Thursday, April 28, 2011

Yes, a new barn!

Yes, the rumors are true...I have moved the horses again!

And the horses are now just 10 minutes from my home! I love going to the barn in the mornings again (although Nikki, who came with me, does feed during the week in the morning...she is 5 minutes away!). Now that summer is here (what the hell happened to spring? 98 degrees and it is only April...oh, fall, please hurry here!), I love having the option to ride in the mornings again before it gets too hot.

So besides the distance, why did I move? Well, for one thing, I didn't appreciate finding people smoking in my barn. It is a cardinal sin in my book. Do I need to explain anymore? Enough said!

The barn is adorable...small, but charming with potential! Potential, as in yes, the owner is talking about selling in the near future and it is in our price range. Peter likes it, it is close to town and doesn't need much to meet our needs.

The property is small..smaller than I would like, at just about 2 and a half acres. But it is set up so all land is usable. Most is high and dry. I don't plan on having more than 3 horses on it, even if we do buy it, so it is simply a doable setup.

The barn, as I said, is small! Originally built to accomodate ponies, the concrete barn has a low roof. One stall is small. The aisleway is narrow. We had to build a washrack/grooming area outside of the entrance. But if we should purchase it down the road, it has the capability to be added onto.

The best thing, it is peaceful! Imp, who had stopped eating her grain for 6 weeks at the last 2 barns (did I mention there was a brief boarding barn after the barn in Apopka? We didn't stay....bears and bugs kept the horses on edge the whole time), has now resumed eating. At the last barn, the horses lost it if one of them was out of their sight...that was very unusual behavior for them. Nobody at this barn seems the least concerned if one steps out of sight for a ride. We have no bears here and the bugs (at least the biting bugs that left Nikki covered in welts) are at a minimum. The barn is heavily wooded on one side and heavy brush surrounds most of the other sides, making it pretty private. The barn is on a dead-end road. Only one end of the property has neighbors that back up to us. We decided that Imp prefers a peaceful setting with not a whole lot of horse activity. All I know is, she is happy again, something that she hasn't been in a while.

We have 2 pastures. There is a pond with ducks, herons, turtles and egrets. To enter the property, one has to walk past sweet smelling jasmine lining the front fence. I love taking deep breaths as I walk past them.

Did I mention that the barn is 10 minutes from home? Yesterday I forgot my cell phone. I knew my farrier would be calling me, so I simply returned home and retrieved it. No big deal! Peter, who is used to it taking me a good 45 minutes to get home from the other barns, is slowly getting used to seeing me just a few minutes after I give him my heads up phone call to get dinner started (yes, he cooks dinner!). Possible chance of rain? No problem...simply leave the horses out in the pasture with the barn, and if it rains, I can run out and bring them more leaving them inside because it might rain, only for it not to rain.

I feel like my life is finally getting back to normal after a rough year with lots of changes. I set up a riding lesson for my birthday in 2 weeks! While it is to hot to go to a horse trial until fall, I hope to go cross country schooling soon. My eventing plans did not materialize as I had hoped this past spring, but there is always the fall. I feel pretty confident that it will happen too. The horses are happy. Hobbs, the barn cat, is happy. Everybody is happy and life is good!!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

It is Official..Imp is retired

USPC Champs, Lexington, Ky 2004 (above and below)

