Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Don't throw me away..... I am Somebody's Magical Unicorn

How many of you look at the horse sale ads on social media? Yeah me too. Even if you are not in the market for a new horse it is always fun to look and dream. In a world of instant social media they are hard to miss. If you are a member of any one of hundreds of horse related pages these days you are bound to see them, in fact, they are in your face whether you are looking for a horse or not. However, if you are horse shopping for your new perfect one of a kind seemingly magical unicorn riding partner this can be a daunting task.  Horses come in all shapes and sizes with a wide range of  training or potential talent. Mares , Geldings, and Stallions oh my..... Bay, Chestnut, Grey, Black, and every variation in between. Chrome no chrome the list is endless. I haven’t even touched on the prices. There are horses for every budget. They range from FREE to “Holy Cow I just bought a new Lexus”.  In this new world of Social Media you can even post your request to one of these many pages:  ISO: My magical unicorn (fill in criteria here) and poof instantly you have tens of hundreds of people dropping horses in your lap at the click of their mouse.  With this current trend and so many horses on the market it should be simple, RIGHT? Well here is the thing..... Depending on what you are searching for your magical unicorn may be right under your nose and you don’t even realize it, because that horse doesn’t come in the shiny perfect package. Your Unicorn’s wrapper might be a little fuzzy or a little dull. It might come with an old healed injury, even some hardware, lets add in a superficial scar or two that tells a story of it’s old career that it is no longer suited for.  This might not describe your unicorn but it does describe some of the magical unicorns I have placed into wonderful homes after careful rehabilitation from race career ending injuries. For some of these horses euthanasia was even initially suggested. Do not mistake me for a bloody do gooder who thinks that a horse should never be euthanized, that is not what I am saying at all; however I do believe that there are horses, that given the chance with proper rehabilitation and time, can go on to have VERY successful careers after a catastrophic injury. I want to share just a few of these stories with you, if for no other reason than to educate. The fear of the unknown is one of the greatest things as a horse owner you can experience. I am willing to share not only my experience, but my success stories with you in hopes that maybe the unicorn you have been looking for has been overlooked because of it’s packaging.

Don and Guapo
Curve Ball (Guapo) and Super Slam (Salem) are examples of  Perfect Unicorn’s coming in not so perfect packages. Curve Ball retired from racing with a sesamoid fracture
Guapo's Sesamoid Fracture
so severe that euthanasia was on the table. He now belongs to Don Nelson who not only trail rides him but Guapo is also used for the Jumping H Farm lesson program. Guapo has gone on to win numerous ribbons under saddle from advanced beginners to intermediate riders.  He was overlooked by many riders who just wanted a pleasure, dressage mount. Even his good looking package was not enough for some to take a chance on him.

Salem on the left and Guapo on the right
For Don and the students at Jumping H Farm he is their unicorn. Solid on the trail and in the show ring Guapo has it all. I see story after success stories about horses going on from sesamoid fractures to have unlimited great careers. While every case is individual and it does depend on the placement of the fracture, with careful rehabilitation a second career is possible.

Super Slam or Salem as he is affectionately called by his owner Beverly Crews is another love story worth telling. Retiring from the track with some knee hardware to repair a slab fracture, Salem is another horse that some would shy away from.
Salem's knee hardware
Salem as a flying monkey
I see it all the time...
 ISO: (followed by "No previous Injuries"). I get it, why invite trouble you say, it's horses like Salem, that's why. This is a horse that you can put absolutely anyone on at anytime. He will trail ride anywhere you point him. He is darned near unflappable. Salem has taken more than one Jumping H Farm student around the show ring to victory. His owner Beverly, has also been the catalyst for our farm being Grand Champion two years in a row in the Halloween costume classes.  He truly is a unicorn dressed in a black package, and sometimes dressed as a flying monkey.

Centrifical Force (Apollo) and Samantha
Centrifical Force or Apollo as he is affectionately known to his owner Samantha is probably one of our greatest success stories. I say that because Samantha is an upper level event rider who contacted me several years ago looking for her next forever mount. We talked briefly on the phone, I told her the horses I had available, Salem at the time being one of them, and she scheduled a visit. I knew the moment she stepped into the stirrup on Salem he was not what she wanted or needed. Her dad looked over in my rehabilitation paddock and saw Apollo. I might add that he was jumping, bucking and kicking his heels up as if to say "HEY see me over here." Apollo came into the Jumping H Farm Re3 program with a bowed tendon. The initial vet evaluation actually stated "Ruptured Tendon."  Apollo's rehabilitation took over 9 months of careful care. He had been in his rehab paddock for a few months and was ready to begin his training. This handsome colt was wired for sound. When Samantha told me about her desire to do upper level eventing we discussed Apollo's injury at length. She and her father decided to take a chance on this spirited young horse and it paid off in a big way. Over the last few years Samantha and Apollo have soared through the levels of
eventing. From the baby maiden level all the way through to training level, even winning year end Champion and Reserve Champion awards two years in a row in different divisions at the North Carolina Dressage and Combined Training association the sky is the limit for this pair.  Samantha has a talent for seeing past the plain wrapper and the dings and dents. She is a huge advocate of the off track thoroughbred (OTTB) and their versatility. She adopted another project horse from us, Imaginary Weekend, Trip for short.
Imaginary Weekend (Trip)
This 17+ hand gangly giraffe of a horse captured her heart We both knew Trip had talent and a good mind but he was going to need a serious nutrition program. He came from the track a bit on the lanky and thin side. It takes a lot of groceries to straighten out a horse of that size but Samantha was up for the challenge. It took about a year for her to get Trip in a good place health wise. All the while he was in light work to help fit and muscle him up.This horse had a wonderful brain with a thinner package. He is now in his new forever home with a great partner.

