*Warning: Extreme overuse of positive adjectives and adverbs.
Sitting here, thinking back, trying to figure out what to write, I cannot believe everything that has happened in the last year. There are so many people who have so greatly influenced my life that I didn't even know before this year. It absolutely blows my mind. This time, last year, mustangs were hardly a blip on my radar, and now they are an every day part of my life.
If I sat and named every life-changing person or moment, we'd all be here all week, and I'm sure no one wants that. But, really, my whole mustang family. I am so blessed to know each and every one of you. Each of you has influenced my life in some way, shape or form, whether we have met or just spoken online or (for so many of you in the MM family) if I've just seen your updates.
2013 has definitely been the most wild year of my life. I've experienced crazy highs and crazy lows and it has truly taught me so much about life both in and out of the horse world. From deciding to do the Makeover and meeting and working with Z, to losing my incredible, beloved Mia (and dealing with the subsequent nightmare that is finally over) to resuming real life, I have felt myself grow stronger and more empathetic and in-tune with both two-and four-legged friends and family.
Now that I am truly ending the year, I have received an awesome opportunity. I am so excited to announce that come the New Year, I will be joining Raise Your Dreams Farm (Woodstown, NJ) as a riding instructor. RYD is a lesson facility run by the truly blessed, beautiful inside and out, Jill Mansor. I am more than stoked to start working with Jill and her multitude of students. I think it will be a great opportunity and definitely the perfect place to learn about instructing.
I want to take this time to thank, from the bottom of my heart, each and every person who has ever read this blog. Whenever I look at the stats for it, I am blown away that people from the U.S. and other countries have clicked on to this page almost 4,500 times. It's crazy to think about the reach I've been able to have simply by sharing my journey with my lovely, intelligent, talented, beautiful, sweet, athletic, wild girl.
I look forward to sharing my adventures with all of you in this coming year, both with Z (it'll be her first year as an event horse!) and Raise Your Dreams Farm.
Have a Merry Christmas and a safe, prosperous and happy New Year. <3
Monday, November 11, 2013
(skip to about 1:00, we were having some trouble getting into the woods. lol.)
After getting about twelve hours of sleep last night, I'm finally ready to really reflect on Z's very first event yesterday. We had just about everything going against us except rain, going into the event. I knew I had a smart, brave, trusting horse under me, though, and that's all I needed. The wind was wild, it was nice and cold, and I rode at the end of the day, so we just prayed they would move fast enough that we could get done and placed before dark. The day went about as goo as I could have expected. Z was 100% chill off the trailer, for grooming and anything on the ground, and got uite tense once we mounted up and headed to warm up.
Dressage warm up went just about as good as I could have expected. I gave us about 45 minutes before my ride time so we could do pleanty of walking and stretching to really relax the baby girl. We also got to meet another mustang girl who had her 4yo little black mare at the Million! It was so neat to really see someone else striving for the same thing. Our test went, well, not as great as she's done at home, but I think it was Philip Dutton who says "you're only going to get 70% of what you get a home from your horse at a competition." I'd say that's about what we got. She was obedient and didn't break or really spook, but she did stay counter-bent most of the test and threw her head quite a bit becuase I didn't let her have her fun spooking. :) We ended up with a 42.5, which is more than commendable for her very first time in a dressage ring or in that sort of show environment (out in the open, car horns, etc)
Now, I'v never ever been nervous to jump a horse, so the nerves I felt while tacking up for jumping were twice as scary. I knew I had a brave horse and the jumps were pretty much ground poles, but we hadn't really been able to strike our rhythm jumping at home the past few days, and frankly, I had just decided not to jump her after Tuesday to just keep her fresh enough. Warm up went well and she was probably the most attentive she has ever been to jump. We got into the ring, and let me tell you. I have a real event horse on my hands, granted, she was only jumping 18". She locked on and pulled me to each jump, not rushing, just super confident in her job. It was incredible, a totally different rush from galloping 3'3" training courses on my old mare.