Jane Brownlow and Imp

Imp and Jen sharing peppermints

Imp and Jen cross country

Show Jumping Rally

Jen's senior portrait

Competing at Poplar Place

Rocking Horse

Jen trying Imp out

Today was a bittersweet day, as Kevin Young, my farrier extraordinaire, removed Imp's shoes. Imp is now formally retired from all riding, including hacking and dressage.
When Jen was home a month ago, she rode her and Imp performed so well, despite having not been ridden in months, she probably could have gone to a dressage show the following day and cleaned up. Since retiring her from jumping in 2008, Jen has pretty much allowed Imp to decide what she wants to do while under saddle. Sometimes she wants to just hand gallop. Other times Imp wants to do nothing but her extended trots which never fail to give me goose bumps. On this day, she was doing her extended trots and they were doing lead changes every few strides. Hard to believe she had not been ridden but maybe twice in the past 6 months!
The following week, Kevin came out to reset her shoes. It was difficult for her to bear weight. Her knee, that had been operated on when she was diagnosed with multiple bone chips and fragments as well as extensive DJD, was wobbling with the extra weight. Kevin, always careful and sensitive to Imp's special needs, took his time with her, but was concerned.
Last week, I decided to ride her. She had not been ridden since Jen's last visit. Amanda wanted to ride Tucker, so I decided to tack Imp up. Although she was her normal fresh and forward self, her knee kept giving out at the walk. An attempt at the trot was very lame. It felt like it was coming from her knees. After talking with Jen and Kevin, we decided to formally retire her. We have nothing to prove or accomplish by riding her. So today, Kevin pulled her shoes and gave them to me. No retirement ceremony, no fanfare, no bottle of champagne or bunches of carrots. A simple gesture of handing me her shoes. A symbol of what this horse has meant to my family.
We got Imp in 2003. Jen's pony, Z-Z, had died in May, from complications of epiglottis and aspirate pneumonia. An unexpected death, it was devastating to a 13 year old girl, who loved her first pony very, very much.
I was enrolled in on-line classes at St. Pete College in the Vet Tech program. It was about a month after Z-Z's death and I was discussing his death with my professor. Class had not started yet, and there were a few other students logged on, who could follow our conversation. During class, I received a PM from one of the students.
Jane Brownlow, had been following our conversation. In her PM, she asked if we were looking to get another horse. We had communicated a few times before and she knew that Jen was eventing. She mentioned that she might have a horse for us. She asked me to contact her after class.
Jane had moved to Florida and had a Thoroughbred mare named Impulsive that she was boarding in Ft. Meyers. She had evented her extensively, but was no longer doing much riding and the mare was doing nothing. "Perhaps your daughter would like her?" she asked. As we talked, I discovered that this mare had competed at the advanced level. Thirteen years old, she was Jen's age. Jane wanted to give her to us! I was stunned that someone I had never met could be so generous.
Incredibly, I did not immediately take Jane up on her offer. Jane told me that Imp's hocks had fused, so she would never compete at advanced again. Having retired my beloved Sir Tally to hock issues, I was concerned that this would mean expensive monthly treatments, something I didn't want to tackle. After Tally was diagnosed with bog spavin, I was able to only ride him for another year before he was retired. I didn't want to get Jen a horse, only to have to retire her in a short time.
After a few more weeks of driving around the state, looking at potential horses for Jen, all which were disappointing and did not live up to their seller's description, I mentioned Imp to Dave and Lisa Sumner of English Acres. Lisa was Jen's instructor. When asked why I didn't get her, I voiced my concern about her hocks. Dave then proceeded to give me an education about fused hocks, and letting me know that Manny, their school horse that Jen had been riding and jumping 3'6, had fused hocks. I learned quite a bit! Dave suggested I call my vet to get more information. In the meantime, he was going to research Imp's record with the USEA.
Dr. Pultz pretty much said the same things that Dave and Lisa told me. He wanted to see Imp's x-rays, which Jane graciously sent. After reviewing them, he told me that we had nothing to lose. "Go get her and bring her home" he told me. By now, Dave had researched Imp's record and was pretty excited at what he saw. He and Lisa could not wait for us to go and try Imp!
Jen and I make a trip to Ft. Meyers. We met Jane and followed her to the exotic farm where Imp and another horse lived...along with kangaroos, llamas and and assortment of other exotic animals.
Jane had sent us pictures of her competing Imp, and she was even more stunning in person! A plain bay with not a speck of white on her, she was exquisite. Refined, well mannered and obviously well bred, she had a noble look to her.
Jane explained her quirks to Jen (like her being sensitive around her udder) as they tacked her up. We headed out to a field with llama's where Jen mounted Imp and rode her. Their flat session went well and Jen loved her. After an hour or so, we cooled her out and made arrangements to meet Jane the next day for a jumping session.
The next day did not go quite as well as the flat session. Imp, not having done much jumping in a while, was bold, fresh and strong. But Jen handled her well. We decided to take Imp, on the condition that it would be trial. I wanted to get her back home and see how she did once she was worked on a regular basis. I also wanted to experiment with her bit.
We brought Imp home 3 weeks later. Not only had we lost Z-Z, but I had retired my Thoroughbred, All That Jazz about the same time, when he was diagnosed with a calcified coffin bone. I gave him to a woman that wanted to just trail ride and do lower level dressage with him. In addition, we had just bought Amanda her first horse, Dolly. I had not replaced Popcorn as we called him, but was looking for a new horse. Needing 3 stalls meant that I had to find a new barn. So with new horses and a new boarding facility, emotions were a bit high for all of us!