I have one more success story I want to share. This one is very near and dear to my heart. If you own horses for very long you know that sometimes there is "That horse." that one horse for whatever reason does something to you when you look into his eyes. Best Five is that horse. Best came from the Parx track in PA as almost all of the OTTBs I rehab do. Danielle with Turning for Home called me one day about Best. The conversation was a grim one.
Best Five
Sometimes the story is not all sunshine and rainbows. Best had been retired with a less than illustrious career as a racehorse, he only had 16 career starts with a 2-1-1 record and just over $42,000 in winning; for a colt that sold at Keenland as a yearling for $190,000 he just did not perform. Sadly even with only 16 starts his knees were shot. His x-rays were awful. He was riddled with arthritis and it was suggested he might not even be pasture sound. However, Best apparently didn't read his x-rays. The conversation Danielle and I had went something along the lines of: "Nicole can we give him 6 months of pasture rest? I have looked this horse in the eye. He is not ready yet. If things are not significantly better in 6 months we will do the right thing."  It was the best (no pun intended) decision Danielle and I ever made. Six months turned into 10 but all was well with Best. Not only was he sound, he was REALLY sound. When it was time to adopt him out, we all cried. They were mixed emotions of tears of joy and sadness, remember I said there is always that one. Eight months later I got a call from his new owners, they had to give Best up due to no fault of his own. They had some life changes that prevented them from keeping Best.
Bill and Best showing
Sometimes life works like that. The good news is we had our Besty boy back at the farm. I had just recovered from a broken leg and he was the best and safest mount for me to do my rehabilitation on. Since then Best has gone on to teach many a rider the basics on the trail and in the show ring.  

Over the past almost 4 years with Jumping H Farm Re3 Adoption and Therapy, I have placed numerous horses with people just like you and me. That person looking for their perfect horse their "unicorn." Many of these horses are in normal everyday riding homes where the owners like to do a little of everything. They want to enjoy their horse and it be a part of the family. They want to trail ride one weekend and go to a horse show of (insert discipline here). They want their children to be able to groom and love on their horse just like they do. Since February of 2014 I have placed 49 horses in new loving homes with new careers. Of those 49 horses over one third were not in "perfect packages." They had some hardware like Salem, a healed sesamoid like Guapo or a healed tendon injury like Apollo. Sometimes they just need a little TLC like Trip or some well deserved down time like Best. In any case every one of those horses deserved a chance to shine. They were not anyone's first choice but they were certainly somebody's BEST Choice and in the end they were someone's magical unicorn.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Life's Teaching Moments, Some Days I Need to be Reminded.

These are in fact the same thickness.
Some days with all that goes on at the farm it is all I can do to remember to put socks on in the morning. Not even matching socks, just socks that my boots won't eat. You know the kind. Take 10 steps and you are stopping to pull them back up from the toe of your boot.  If I am lucky the socks are somewhere close to the same material and thickness. Uneven thickness is annoying as well. One thick sock, one thin sock. One foot gets hot, the other slides around in your boot. Whew Nicole, focus....

With farm life comes daily everything or twice daily as the case may be. Keeping up with 22 horses, 6 dogs, 4 cats, a teenager, and a significant other can become pretty daunting. Luckily both Genna and Don can forage for food assuming I remember to go to the grocery store. Throw in a full time job with an hour commute each way and poof my day is mapped out for you from 7:00am until 9:00pm or later.

So yesterday I had just gotten to work and my cell phone rings. It is an out of state call, Vermont. Flipping through my mental Rolodex, "Do I know anyone from Vermont"? The answer is no. Second ring.... Sales call or horse call, answer or goto voice mail... decisions. "Oh what the hell, Good Morning, Nicole speaking" (Forced Smile to seem chipper).  On the other end of the phone was a nice lady looking for a trail ride, on a Monday no less. I politely explained I am trapped in corporate america prison until 5pm and that I could do a trail ride at 6:30pm, mentally praying that I had not forgotten some after school function Genna might have and that she would be able to get horses ready. We set a time for 6:30 pm. It dawned on me to ask how old her son was. "He is 7", she replied.  
Well Damn Damn Damn and Double damn. I didn't want to disappoint her but I generally don't take out kids on the trail younger than 10 unless they have experience. I sighed to myself and kept the trail ride appointment. Mentally kicking myself and dreading the experience. Young children on the trail are especially challenging. Don't get me wrong I love teaching kids, in a ring, with a fence, with no grass or trees for the horse to stop and snack on.