Cross country was a bit of an adventure, but probably one of the most rewarding rides of my life. Again, the jumps were barely anything height-wise, but Z hadn't gotten out schooling to prepare her. She was really look-y for the first few jumps, stopping and then sort of stumbling over the second jump and then deciding she really didn't want to go into the woods. After the woods discussion, she realized how simple and fun the rest of the course would be and just stuck her head up and got more and more brave as we went on. Now, most eventers can tell you, we want our horses to lock on and really enjoy what they do, essentially pulling us around the course, but staying attentive to our directions, and that's exacty what Z did. She was so happy around the whole rest of the course. :)
We ended up SECOND. SECOND IN OUR VERY FIRST EVENT. I couldn't possibly be more proud. She was stellar and acted like an old pro. Never once did sh have a big melt down or totally tune me out. I love this little mustang, and she LOVES being a little mustang ambassador to the eventing community in our area. She loves the apples and pets that everyone gives her and stads quietly while I explain her brand and our story.
Here's to many more years as eventing partners. :)
Sunday, October 6, 2013
This past month has been so much fun with Z. She's really coming into her own and I can't wait to show her off. We've finally gotten a trailer, so the adventures will start soon! (Adventures primarily meaning learning to load into a two horse straight load with a ramp...) We've started riding outside more and she's starting to relax more and more into doing that. We have a few tentative shows that I'd like to hit before it gets entirely too cold. One is just a hunter show the end of this month to do the baby greens, and then we have a beach ride scheduled for the following weekend, and I think we may do our first unrecognized event either the next week or two weeks after. :) I'm so excited to get her out and show off what my little stang can really do. :)
Also, this may not seem like a huge thing to most people, but Z can canter now! I don't know what changed, whether it was her muscles or just her mental capacity, but she's finally totally cool with cantering. It's far from balanced, but we're getting there. I'm so happy with her. She's had a few "baby days" where she kind of reverts back, but she's absolutely phenomenal overall.
I'm going to try to keep everyone updated as I'm planning on getting her out as much as possible during the next few months and I know she'd love to meet her extended family and any fans. :)
Quick plug, if you have a facebook, head on over to "like" my training page at www.facebook.com/nicolebarbyehorses
Wednesday, September 18, 2013
I'm finally back in the saddle. And I couldn't be happier. Though Z has picked up some of her old habits that we were just starting to get over, she's taking everything in stride. We both have to get back in shape and get motivated to get working. :) Attention is our main thing right now, so that's good. I mean, if my only steady complaint is that she doesn't pay attention as a four year old mustang mare, I'm quite alright with that.
That being said, worry-wart Nicole came out today because Z seems to have a hematoma right where the girth goes, centered on her belly right behind her front legs. Now, I know she kicks herself there when she kicks and stomps at flies, so I'm assuming that's what it's from. There's no puncture site and it doesn't seem to hurt her, because, believe me, she lets me know loud and clear when she's anything less that comfortable. It's also not warm. So we're going to keep an eye on it and if she starts to show discomfort, act then. If not, I know they tend to heal on their own, so here's hoping that's all it is. My tough cookie is gonna be completely fine. :)
So updates. Before I got back on, I decided to free jump Baby Z, just out of curiosity. I went into it saying, if we got to a height she refused or knocked hard, we'd just stop. No pressure, no expectations. Well, my little mustang jumped four foot. FOUR FOOT. My 16.3 TB couldn't do that, at least not more than once in a blue moon. Anyway, I think I have my first prelim horse, LOL. She's such a brave girl to even try that. I've attached a (very blurry) still from the video, which is, in it's entirety, in my Facebook.
Also, I'm going to be speaking, at some point in the near future, to a 4H club in Pennsylvania about y experience with Z, which I am super pumped about. Mainly because it'll be another excuse to wear my EMM shirt. Which I can't really ever wear because I ride English. :/ Regardless, super excited to spread the word about mustangs, MHF, and EMM to young people. Their club apparently already has a mustang, which is super rad. :)
I think that's all the September updates, we're still hoping to get out schooling and get to at least one little event or combined test before the end of the season, but I don't want to rush things. If we get a trailer and she feels ready, we'll do it, if not, there's always next year. :D
Also, found this gem of a picture of my spaz taking off during the auction. Good Lord, my body...
