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.


BaxtersMum said...

OK- I know how you feel. Its a bit of a mental block, and if you're not confident, neither will she be.

And just because her hocks x-rayed clean when she was 3 doesn't mean they won't have deteriorated now. You may have some pain issues with her. Just a thought.

I would throw her butt back in training for 60 days if you can afford it. I would also see if you can ride something else while she's in training so you can get your confidence back in your seat.

And I love you dearly, but you're (we're) too old now to be riding hunt seat. Our bones don't mend so well. Its time to ride in a dressage saddle. I think you'll find it more stable and easier to sit through her upsets - and you'll learn what exactly is going on with her back - especially if all you've been riding in is that saddle we broke in 20 years ago! :)

Hunt seat by nature pitches you forward, which is a less stable position for a rider...

I'll be on the look out for a used Wintec dressage. You'll want an isabell if you can swing it. I wish I had known - I sold my old one the winter before I moved, and it would have been perfect. grrr.

Unfortunately all this takes $$. which is a total bummer.

NOW! The next question is - when is Brian going to let you run away from home to come visit me??? I will cover your ticket, and then throw you on Jericho to help you get over some of your issues.

Filly is lovely. She just needs some polish, and given your nerves, I would send her to someone else to deal with them.

buckpony said...

Hi S!

Thank you for your kind advice and encouragement. That's truly what I am looking for when I post these blogs where I "wa-wa" so much.

It wouldn't surprise me if she had hock problems and such as a result of her past. Dr. Crum seemed to think she was a stunted TB when he vetted her. I have no plans to jump her; my goal is to be able to trail ride her safely one day. It would be nice to be able to do some local dressage shows on her, but we'll save those dreams for way later.

Yes, I would love to put her in training with someone, but the $$ just isn't there. I do have a friend who is a local trainer that is willing to ride her for me. In the meantime, I'll climb on Tonto for my confidence. He's really a good boy and he doesn't intimidate me. (all 11.2 hands of him...)

I use my Passier when I work with Filly. I believe it is an all purpose, but it has a longer flap, more like a dressage saddle. It fits Filly well and I'm comfortable in it. An Isabell would be very nice, but again, as you said...$$. Isn't it lovely being broke? :)

Well, Brian is actually going to be in your neck of the woods the week of Oct. 12, but I couldn't swing this trip. Someone has to keep the kiddos and no one in our family is willing or able at this point. However, maybe we can work something out for this summer? I would love more than anything to visit you, Baxter and Jericho!!!!!!!!!

Thanks again for the encouragement...hugs!

SunnySD said...

What a journey the two of you have had! Good luck with your girl :)

Re. the dressage saddle suggestion? I rode a Wintex dressage saddle for a lesson this spring and was really surprised by how comfortable and well made it was. I know the synthetics get a bad rap, but Wintec seems to have a good reputation - might be worth checking out if you're even contemplating saddle shopping.

P.S. your barn & pasture are looking wonderful! I'm so jealous. Someday...

SunnySD said...

Wintec! Can't seem to hit the C this a.m. - LOL