Fast forward 8 hours and the 1 hour drive home. I won't lie, after a full weekend of horse activities, horse show and full lesson day on Sunday, taking out a trail ride was not what I had on the agenda. Much less a trail ride with a 7 year old. Historically those rides go one of two ways... really good or OMG really bad. As a matter of fact Mondays are generally a decompress day. Luckily when I got home Genna and David had the ponies ready. The enthusiastic mother and her less than enthusiastic son had arrived. I have never seen a child so obsessed with and worried about the location of the flying insects at my farm. Do they sting? Do they bite? Why do you have so many? What is that? (do they not have stink bugs in Vermont?) A feeling of doom washed over me and a flash back to the summer of 2012 when the teenage girl petrified of flying insects launched herself off the side of one of my horses into the gravel to escape a horsefly or bee while the horse was walking. (that my friends is a tale for another day) Snapping back to the present, we took the horses into the ring to begin mounting. Another 20 minutes later we were mounted and ready to ride. I fully expected to be leading this young man shortly after we started the trail. I just knew it.  Fifteen more minutes in and we were in the mouth of the trail when the full whining meltdown is starting to commence. I do not like whining, I do not like it Sam I Am.  Rocky, this young man's mount,  was being his normal self ambling down the trail slower than a 3 toed sloth, if that is even possible, stopping in true Rocky fashion, to snack on the trees down the trail. The young man was pulling back on the reins and kicking at the same time, which Rocky purposely ignored as he continued to snack.

I took a deep breath. "Take your hand and slide it forward on your right rein and pull it to your knee. Kick him and tell him to WALK ON."

"But I can't", he whined.

"Can't never could", I said sternly. I went on to explain what that phrase meant in plain English to a 7 year old hell bent on sabotaging his first trail experience. Not on my watch. I repeated myself. He grabbed the rein, pulled hard right, kicked Rocky and yelled, "GO". Rocky continued to snack.

"Tell him to WALK ON," I repeated.  "Why," he whined. "Because he doesn't understand GO," I said. It is really in those moments that I wish I studied enough of a foreign language to say something completely sarcastic to the child so they can say "HUH" to punctuate my point. My horses know "walk, trot, canter, whoa, walk on, back, etc." you get the point.

Have I mentioned I HATE whining? Anyway we managed to make it down the wooded part of the trail after about 10 minutes. All the while I repeated myself about 200 times. "Slide your right hand forward and pull the rein to your knee and get his face out of the trees. Kick him and tell him to walk on." I said it with a smile and all the "Look you are doing it" and  "Good Jobs" I could muster. Rocky loves when little kids ride him. I think he enjoys torturing them. He is guaranteed to be able to snack at least part of the trail. I know he does it on purpose. Fast forward 15 more minutes. We had been chit chatting and I repeated instructions at least 10 more times and then it happened. This young man had a break through. Gone was the whining, THANK GOD, replaced by the "I am doing it, I know how to ride now!" He was so loud they may have heard him in Vermont.

 Both his mom and I chuckled a bit and continued on the trail. By the time we were headed down the home stretch 3/4 of the way home, not only was he successfully navigating through the trail he was singing old western songs. His mother explained that he was fascinated by westerns and watched them all. When we got back to the barn he thanked me and told me he had a great time. He asked to feed Rocky, he helped me untack and groom Rocky. His mother pulled me to the side and explained to me that her son was adopted and he had tons of anxiety issues when introduced to new situations coupled with ADHD. She went on to explain the fact that he even made it through the trail without a total meltdown was amazing.

Sometimes I get caught up in the daily grind and forget why I teach, invite adults and children, complete strangers to the farm to ride.  I grumble and moan,  sometimes all I want to do is come home and crash on the couch after a day at work. However 100% of the time I always feel better when I go to the barn and ride a horse or teach a lesson. I can tell you that I enjoy every time I see the smile on a kids face when they finally figure out they are controlling a 1000lb animal. Or see a kid who in every other aspect of their life lack the focus to get through their day without being reprimanded give me 100% of their focus to me and the horse they are riding. This young man is now hooked. His mother now has another tool in which to help her son overcome some of his anxiety and focus issues. All because I answered a Vermont phone number and agreed to take a trail ride. It was an hour and a half well spent.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Seems like yesterday....304 days and 15 horses later JHF Re3 Adoption & Therapy is a reality

It has been three hundred and four days since the trip to Pennsylvania to pick up the first two thoroughbreds off the track.  Three hundred and four days since retired race horses had a place in Surry County, NC where they could rehabilitate be retrained and rehomed. Ten months since the  logo and the name JHF Re3 made its debut.
Where has the time gone? I know it is cliché but it really does seem like yesterday. If I really look back, it was over a year ago when the planning started, but in my mind I wasn't getting my hopes up until the first two horses stepped onto JHF Re3 soil. When those horses stepped off the trailer, that is when this dream became a reality. There was no turning back, as if I ever would, after all this was what I have always wanted. I love this life and what I do. Make no mistake this passion is not for the faint of heart. Each and every horse I bring to the farm I treat as if they are my very own horse. Every horse that comes to this farm from the track deserves to have a Re3 in their life. From those who are not fast enough and never won a dime for their owners, to the War Horses with hundreds of thousands in winnings in their stat sheet, and every horse in between.
Needtogetpaid aka Money with War Horse status
They deserve to have that chance, to be a horse, to have another career, to have their very own human or family of humans to spoil them rotten. There is no greater joy than to see a horse that has come from the track, their home a stall except when being worked or handled, transform from a honed racing machine doing their job, racing and winning or losing as the case may be, to a beloved member of someone's family.