Saturday, August 31, 2013
So in case some of you didn't know, I've been out of commission for about a week and a half due to major jaw surgery. Bekkah has been awesome enough to work with Z a few times while I'm in recovery. Yesterday was the first day I got out to see her since the surgery last week. I'm still pretty weak since it's so hard to eat, but I walk out back to see her and she was under the run in with the other horses in her field. I yelled "hey, mom!" and she whipped her head up to walk to me, like "where have you been?!" I gave her a good brushing, but frankly, shouldn't have for my own good...but Z is so fat. LOL. I mean, not the fattest, but I'm so used to my skinny OTTBs, not a pony that noticeably gains weight in a week. :)
Anyway, today I went out when Bekkah said she was going to ride. Z is doing so well. She's still opinionated and sassy, but she is learning every day and getting more balanced every single ride. I can't wait to get back on her. I miss my baby.
Sunday, August 11, 2013
So this week was amazing. Z and I finally had relaxed playtime. Clearly, we both needed it. Z spent the week meeting new friends and chasing me for treats. :) Today I decided I had to get back on her, but, it of curiosity, I wanted to see how she would lunge in a neck stretcher. I'd really like to start building her back muscle, but I always feel like draw reins and even side reins put the horse too far on the forehand (not that I don't love their effects on the right horse, lol). So I tacked her up and for about 5 minutes (since she's not used to ANY sort of head restraint, even light and stretchy), I lunged her in the trusty neck stretcher. Oh. My. Goodness. Now when I say she was incredible afterwards, believe me, I've never had such an instant change in a horse. She was light, not eating the bit, resting her mouth, and super responsive to my rein aids. I don't know what it was about the darned stretcher, but something clicked for her today. I can't wait to see where she goes from here. :)
I also want to say that today I went to work with Caitlin's mustang, Halona. She'll be mentioned plenty in her, from now on, as she is a huge part of my mustang journey. I'd like to say Halona was the mustang before the mustang who started it all. Meeting Halona and Caitlin last winter, I had NO idea I'd end up with a mustang the same age as hers, only, maybe, six months later. Crazy... Anyway, Z has given me so much insight into the mind of a mustang, that after four months not working with her, and two or three weeks of absolutely no work, we were able to pick up right where we left off. Bit, saddle, lunging, and we even learned some steering today.
I love mustangs.
Monday, August 5, 2013
First off, it's completely surreal that the competition has come and gone. Crazy, crazy, crazy. It was absolutely incredible to finally meet everyone and put faces to facebook names. :) I was so impressed with how everyone handled themselves and their horses regardless of how far they had come in training. This mustang community is one that I am completely blessed to be a part of.
So Z was perfect for me all weekend, granted she didn't know half the stuff I asked of her. She kept her head and didn't spook at hardly anything. By the last day, she was COMPLETELY done though, lol. She kept looking at me like "Mom. Take me home, let me eat grass and roll around." Honestly, though, what a professional little girl. In the pattern class on Saturday, we counted canter, but goodness did she trot around that ring like a little hunter princess. I was over the moon with her. She gave me her everything in anything I asked her to do. Everyone who came by her stall got a slice of her personality with her banging her buckets all hours of the day and night. For anyone who cares how we ended up, we were 19th overall (preliminary, obviously not going to the finals). 19TH. Could I possibly, in any way, have asked for something more from my little girl? Nope. Perfection. She was so respectful and tried her little heart out in that big scary ring with all the scary people.
For anyone who was still wondering, after all this, who got to take her home, it was ME. She was a little grump during the auction, but it worked for us. The auctioneer asked us to ride around and what did my stinker do? Took off bucking like a crazy horse. She was so done with me being on her, but people still wanted her. I mean, who wouldn't, she's gorgeous, feisty, smart, and a ham on the ground. :) but yep, she's with me forever now.
That leads me to my next point. I've had such an overwhelming response to this blog that I've been considering continuing it as a sporadic update blog on the stang girl. What do you guys think? Is it something y'all would be interested in? I mean, I really want to kind of make Z an unofficial mustang representative in the area, and I think this would be a good way for everyone to keep up with us. But it's up to anyone who reads this. Let me know. :)
Getting some love from passing children. <3
Lots of (happy) tears after the adoption.
