In which the Batthorse takes on Fair Hill

Batt and I finally had our second off property field trip on Sunday. I finally got to meet a friend of mine out at Fair Hill for a nice little trail ride. And it actually happened even though we’ve had to cancel and reschedule thanks to the lovely amount of rain the mid atlantic region has been “blessed” with lately. Actually, we had already cancelled Sunday’s ride on Saturday fearing the trails would be too muddy. But, things looked better on Sunday morning and people were out riding so we uncancelled (good thing because our rescheduled date of the 22nd is showing rain right now).

It was a short ride, but it was pretty successful. Due to the weather, I have NOT worked much with Batt on loading. In fact, I don’t think we’ve loaded in a couple of weeks. Nonetheless, Batt loaded pretty quickly (we had about 25 seconds of hesitation) and then we were off!

What I love about Fair Hill is it’s super close (20 minutes without a trailer). What I hate about Fair Hill is that the trip is filled with tight, twisty, hilly country roads. This is fine day in and day out when I go to work, but less fine with a trailer. So, I decided that I was going to go the longer route. Of course, I wasn’t exactly sure how to get to the covered bridge lot by vehicle (I pretty much only walk to the covered bridge) and my GPS did not like my alternate route. So I ended up on different twisty country roads. I should have just stuck to the ones I know. But, I didn’t have to pass any amish buggies so success?

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Anyway, we met up with my friend Terry and her horse Bailey (they lease a barn in Fair Hill) at the parking lot and once I was tacked up, off we went. Tacking up was surprisingly easy considering Batt doesn’t currently tie. The mounting block was a little less successful since he was convinced that the piece of wood attached to it was going to eat him and there was NO WAY WE COULD STAND CLOSER THAN 2 FEET FROM IT. I ended up using the second step and leaping on. Elegant, no, successful yes. Once on, I almost look my leg on on the wood post since it’s only scary when I’m not mounted?

13177127_10100114204760095_6424462441061312462_nWe stuck with most of the paved trails since it was still muddy, but we had a good time. Batt initially thought that the lady next to the covered bridge messing with her fishing pole was going to kill him once he walked onto the bridge, but after a short fight and a brave Bailey, we walked over as if our argument hadn’t happened. It was a short ride since Bailey’s 28, but a nice introduction to riding at Fair Hill. Hopefully we’ll make this a regular thing.

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Loading after our ride was making me nervous (first time I’d actually load completely by myself) but he walked right on and all was right in the world. Hopefully the more trips we take, the more he realizes that he gets to go to fun places. That horse loves to explore, is brave, and doesn’t spook (unless it’s the second time you pass a tarp, then it’s time to spook). All in all, it was a nice, easy afternoon. It’s sort of nice to haul out for an hour and a half ride and be gone for only about 2.5 hours.

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Now I just need to plan our next adventure and find people to ride with!

Success! Or, a journey at Marsh Creek

After a few weeks of successful loading practice, I decided to load Batt up on Sunday and haul out for a day at Marsh Creek State Park in Downingtown, PA. He’s been loading so well lately that the biggest stressor was actually driving the trailer. But, rather than focus on that, I practiced some positive visualization (so not my strength!), sent Batt in the trailer and stuffed some carrots down his throat, and headed on my way.

Thankfully, the 45 (well, at my trailer driving speed was probably closer to an hour) minute drive was uneventful and we made it to Marsh Creek in one piece. He did move around some (which I tried to ignore), but spent most of the drive facing out the back of the trailer, watching all the traffic. The biggest challenge was probably unloading. For all of his stress about loading, he HATES getting off the trailer forward. His legs shake, he thinks, he hesitates, and finally, at my urging, holds his breath and leaps off… He’d be much happier if I turned him around and let him back out of the step up…. Strange horse.

Once he was off the trailer, it was as if he’d been there his entire life. Lots of exploring and grass eating, but mostly a super happy horse. We grazed for a bit, watched a lesson, explored the barn, and then went for a short ride in the ring. Batty was sound and happy and dead quiet which is even more impressive considering I haven’t ridden him since the blizzard (and not consistently since probably a month or 2 before that).

After our time in the ring (where he made a new friend and then proceeded to scream for his new friend for a minute once he left), I decided to take him for a quick walk down to the water, because, why not take a horse who is in a new place, who hasn’t really been ridden, down to the lake alone? Perfectly reasonable, right? If there were every any doubts that this horse is bombproof…

As expected, he was a star. I don’t think his ears ever went back once (well, he did sulk when we went back to the barn). He was just alert and happy and in explorer mode. That said, he would NOT step on the sand or get in the water. He was happy, but nope, not happening. And then some jogger came over with his dog to get a drink. Watching the dog drink while wading in the water? Yep, my idiot horse walked right in, had a drink, and splashed around.