Please understand this is not an overnight transformation nor do I typically "Rescue horses from the track." I work with other non profit organizations or private individuals who are established, whose goal is to keep racing thoroughbreds from being disposable once their racing career is through. There is good and bad in every facet of the equine industry. Racing is no different. I am not here to debate the good the bad or ugly, my job is to "do something" to give back, to give hope. I do this by promoting a breed of horse that generally gets a bad rap in the equine world among some equine fanatics. To keep people from pigeon holing what these horses are capable of.  My job, no really it is my duty, to dispel the myth that thoroughbreds are crazy.  I tell people all the time, they are not crazy, they are just smarter than most humans. Like any other athlete these horses need time to decompress from race life. They are professional athletes on strict regimented schedules that serves to do one thing, make them the best in their field on race day. It takes time for these horses to adjust from the racing world. They have to relearn to be a just a horse. A life that gets paddock and pasture turn out, that involves socializing with other horses, even a life that doesn't involve a riding ring. These are major life changes to some of these horses. Some just need that time to realize they no longer have to go fast. Once they learn that then most are content to walk, trot and canter around and have the easy life.
Some thoroughbreds love the thrill of competition, others want to cruise around the woods. Those horses, the ones that live for the competition, are the ones that go on to make wonderful jumping, eventing, foxhunting, barrel racing, or whatever competition mounts. They are not insane or crazy, but they have their niche and as humans we need to identify with them.

I have been very blessed in this life I have chosen. Like all things this path is not without it's ups and downs. Even its heartache. The heartache is tough, I won't lie. You have to be able to make the tough choices, the best choices for the horse and not for you.   Not every horse is cookie cutter. People have to remember not every horse is going to rehabilitate the same. A big part of the rehabilitation lays within the heart and soul of the horse. If you give them time and you really pay attention, they will tell you what they are best suited for. Time and patience are key in this field. These animals are not commodities to me, nor will they ever be such. I believe in my heart this is why I gravitated more towards the non-profit side of this business. To help and make a difference. To give these horses a voice, to educate people. Not only to help the horses in need but to help the people as well.

For some people the greatest therapy is a horse. It doesn't have to involve even riding, but the brushing the caring for another living creature besides yourself. Horses have great power to touch the heart of humans. Horses have been used in quotes for centuries.... one of my favorites
A horse is the projection of peoples' dreams about themselves - strong, powerful, beautiful - and it has the capability of giving us escape from our mundane existence.

There is no greater joy then matching a horse with it's new owner. Knowing that you have rehabilitated that horse to the best of your ability and placed it with a person that you have personally worked with so their new partnership can be at its best. I want to set these horses up for success, I want to set the people up for a successful partnership with these horses. There must be a connection, if there isn't, more often than not, it won't work. So far this year I have had the pleasure of rehoming 8 horses. Each horse wonderful in its own way. Every one loved by their new owners.  I still have other thoroughbreds in various stages of rehabilitation and retraining who will eventually go on to new careers.

Needtogetpaid aka Money with his
new owner Jake H.
If you ever wonder why it is that I chose this path, look at the picture to the right sent to me by Jake H. It is of him and Money, look at those faces. The duck face is pretty funny. Look how happy Money is. After 48 starts on the track, over 353,000 dollars in earnings, this war horse is getting to be this teenagers forever horse. The memories these two will make will last Jake a lifetime, and Money, well he gets a new lease on life. For Jake and Money and every other horse I have rehabbed, for every person and family I have helped find a new equine partner. That is why I do it. It is my path and it is my calling.

2014 has been a incredible year of Blessings for JHF Re3 Adoption & Therapy, for the horses, their new owners, and for me. 

For more information on our horses and our mission visit our website at www.re3ottb.com

JHF Re3 Adoption & Therapy has applied for its 501(c) non-profit status. We hope in the future to not only rehabilitate horses for new careers and homes, but to also help people by using equine based psychotherapy. 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

WHAT WAS I THINKING......How Re3 started and where it is now, the birth of JHF Re3 Adoption and Therapy

