 3 children. We all love Maggie so much and it will be hard to say good-bye when it is time. In the meantime though, Maggie deserves a special retirement home - and it's our turn to take care of her.