Thursday, July 25, 2013
This week has been so amazing. Z has been consistently ridden, and learns new things so well every day. After we pulled her coggins on Tuesday, I had our vet check her teeth (like a CHAMP) and got the clear to start with a bit. First day with a bit we had awesome brakes and steering. I was shocked and she was amazing. :)
Yesterday we loaded up (for the first time) and she got right on the trailer. Like she had done it her whole life. I can't believe her sometimes. I was such a proud mustang mommy. We went, with Chaeli (and Tyler, lol) and Paisley to the DREAMpark to expose them to some off property surroundings. Z was not so sure about everything, but took it all in stride. That is, until some mysterious ghost popped out and scared the pants off her. It was the first really big spook she has ever done, especially under saddle. Needless to say, I ate dirt, in the most literal sense. Face first into the ground, lol. I have some gnarly scratches on my nose from dirt and my glasses, so wearing them should be fun today. :) Again, I was wearing my helmet, thank God. This horse truly loves to make her physical mark on e known to everyone. Hahahaha. Anyway, we never quite calmed down under saddle, so I just walked her once then got off and tried to get her focused on the ground. In her defense, this was only her second day with a bit, so I'm not surprised I couldn't get her back during her spook. We'll go back today and play on the ground some, since I don't trust my vision with no glasses. But I'm so excited (and nervous) for the makeover. Just over one more week. Oh goodness.
Sunday, July 14, 2013
Saturday, July 13, 2013
This week, feisty pony moments and all, has truly made all of the burns, blood, sweat, screams, and tears worth it. Today Z made two HUGE steps forward (literally and figuratively) after a weeks of small steps forward and small steps back. This afternoon, I got on to walk Z with my dad leading. I tried so hard to get her to move off my leg, but she was just so confused. We were both patient, but it was like being patient with someone trying to speak Chinese. I never lost my temper, because I knew we'd get it eventually. She's perfect, lol, so I knew, eventually, we'd get it. Eventually, though, we were both sweaty from just sitting there. I had my dad lead us again to test our brakes. She stopped very well, so I took the lead rope from my dad and told him to walk away. I cleared my head and just thought "go" and squeezed my legs and WE HAD MOTION. It clicked, just like that. So I stopped. That moment, was the culmination of three months of work and, honestly, it was one of the best moments of my life.
Z had one more HUGE big girl moment today when she got her feet done. She only needed her front ones, so Steffan (the awesome guy who lassoed Z her first day with me) came and trimmed them. She was so good that he was done before I could even get a picture of it. Lol. It was so cool to hear from someone who interacted with her that first day and then to see her now. She's just so social and dopey. Her #1 priority is getting her face rubbed. I seriously love this horse. She's the perfect example of a mustang. Just sweet, kind, docile, and athletic. I'll miss her so much. <3
Three weeks till competition!!
Sunday, July 7, 2013
Oh my goodness. I can't believe we're this far along. Less than 30 days. When did we get here?
Anyway, life threw me a huge curveball two weeks ago when I got into a trailer accident with my other horse, my beloved Mia. I was fine, but she sustained injuries that ultimately led us to the decision to put her down. Needless to say, this threw me quite off track with Z. She, however, has been flawless. Maybe that's jinxing it, but she has so stepped up to the plate, trying to figure out her job and everything that's expected of her. She knows I've been upset, and she's been stellar about catering to me, rather than me always catering to her.
The ongoing joke at the farm now is that I have a defective mustang. LOL. She's half asleep all the time. That personality has let me do so much with her, even without seeing her every day the past few weeks.
Today was the biggest day so far! We rode! Well, kind of. Bekkah led Z around while I sat on her. But still! She's so amazing!! I could not be more proud of her, ever. It's surreal to think that I've done this; that I've taken her from wild to so sweet, loving, and calm. :)
Playing after a long day of work. (The first ride)
Being a dog, licking EVERYTHING.
The defective mustang. I never taught her to stand and let me walk away from her.
Mustang who? (This is all of her late sister's tack. <3 )
Thursday, June 20, 2013
Z was SO lazy today! She did, however come up to me in her new field and walked right over the scary puddle to get out. I didn't really have a plan going out today, just some bonding and saddle work. She's getting so good now on the cross ties. She actually doses off the whole time! I lunged her for a bit under tack in the indoor to get any remaining energy out.
We then took a walk around the indoor as Des has many, many scary things stored in there. Z was so calm and curious. I can't help but laugh, though, and the number of things she tries to eat! Anything and everything that doesn't eat her goes in her mouth: tarp, hay bale jump covers, tires, barrels, deer christmas figures, rails, boards, anything. Silly, silly baby.