Wow seven months, some days feel like seven years, other days seven hours. This crazy world of horse rehabilitation that I chose to embark on as a new turning point in my equestrian life. Why you ask, why would any sane person (that in itself is an oxymoron in the horse world, all horse people are crazy we are only separated by degrees) choose to take on these used up commodities, full of emotional baggage, crappy footed,  thin skinned, ulcer ridden, crazier than a fruit bat, and whatever other derogatory stigma that comes to mind when you think of off the track thoroughbreds (OTTBs), it's simple, THEY NEED MORE CHAMPIONS!!! You hear it all the time, admit it. If you are a horse person the acronym OTTB strikes almost as much fear in some horse people's hearts as Arabian!  GASPPPPP I just used both in the same sentence. Yes as a matter of fact I did, and I might say it again. The truth is, the problems that follow any breed are created mostly by humans, but that is a blog for another day. Let's get back to the blog at hand. What was I thinking, oh yeah,  these horses need a second chance.  Thoroughbreds tend to have it a little rougher than most breeds. They are bred mostly to race. To race fast, for as long as they can and not break down. The sad truth is, not all of them are fast, some of them do break down. Where do they go from there, after they can't race any more? Well there are two options, #1 to slaughter, or #2 to farms like mine, with the help of organizations like Turning for Home at the Parx Track in Philadelphia.
Did you just cringe at the mention of SLAUGHTER? Good you should have. I am not here to debate the good, bad, or ugly of the horse slaughter world. I am here to tell you that I have chosen to do my part, albeit a very small part, to keep these animals, most under the age of 6, who have their whole lives ahead of them, from being sent to Canada or to Mexico to slaughter. Did you know horses can live into their 30's? Most race horses career ends by age 6, some go longer, but even so do the math. There are a lot of years left to account for. *Stepping off of soapbox* 
Murderinthefirst Racing
Murder on the trails
Several years ago I adopted my horse, Murderinthefirst, through a partner farm of Turning for Home. It was love at first site. He had been rehabbed from a tendon injury, but when he came back to the track, he was no longer fast. His heart wasn't in it anymore. He was perfectly sound for another career but he no longer had the speed to run. He needed a new career at age 6. Just like these thoroughbreds, sometimes you just have to find your niche. "Find a need, fill a need." I have worked with and around horses for 30 years. I have owned my farm for 17 of those 30 years introducing people of all ages to the joy of horses, through riding lessons, horse shows, camps, and guided trail rides. Working with these thoroughbreds was my chance to give back to the horse community. To help a breed that truly deserves to have a second chance at a new life, a new career that would carry them through to old age. So that these horses may have their own person that would love and care for them through the rest of their days. After many discussions, number crunching, and red tape, the birth of JHF Re3 Adoption and Therapy was born.  We started with just two horses. White Rabbit and
Seranading Shari
Seranding Shari.
White Rabbit
Since the arrival of Rabbit and Shari we have adopted these guys along with six others to amazing homes. I won't lie this isn't easy, this is not for the faint of heart. With great accomplishments come great heartache. Not every horse can be saved. Sometimes these guys do come with physical or emotional baggage that prevents them from moving on to an awesome home. My heart aches for those. I have a pity party, I cry, I get frustrated, I get mad at the world, the world that did this to these beautiful animals, these horses didn't choose this. Then I come to terms with it, I don't like it, but I come to terms. I do this for the horses. It can't all be sunshine, butterflies, and rainbows, or everyone would do it. I bask in the joy every time one of these magnificent creatures trust me enough to move forward in their training. I get a grand smile each time I take one of these majestic creatures on the trail for the first time and they prove to the world that they are not "Crazy OTTBs" and hack down the trail like they have been doing it all their lives. My heart sings each time I adopt one of these loving animals to a home where I know they will be loved and spoiled (I cry a little too, but these are happy tears). I smile with every text message that includes a picture of an owner with their new companion. That is why I do it. To share with the world what I already know. HORSES ARE IN FACT THE BEST THERAPY.

JHF Re3 Adoption and Therapy has filed for our 501(c) non-profit status. We are in a fledgling stages and have had tremendous support from the horse community. All of our horses are vetted at the track and evaluated for a future career options. All known issues are fully disclosed to potential adopters. Adopters are encouraged to consult with a veterinary professional when adopting any of our horses. Adopters are required to fill out an application and sign a No-Auction/First Right of Refusal contract. We strive hard to match the right horse to the right adopter. We understand sometimes things happen and we are always willing to take a horse back into our program. We are currently accepting donations that can be retroactively written off on your taxes once the non-profit status application is approved. Our first concern is always for the horse and matching that horse with you. We are dedicated to the well being of all of the animals in our care. If you have any questions please feel free to contact us through our website. www.re3ottb.com.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Some people find stray dogs and cats...... I bring home stray horses. The journey of "Damned Spot"

As most of you have figured out by now life is not boring at Jumping H Farm. I feel like sometimes I am on an episode of "Punked" or at the very least there is a film crew in the bushes throwing weird stuff my way to see how I will react. So with that being said on with my story.

Our trail ride started out like most others. It was a beautiful day in March and two college girls were in town on spring break and wanted to go on a 1hour trail ride. Seems simple enough this happens all the time. We saddle up, and off we went. We joked with the girls about how we didn't charge extra for any entertainment that happened on the trail. Maybe that was my first mistake, putting it out in the atmosphere that something could potentially happen.... Who am I kidding we NEVER have boring trail rides. Something out of the ordinary always seems to come our way. Traveling a normal trail we hear a large piece of equipment in the woods, but didn't think much of it. When you live in the foothills sounds travel and you never quite know where it is. In this case however, a man operating a large backhoe was doing work on the property where we were riding. Throwing up our hands and waving we continued on our journey, I was proud of all the horses they passed him without spooking once. Continuing on our selected path we made the first loop and now suddenly the man on the backhoe was behind us. He was lumbering forward on his huge orange Kubota backhoe motioning for me to come and talk to him, however he had not stopped his backhoe or shut it off. There was not a snowballs chance in Hades of my horse Murder walking up to that huge Gozilla looking machine. Didn't that man know all large orange tractors, or any tractor for that matter eats horses? Especially large black off the racetrack horses named Murder. "Good lord MAN don't you have enough sense to turn that thing off."  I was thinking that in my head, actually there were a few choice 4-letter words in that thought but I will keep this PG.


 Murder started doing a version of Gangum Style that would have riveled PSY. I put my hand up to signal for him to stop his attack before Murder died of heart failure, and gave him my most serious, ARE YOU FREAKIN KIDDDING ME FACE, and he finally turned Godzilla off.

He asked if we were missing a horse? "Nope all mine are at home accounted for," I said thinking to myself well duhhhhhhh if I were I would be out scouring the county for it. However all my neighbors know my horses get out in teams. It is usually the one escape artist that breaks out and leads his merry band of followers to the choice orchard grass field or the neighbors garden depending on the season. We chatted for a moment about whose it could be all the while I am thinking this man has lost his mind we are deep in the woods there are no horses in this area that I don't know.  We left him to his equipment with the knowledge of this elusive wild horse in the woods. Genna thought he was off his rocker and at the moment I was inclined to agree. On down the trail we went another fifteen or twenty minutes. Now this is the part of the trail that the horses know we are headed for home and while they are well behaved they do have a little more pep to the step as we go on down the trail. Chatting among our group we come to a clearing with a small crop of pine trees off to one side... here is where it gets REALLY Interesting.