After our lake journey, I threw him in the paddock for a bit and he made friends and flirted with mares. After a couple hours off, we tacked back up and headed out on a trail ride with some barn friends and customers. There were a few more people then I’d have liked (3 customers, 3 boarders, and me so 7 in all), but he did well. He did NOT like following and would have much preferred being the leader (not that he knew where he was going but obviously that wasn’t important), but stayed as close to the front as he could. We just walked (which was good) and the only really issue came when we had to cross a fallen tree. It was small enough that the horses could step over it, but larger enough that my reformed-ish stopper assumed something was living inside of it and would NOT walk over. Now, we had a horse up our butt and no real space to circle/trot over it/jump it like it was 4 feet tall so I ended up hopping off and the second I was on the other side, he walked/jumped over the scary thing with something living inside. I got back on and we continued on our way. I could have let everyone else cross and then have tried to get him over but this was just easier and faster. Sometimes it’s not the right place to school…

Anyway, the rest of the ride was uneventful and we ended with another splash in the lake. This time splashing as much as possible and contemplating a nice roll. We left before we could do more than consider. We sulked the remaining way back to the barn.

Eventually it was time to head home. He was a little reluctant to get back on the trailer (though we had already reloaded once before the trail ride just to confirm it was possible), but a little clucking and 2 minutes later he loaded himself and home we went (journey was a bit more exciting as we were surrounded at one point by 7 bikers… We survived and came home to a nice beet pulp/electrolyte mash and lots of water.

So happy the first trip is in the books. Hoping this will be a season of lots of fun and exploring!

Progress!

So the trainer I wanted to work with came out this week and this is the result!

We’re practicing daily, but not a bad result for having a pro work with him for about an hour and a half…We’re going to let him ride loose and backwards so I think that should alleviate  some of his stresses and insecurities. He doesn’t like being tied and tying just seems to make everything worse.

Defeated.

I haven’t written in a while. It’s just been a long winter with good and with bad and with vets. Since we all love a good vet bill or 2…

In a minor update of the vet bill related stuff, sometime around Christmas, Subi stopped eating on me. Well, minor correction, he stopped eating grain. This isn’t all that abnormal, especially since he hasn’t loved the grain he’s been on. To make a long story short, last winter, I switched him from Purina Senior Active to Progressive Senior Sweet after the Purina formula changed and Mr. Picky stopped eating it. He loved the Progressive and ate regular meals, licking his bucket clean. Then, 5 bags in, my feed store stopped carrying it. Said feed store also served as the area distributor so all other area feed stores that also carried it, stopped. They also couldn’t special order it. So, I contacted Progressive and found a dealer about 90 miles away and bought from him, 8 bags at a time. But paying cash and driving really far took it’s toll and I stopped around November. So, instead, we tried various feeds. He doesn’t like Triple Crown Senior (too much beet pulp), didn’t like Pennfield. He sort of ate the Safe Choice Senior so we stuck with that. Then he didn’t. He didn’t like Buckeye either. Then he just stopped eating grain.

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Thanks to the lovely workers at my other feed store, I tried the Purina Omalene 500 which he actually eats, semi enthusiastically. Thankfully we only went through 5 different 50 lbs varieties that he wouldn’t eat before settling on the 500. I don’t like sweet feed, but honestly, the best feed in the world means nothing if my horse won’t eat it.

But, during all this drama, I decided to schedule a vet appointment and get Subi’s teeth done and blood pulled, just in case. After a couple reschedules later, the vet finally came out and floated his teeth, which weren’t actually bad at all. He had some swelling around his lower incisors, but that was pretty much it. Vet liked his condition, approved his feed even though she doesn’t like Purina, and we held off blood. She did warn me that they picky thoroughbreds out there tend to get pickier as they get older. Great, just what I need…

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Then, later that month, my Marble dog was diagnosed with happy tail. Several vet visits, wrappings, $$$, 2 cones, and a blizzard later, her tail went necrotic and we had to amputate part of her tail. She’s a chocolate pointer now that her lab tail is missing. She doesn’t care and she’s happy and healthy. Though she was never actually unhappy. And unlike Subi, she never missed a meal.

Then there is my idiot Batthorse with whom I am currently not speaking. He had a great winter and a fun blizzard ride, and emerged from winter fat and happy. Then spring came early and I found myself dreaming of field trips and trail rides.

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This past week, after spending some time driving the trailer and all that, I started Remedial Trailer Loading 101 with Idiot horse. After some initial work, I got confident Batt would pass with flying colors. He was loading without issues. So I made plans to haul out on Saturday for a fun day at Marsh Creek after I finished teaching. Which is way he decided to scare himself to death on Saturday morning (after a minor scare Friday that he seemed fine after) and refuse to load. At all. Ever. I finally gave up Saturday and tried again yesterday and he was even worse. Shut down right from the start. When he shuts down, you can’t get anywhere with him. At this point, I’ll give idiot horse a couple weeks off and see what I’ve got but I think I need professional assistance.

Which is why, after Saturday morning, I decided to immediate reach out to a local trainer know to be great teaching loading. Trainer is happy to work with us and asked that I drop  him off. Which would be fine. Except I can’t get the damn horse on the trailer! If I could get him on, I wouldn’t be in need of assistance. A few others said the same thing. So now I’m left with a trailer, a horse who won’t load, and several miles between me and the trainers who can assist. At this point, I really just need to send him to someone, but I can’t load him and I’m pretty sure that won’t change. So what do I do?

I am so completely defeated. I don’t know that I’ve ever felt this way. Ever. I’ve had frustrations, things haven’t worked, I’ve had fears, but not defeated like this. I am so completely frustrated I can’t  even explain it. We’re also hitting idiot horse’s annual colic season… AHH. So frustrated.

And because I can’t not post a picture of Jiminy…