There really isn't much else to report on, other than that she will be getting her feet, teeth and coggins done shortly. :)
Wednesday, June 19, 2013
I can't believe I haven't posted at all this month. Time has really gotten away from me. I've been so busy with my other mare and, of course, with Z. She's really coming out of her shell and starting to show her silly self. She's a bit pushy at times, but has definitely realized that I'm definitely not going to hurt her. It's really going to be hard to let her go in (OMG.) six weeks. She's such a good girl.
I'm so, so close to riding her. She's telling me she's ready, I just haven't been able to catch a break from the rain. I work her with the saddle in the indoor, but I don't want to get on for the first time in such a big space. And her field has been flooded for almost two weeks.
I guess I can list all the things she does now, lol. I don't want to give the illusion that it was all easy, because most of it wasn't. She does, however, seem to just need a night to think about things. She'll get all frazzled about something new, but if I take her to it the next day, she's totally fine. So here's all the accomplishments of the last few months:
-saddle, girth, bridle
-SMBs on all four feet
-canters on the lunge line
-jumps small jumps when lunging
-wears a fly mask and fly sheet
-stands on cross ties
-stands on the wash cement slab
-stops on voice command
-walk, trot, back when leading
-crosses a tarp
-walks over the "ditch", log and stairs in the jump field
Today she was allowed to be turned out in a grass field to start to let her field rest and maybe dry out, and she was so good. The only problem was that the fencing is just hot wire tape. She grazed for about an hour before she managed to shock the top of her neck, but she recovered so quickly. She is so cute. She just looked at me like "mom. what was that? it was terrifying. wait, grass. okay." and just went back to eating. I love that she never tries to run away and just lets me walk up to her and walk away without ever running away.
So I think that's an accurate update, and I vow to be more active with this blog again. I figure if I post it online, it will force me to hold myself to it. Thanks everyone who has not forgotten about me. :)
Everyone want to see who the pretty new girl is. :)
LOVING the new grass field.
First time in the cross ties. :)
my lovely, muddy terror. :)
Her typical expression: bored, half asleep, ears going everywhere. <3
And finally, bonding time. <3 The highlight of this whole experience.
I also want to thank a few people for their continued support over the last few weeks/months. My family, above all, have given me endless emotional and physical support. Next, Desiree Bene and Bekkah Redden, for their physical help at the barn with handling Z while I work with her. Roni Feldman, Carly Dyal, and Cindy Pifer for donating much needed items for the baby girl. Sorry if I forgot anyone, please understand how much I appreciate everything from the occasional "good luck" or "have fun" to the purchases of T-shirts. <3
Monday, May 27, 2013
Okay. I don't want to jinx it, but i really think I've turned a corner with Baby Z. She's been such a champ with everything I've done with her. She now wears bell boots and a fly sheet with neck. She also can wear sub boots front and back, pick up her feet, lead, lunge, and wear a surcingle and bridle for all of that. She met saddle pads today and was so perfect. I really can't believe how relaxed she is. What a perfect baby.
I can see in her face that when something scares her, she looks for help. She wants pets and scratches while she figures it out. Much less freaking out. :) I'm so incredibly proud of her for the maturity she's showing. We play a few times a day and I really think she's starting to look forward to our sessions.
ALSO, shirts can be ordered now! Here's the link and info: http://campaign.customink.com/zonta
Please share the link if you can. :)
Her brand, so everyone can see.
Very first time with a saddle on to buck out. Crazy, wild girl. :)
Thursday, May 16, 2013
Z has been so good this past week. Things have been crazy trying to get things ready for my event with Mia. But Z has been so consistent. Just for fun, I played with her ears for a bit and then tried a bridle on. I put a happy mouth French link, the least harsh bit I could find, and she took it no problem. Tuesday, I lunged her with the bridle and a bit connector and she was so well behaved. A few overreactions, but settled right down. She's getting better with leading too. :) Today I went out to just play with her, no new things. We just hung out, played with her big ball, brushed her, picked up her feet. Such a good girl. She also met fly spray today, which was no big deal! It amazes me how easily she's taking things now. :) I'm looking forward to the coming weeks with her. :)