If you are a horse person, and well even if you are not, you have probably heard that horses have a "fight or flight" response when they are scared. I am here to tell you Murder's is ALWAYS FLIGHT! Not sometimes, not occasionally, ALL THE TIME. His motto is I don't have to be the fastest I just have to be faster than the slowest horse.
This is a good example of the sideways launch.
If something comes at him from behind it is amazing how fast he can tuck his butt and run. If it is in front he figures there are at least two others it will eat first and can sit and spin that would make a reining horse champion proud. Last but not least if it comes at him from the side, you BETTER be holding on with your legs, because Murder will turn into a 1200lbs kangaroo and will jump sideways and cover enough ground in one leap you would swear that Chris Angel was responsible for the optical illusion that just took place. Murder chose option #3.

Out of the trees at a high rate of speed came this FAT fluffy pinto horse that looked like it came straight out of a Thelwell Pony book. For those of you unfamiliar with Thelwell this is what they look like. Imagine a pinto version of this pony coming out of the pine thicket. Complete with snorting. He might has well been breathing fire. If you ask Murder he will swear to it.

This pony had found some friends and would not be deterred from the meeting. Murder was horrified, Rocky was ambivalent, Phoenix was on the fence between fight and flight, and well Tonka drew a line in the sand and said "Buddy bring it on."  I jumped off of Murder and tried to calm the crew down and see what was going to happen with this impromptu meeting. Genna piped up and said, "Mom why don't you grab Rocky's halter and catch him."  Good thought, except pinto pony was not having any of it. He led me on a merry chase around all 4 horses for a good 15 minutes. All the while my trail riders were amazed that something like this could ever happen. "Damned spotted pony," I muttered to myself, and well it stuck. Damned Spot it is. After the merry chase I told Genna to head down the trail. If he followed fine if not well even better. Now you know he did. Murder however was not having it. 
Here is Damned Spot following right along behind Murder.

Damned Spot was dead on his heels, Murder decided that not only was he not going to stand still for me to mount him but that at any moment DS was going to eat him and I was going to be the sacrificial meal if that happened.

He continued to follow us all the way home and into the pasture. DS is no dummy though. He is well aware of what a barn is, but even more important he knows what a paddock gate is. He know just how far he can come to you before you can get a rope around his neck or before you can shut the gate behind him. He was very careful not to let any of those things happen the first afternoon on the Jumping H.  DS stood back from the herd and observed what was to become his new domain. 

After several phone calls I located DS's current owner.... His exact words, "Well he was missing but I haven't been missing him. Let me tell you the story of how I came to own that horse." I promise you that no good can come out of the conversation that followed.  Apparently DS is a pasture hopper. His current owner (we will call Jack)lived next door to DS's previous owner (We will call him Fred). One day DS decided that he didn't want to live at Fred's anymore and went next door and jumped into Jack's pasture. Jack called Fred to let him know DS was in his field. Fred's response, "He's in your pasture you own him now." Apparently that was over 5 years ago. Jack's guess is that since they have moved to this new farm that DS is no longer happy with his living arrangement and has decided to seek a home elsewhere...... Apparently that is with us on the Jumping H Farm.

UPDATE: After many months of work and rehab we have found spot a home with a lovely family in Ohio!!  

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Dressing your child like the Future Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Model.....NOT!!! A young ladies battle to stay true to herself

*SIGH*...... Yesterday was probably one of the most miserable days of my entire parenting life.  Yes I know that sometimes I am prone to exaggeration but this time I am really not. After yesterday I am convinced our society is doomed to raise an entire generation of young ladies who see their body as a commodity to be flaunted and shared with the first boy that comes along that pays them some attention.

Yesterday I took my daughter bathing suit shopping, doesn't sound too daunting a task now does it? Well let me be the first to tell you, IT SUCKED BIG FAT ROCKS!!!!!  My daughter if asked will agree.

Let me back up a moment. My daughter was invited impromtu to go on a beach trip yesterday with her brother Josh and his family. I thought GREAT Genna will love it. I called her and asked and she said "Mom I would love to go but I have outgrown all my bathing suits."  I told her I would run out at lunch and would get her a couple and bring them home. Not such a big deal with the exception work to home for me is an hour commute.  Anyway off I went, after all I do work near the biggest shopping area in the city. At first I thought Whewww hooo this will be a cinch. I know what she likes I will run out to one of the semi-popular stores.. It's bathing suit season after all.  I get to the store and go to the swim suit section BINGO JACKPOT  I send her pictures of 4 reasonably priced suits, marked down I might add due to it being mid-season. Now for me reasonably priced suits for my daughter is under $40.00, preferably WAY under 40.00 after being marked down. These suits were great! Sent her pictures (gotta love the smart phone) I got the thumbs up. They were all marked down to under 25.00 paid the cashier and off I went. That is when the trouble started......

Now what I have not shared with you is my daughter is 67 days from being 13 years old. By some miracle and grace of God she is not your typical almost 13 year old. She is still more interested in her horses and animals than boys and would rather wear boots and blue jeans than shorts. Needless to say by this description she is still the young lady that when she is in the water she wants to swim, dive, flip and not have to worry about her top coming up or her bottoms coming down. THANK GOD she still wants her one piece bathing suit.  So I get home with 4-awesome suits that she has given the thumbs up on.  She tries them all on, one after another I here "Mom it doesn't fit, it is too tight on my shoulders." My heart sank as I knew this meant a trip back into town 2-hour round trip in for a bathing suit that fit. That isn't even the bad part that is really just the beginning.