The first few days that we had Imp were disastrous! Jen would end up crying after every ride. It was difficult transitioning from a 14.1 hand Arab pony to a 16.2 hand TB mare. Jen mistook her big strides for going too fast. She told me to return her, that she would never be able to ride her.
Instead, I called Lisa, explained what was happening, and scheduled a lesson for that coming Saturday. When we arrived at English Acres, Lisa asked to ride Imp first. After about 15 minutes, she dismounted, handed Jen the reins and proclaimed that if we didn't want her, she would gladly take her off our hands! Forty five minutes later, Jen dismounted with a HUGE grin on her face! Lisa had explained what she needed to do to ride a horse of Imp's talent. If I had the money, I would have gladly paid Lisa a thousand dollars for that lesson! The transformation was amazing and it was the start of an incredible partnership!
That first year, we made Jen compete in the novice division. Imp was not too happy about jumping such low jumps, and she decided to jump every fence as if it was at least 2 feet bigger! Everyone would comment about how big she would jump everything! The two qualified for the UPSC Championships in Lexington, Kentucky. It was a great experience, and one to be blogged about another time. Their team finished 6th, with all members finishing on their dressage scores. Jen was 3rd individually, out of 80 riders!
When we returned to Florida, I let Jen move up to training. We were selective in how many events we went to. With the miles that Imp had, I didn't want to waste whatever amount of jumps she had left in her. We attempted one schooling show, which they won, but it was obvious that competing in all 3 divisions in one day was too demanding and we stuck with only recognized and USPC events. Her hocks held up just fine. We kept her on supplements and later added Adequan and if we traveled out of state, she got Legend. Her legs were poulticed after cross country and she got at least 12 hours of turnout every day, weather permitting. She was treated like a rock star...perhaps we pampered her too much, but she demonstrated that she could extract her and Jen from difficult situations and she made sure to always take care of Jen. It was my pleasure to bow to her every whim!
They did training level for several years. I wanted to make sure that Jen was really prepared before she moved up. They competed at pony club rallies, Rocking Horse and Poplar in the winter, spring and fall. Summers were off season. They never finished out of the ribbons, and all but once, placing on their dressage score. Their only fault occured in show jumping at Poplar, with a rail down. A pretty impressive record!
In December of 2007, the pair were ready to move up to Preliminary. They would be tested at back to back clinics at Rocking Horse. First, a clinic with Young Riders coach Kyle Carter, followed by another clinic with Jen's new instructor, Jennie Jarnstrom. Dave and Lisa had relocated English Acres and were to far to travel to on a regular basis. Eventually, they moved back to their native England. We felt that Jennie, who had competed at Rolex, was a perfect fit for Jen with her outgoing and positive personality.
If Imp could stand up to the rigors of 2 back to back clinics, then, we figured, she would be able to move up to prelim. They had already been schooling prelim for some time. At Kyle's clinic, they schooled at the Intermediate level. Imp and Jen were both up for the demands, and Imp was so fresh and bold, that I decided that she easily had another 10 years ago. I realized that if Jen was going to make the big move, then this was the horse she needed to do it on. Imp was going to continue to take care of her as well as teach her. Kyle was equally impressed and invited Jen to join the Young Riders program
She returned to Rocking Horse for Jennie's clinic, just as fresh and bold. She proved her athleticism by performing an amazing contortionist act over the intermediate corner, which left everyone gasping and wondering how she did not crash. The only concern was raised when Imp had her first refusal on xc, at a bank jump, which after 1 stride on the bank, required a jump over a tree limb. Jennie was very pleased with their overall performance, and suggested that not only should they move up to prelim after doing one more training, but they should aim for doing a 1 star in the spring. We were pretty excited!
Imp recovered from her strenuous outings with flying colors. Christmas and New Years came and went. Then, one day in the middle of January of 2008, Imp came in from the pasture lame.
Dr. Pultz knew after examining her what had happened, and xrays confirmed his diagnosis. The damage was severe and her prognosis poor. We were stunned. We were so focused on Imp's hocks, positive that that would be what ended her career. She never gave any indication that her knees bothered her. She had never been lame.
We shipped her to Ocala Equine Hospital in February. Dr. Maddison could not believe she had been schooling at the intermediate level just a few weeks prior to her onset of lameness. What should have been a 10 minute procedure took 35 minutes. He told us that based on the amount of damage, her knee had been bad for quite some time. For whatever reason it was that caused her to suddenly go lame, it was a blessing. That much damage was an accident waiting to happen. It was just a matter of time before the knee gave out on landing after a cross country jump, with disastrous results to Jen and Imp. He was truly at a loss to explain how it was she was able to go as long as she did without a lame step. I attributed it to her being a Thoroughbred mare who loved her job and loved her rider.
I suppose the timing couldn't have been better to retire Imp. Jen graduated from high school that year and attends the University of South Florida as an engineering major. There is not a whole lot of time for riding. They had 5 wonderful years of competing and learning that had it not been for Jane's generosity, Jen may never have had the opportunity to do...certainly not on a horse like Imp! Imp was a very difficult horse to ride, and Jen made it look so easy. I used to forget what she was like until I would get on her. Bold, strong, fast and brave were all good descriptions of her! And still are. We are sad that Imp's riding days are over, but we are so grateful for the memories.