We have a great trip down joke about things here and there. Talk about the beach trip and such. We get to the store return the suits with no hassle and off we go on our swimsuit journey. We go to the swim suit section only to find that the suits I found were in the girls section. My pre-teen child has grown enough to be in the Juniors and Misses section. NOT ONE DAMN 1-Piece bathing suit to be found in the entire section. Every one of them was bikini or tankini (or whatever you call those things) but not one standard general state issue 1-piece bathing suit to be found.  OK I thought my child is tall maybe just maybe there is a one piece in the adult women section and we will just get the small size. There were 1-piece bathing suits there however none of them made for swimming or for 13 year olds. NOT ONE! I found the strapless, the ones with ruffles to hide what we don't want the world to see (my daughter doesn't do ruffles either) and the 1-piece with enough gatherings to hide whatever body flaw you might have while showing every bit of cleavage you don't have. Not to be discouraged I say "This is only one store, we are in the shopping mecca." Not to be deterred we went on to the next one. Same thing!  Junior and Misses not a single 1-piece to be found in the store. The next store the same thing no 1-pieces in junior and misses.  For those of you who have not been keeping up I am now at 4- returned bathing suits, 3 stores later, 2-hours of driving, all I am missing is the Partridge in the ever elusive 1-piece swimsuit pear tree. By now I am grumpy, hot, tired, but this is not over yet. My poor child is now in tears, TEARS, I ask whats wrong and she says "I am just too big and too picky."

NOW I AM BEYOND MAD!!!!!  My baby is upset because society has dictated that once you have outgrown girl size bathing suits and graduate into the Junior and Misses sizes that you MUST wear a bikini or 2-piece and let me share with you there are very FEW of them I would have let her wear even if she wanted too. HOLY COWS AND CHICKENS she wears more clothes when she is wearing her underwear than some of those bathing suits we saw.  I took a deep breath and explained to her that she was not BIG for her age she was tall VERY tall and long wasted which makes the 1-piece a bit of a challenge but not un-doable.  I was very proud of her decision to stay in the one piece bathing suits and as a matter of fact I was THRILLED she refused to wear "booty shorts" (as if I would let her) and if she wanted a normal bathing suit I would go to every store in Winston-Salem to find it for her. FAMOUS LAST WORDS...... 

Then it hit me... girls on swim teams wear 1-piece bathing suits no frills or ruffles simple 1-piece suits designed to stay in place while you are diving and swimming!!!  BINGO this evening was looking up. I took her to one of the more popular stores which by the way I had never stepped foot in and there they were.... THE HOLY GRAIL of 1-piece suits.  As we rode up the escalator Genna and were looking at the rows of suits. Excitment abound. She was looking at the designs pointing out ones she would like to try.  I start to look for her size...30, 32,36, 38????  WTH is this?  I am not a fashionista and by this point all I want is to get my child a bathing suit. Guess what the guy assigned to the women's bathing suit section didn't know either. Go Figure. NOW my second complaint. Why is everything going to EURO sizes? We are in America and I could understand if we were in New York, California, maybe even Atlanta, but we are in good ol'Winston-Salem, NC. For petes sake just give me normal sizes.  Genna and I use our best guess and reasoning for these sizes and off she goes to the dressing room. Armed with a 30, 32, 34 of each size she tries them on. Apparently she is a 36 in whatever EURO size they are using because apparently there are several. We get excited she finally tries on one and it fits and might actually fit through the swimming season (3months left). I look at the price tag and all most die of sticker shock, it has been MARKED DOWN to $80.00.  Just so you know I then let out a string of VERY unlady like cusswords!!!  There was not a snowballs chance in Hades that I was paying 80.00 for 1 swimsuit. I mean I just returned 4 suits and only paid 83.00 for all of them.  Now I know we are at a sporting goods shop and these suits are made to shave .0004 seconds of time off your laps which could mean the difference between winning the GOLD and not, but this was not my goal. I only wanted a suit that covered the assets that the good Lord gave my daughter. I don't care how long it takes her to swim across the pool.

Once again Genna and I talked... There was no way that she could make it through the rest of the season with one suit as much as she swims. Here was our deal. We would goto some other stores that might carry theses suits to see if they were cheaper. If we didn't find any then I would bite the bullet and we would buy the 80.00 suit. The MALL surely there will be suits in the mall, I mean there are sports shops right? NOT A DARN ONE!  We covered every inch of that mall. So if you are keeping score we are now up to 2-hours of driving 3-hours of shopping time, 5-stores, The ENTIRE HANES MALL, and  2-bathing suits that actually fit but were out of our budget.  Finally after 2 more stores we finally found suits in our price range, well not really they were still pretty expensive but it was buy one get one half off and the other suit was within budget.

I am so disgusted with the whole thing. It should not be this hard to shop for a  modest 1-piece bathing suit for juniors and misses in a price range EVERYONE can afford. At every turn all we saw were very skimpy tops and bottoms. There were some Tankinis (tank tops with bottoms) but even the bottoms on those were skimpy. I want my daughter to be proud of who she is, for WHO she is not what physical attributes she may or may not have. I certainly don't want her parading around in less material than a Victoria Secret model or Playboy bunny, not ever, but especially not at 13. I am not a prude and yes I do wear a 2-piece but I am 42 years old and I am confident enough in who I am and what I am made of to fend off any hurtful remarks or unwanted attention. I am fully aware of the ramifications as an adult. Our children are not so lucky. They have not totally developed their inner self confidence and self worth at this age.  We are setting them up as a society to fail and I think that is SAD AND WRONG. I am lucky very lucky and very blessed that my child is more secure in her skin than most. She is still very sensitive but I work hard to cultivate her self esteem and praise her for making choices that go against the teenage norm.

Society should not be surprised at the number of teenage pregnancies or wonder why our youth is "sleeping around" in elementary and middle school. We allow so called fashion to dictate what our young girls wear. We as parents buy and promote what should be considered trashy and unacceptable as adults. Clothes that if a woman wears it then they are looked at as slutty but if a 13 year old wears it then she is CUTE.  WAKE UP PARENTS!!!!!  . Shorts so short their butts hang out and tops so low you don't have to wonder their bra size. HELLO am I the ONLY parent in America that considers this a problem?  I am not suggesting that we put our children in burlap sacks or that the Victorian collar come back into style. I am talking about SELF RESPECT. Respect your children enough to say no to clothes that reveal too much skin. Here is a novel thought TEACH them about self respect. Let them know it is OK to walk across the grain and not fit in with the clickish crowd. Don't let your child be a statistic. Clothes are not the only issue our societies children are having to fight with, but it is certainly one as parents we can control. 

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Raised in a barn......

"Raised in a Barn"  I am sure is meant to be a derogatory comment meaning that you do not have the manners to travel in polite society, however I disagree.  When I think of "Raised in a Barn" I smile proudly and say as a matter of fact I was raised in a barn. Let me tell you what it TRULY means .....
I try to live my life by these lessons and teach my daughter and riding students the same thing. These are all important things that when practiced will carry you far in life.

You learn Responsibility- Caring for something other than yourself. Horses require a 365 day a year commitment. Horses must be fed and watered, stalls cleaned, horses groomed,  jumps to paint. There is always work to be done around the farm. 

You learn about Friendship- you will make friends at the barn that will last a lifetime.
Brook Acres Farm Equestrian Team

First Horse Summer Camp at Jumping H Farm

Jumping H Farm and Celebrity Farms showing

Showing at TTC Best Friends were made from these days

Back Many Moons Ago

You learn Compassion- No horse ever chooses to be neglected. Sometimes you make the choice to step in and make a difference, because it is the right thing to do.

The Day We Brought Ruby Home.

You learn to See Past the Surface. - That with TLC and Time anything is possible.

Ruby 18 months after we brought her home winning ribbons at local horse show

You learn about the Value of a Dollar- There is nothing quite as sweet as saving your own money to buy a new saddle.

Genna's purchase of her first Saddle with her own Money.

You learn about Humility- It's not always about winning the ribbon- sometimes it's about just staying on your horse
Genna learning to jump Reba Bareback.

  You learn to Take Pride in a job well done. - This was a mother's proud moment.
Genna's First Blue Ribbon Walk Trot Canter

You learn to Explore Your Boundaries- Some of your greatest adventures will be achieved while looking through the ears of your horse.

Genna riding Tonka leading a trail ride.

You learn Patience- When working with young horses it takes time, consistency and work.  It makes the successes all the sweeter when you finally get it right.

Tonka finally jumping with Genna riding Bareback.

You learn about Fashion-Pretty is not always practical, Comfortable or cool.

You learn about Disappointments - Sometimes you have to choose whats right for the horse even when you have worked hard to get to the show.

Tonka ended up tweaking his pastern while warming up for their first dressage test. Knocking them out of showing for the day.

You learn about Great Friends- Someone providing a Plan B so you can show when your horse gets injured. 
Genna showing Roman's Celebrity (Owned by Mike and Ginny Taber) instead of Tonka for her first Dressage Test.

You learn about Sportsmanship- Some of your greatest friends will be the people you compete against every weekend. 

 You learn that life is full of Hard Knocks- Not to mention the ground is hard. You either learn to get up and dust yourself off and remount or take the long walk back to the barn. (There is a story here)

It was only a sorta long walk back to the barn to catch Blue.

You learn about Love. There is no greater bond than a little girl and their horse

 You learn about Heartache. Losing a horse is like losing a best friend.

Genna's first real partner in crime her pony Reba.

You learn about Freedom. The wind in your face as gallop through an open field.
Genna galloping Reba through the field.

You learn about Accomplishment. There is no greater feeling than riding a horse and knowing you have put all you have into the very moment when everything goes right.  

Genna's first jumping show. She was so afraid she would forget her course.

     You learn about Partnership. You can tell your hopes, dreams, successes and failures to your horse and they will love you just the same.
Genna giving Tonka some pony love.

You learn that Every Horse is Different and has something to TEACH you- Much like meeting new people. Each person and horse has his or her own personality, strengths and weaknesses. Acceptance of those strengths and weaknesses will carry you well in your life's relationships. 


So you see every time you go to the barn, every time you put your foot in the stirrup, hop on your horse bareback, groom your horse, clean it's stall, you learn about life. Every horse you encounter will touch your life in some way, much like the people you meet. So the next time someone complains about the time you are spending at the barn, or your worried about whether you should get your child involved in horses, just know there are LIFE LESSONS to be learned and shared.

Mom, Me, and Genna