Sunday, August 29, 2010

10 years of Grace, Oh the places we've been!

10 years ago today I wrote the check that would changed my world. I had just sold my Warmblood gelding Bailey and I turned right around and spent every last dime on a 3 year old Quarterhorse mare. She was in the early stages of training, I had already been the first person on her back. She was most likely priced higher than she should have been, I could have bought a been there, done that horse for less. But I didn't want another horse, I wanted Grace. She had chosen me the first time I met her and the dollar amount was just a number. 10 years later I would do it all over again.

When I bought Grace my intentions were to show her Western Pleasure, to eventually show her at the breed show level. Little did I know how many adventures we would have along the way. What I ended up with was one very versatile little mare, who is always up for trying something new. She constantly surprises me with how well she takes to something new. It's been an amazing 10 years, in which time I've learned what it really means to be a horsewoman, many times putting my agenda aside for the well being of my best friend, so that we can continue to have many adventures for the next 10 - 20 years.

Showmanship - always a good class for me to get though my show ring jitters without being in the saddle. Grace was very patient with me!

Western Pleasure - neither one of us really enjoyed it. I believe we are both a little too ADD to go around in slow circles all day.

Look at that short mane! I will be dedicating an entire blog post to her mane and tail!

Now Trail on the other hand, is a class that we both enjoy! Grace gets to walk on stuff, look pretty, and be the center of attention. I don't have time in between the obstacles to let my mind wander. It's a technical class which keeps my brain busy. A win - win. Most of our blue ribbons were won in Trail.

Hunt seat! Wow! Look at that pretty mare!

We did a reining clinic with John Slack! Grace loved it, by the end of the weekend she had a sliding stop and a spin. Not the best thing for her left hock, but she still loves to do loping patterns at home, we just leave out the stops and spins.

Grace stole my heart the first time I took her to Corey's day on the Farm for Special Needs Kids. She was so good with all the kids! I told her that day that she never had to win another blue ribbon or trophy as she had just proven to me that she was worth her weight in gold. It wasn't long after that we started to have more fun:

This was our first year at the Thunderbird Rodeo. This was a life changing event. I wasn't on the team, but one of my closest friends was and I went to her first practice. I wanted to be a part of it and I went out of my comfort zone and asked if there was any way that I could help out. I was invited to ride at the next practice and was later told that I had made the team. It was a big step up for Grace and I, we never looked back!

Last year we had the honor of carrying the American Flag. I can't think of a time where I have been more proud of my little bay mare!

We tried our hand at Cowboy Mounted Shooting

Grace didn't like it so much! It was the first time she really said "NO!" about something. I'm really glad I listened to her, as it gave us more time for barrel racing:

The first time I ran Grace on a pattern, I had to wonder who taught her this. She ran to the first barrel like she was going to inhale it. I am still working to catch up with her around the barrels. We are still very much growing in this area, and I'm really looking forward to seeing where we go with it.

Grace and I have been in many parades. The first one was on a dare. Somewhere in the middle of the parade route she looked around and seemed to say "Well it's about damn time they threw me a parade!" She was absolutely in her element!

And now on to our latest adventure! Grace has show me that it is ok to walk right into a herd of cattle and tell them where to go. Even if they have horns on their head. Any fear or reluctance I might have had was washed away when I saw how enthusiastic she was about it. Grace has made it very clear to me that when it comes to cows my job is to sit down, shut up and stay out of her way. I used to think she could be kind of irritable at times. Now I've learned that she's just cowy!!

At the end of the day it doesn't really matter what activity we partake in. I'm just happy that whatever adventure we are on, we are there together. As long as this is my view, it's never a bad day!

I love you Gracie Lou! Thank you being my inspiration each and every day.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

One Cowy Mare!

See that smile on my face?? It's because I'm sitting on my cowy little mare. We went to our first cow sorting last night.

It was a wonderful low key event with plenty of opportunities for training. While the runs were timed, we were allowed to go as many times as we wanted. Everyone encouraged each other and there was lots of cheering!

Grace LOVED it! Before our first run, she sat outside the pen and watched attentively. The cows were fresh and bucked a little on their first run. Grace got really animated when she saw that. We were the third group in and Grace got right to work.

There really wasn't much for me to do, except point her towards which cow we were sorting. From there she would take over, pin her ears back and push them out of her way.

When one didn't move fast enough, she stepped on it! I felt really bad for this cow, but it was fine. It never let her get close enough to be stepped on after that.

Kristen and I put together a 40 second run! Not bad for our first time out!!

I had so much fun! It's such an amazing feeling to do something that Grace loves. She would get really excited every time we would step into the pen. I had to hold her back several times and make her wait for her turn. She would have gone all night if I would have let her.

Look at those ears,that face, that tail, oh and the movement! I would not want to be on the cow end of that mare!

See this other horse getting really excited? This would have set Grace off in the past, she usually bolts away from other horses when they act up. This was a great experience for her. She didn't want to break from the cows, so she didn't let the other horse's energy bother her.

The next sorting is September 18th. Right now that feels like forever and a day away.

Grace and I plan to be there with bells on. I bet Nina and Milo will be there too!

Monday, August 16, 2010


Grace and I had the opportunity to work cows this past weekend!

While I may not have any experience working cows, Grace seems to have it all figured out.
Check out that cowy face and those laid back ears!

At first we just followed the herd around, Grace was interested in them, but not overly enthused. But then we started to cut them out:

As soon as I figured out how to stay out of her way, it got really smooth. At the end we cut out one cow and she stayed on it, loping with her ears pinned back.

We have our first sorting next weekend!

Looks like I found something for Grace to do.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Who is this horse?

I almost don't want to share this with you. Part of me is afraid that it's not real, that maybe I imagined it or it was a dream. But there was a witness so I'm pretty sure it's for real. Grace is sound! I know I've said that before, but this is freakishly sound if there is such a thing.

We've just come off 2 weeks of really great rides. I pushed her a bit one week ago to see how she would handle it. I worked her 7 days in a row, with some longer rides in there including a night of breezing out on the trails. She came through it with flying colors. After her day off she was full of herself and ready to go.

Yesterday there was a hunter/jumper schooling show at the saddle club next door. They hold them once a month through out the show season. Grace is used to all the activity, its usually not a big deal. Our weather changed overnight by dropping twenty degrees. I knew rain was on the way, so I planned to wash Grace's mane and tail in the morning giving me enough time to rebraid her mane. She was WILD! I kept wondering if someone had switched out my quiet Quarterhorse with an Arabian in the middle of the night. Grace would not stand still while I was washing her mane, I don't think she was that bad when she had her first bath at 2 years old. She seemed really distracted by all the going ons next door, so I walked her over there while I waited for her to dry.

As soon as we stepped out of my driveway and she could see the other horses she stood up on her hind legs and leapt forward. I finally asked her " Who are you and what have you done to my Quarterhorse???" This is when I started to wonder if I was dreaming all this, I had watched the Black Stallion before going to bed the night before and now it seemed I had him at the end of my lead rope. I should admit to you here right now that I secretly enjoy it when Grace behaves like that. It is so rare that in 10 years this is probably the fifth time I've seen this side of her. Its almost like she remembers that she is indeed a horse and she starts to act like one. As much as I enjoy watching her connect to her inner wild horse, I don't want to ride it! I took her for a hand walk on the trails and she settled right down, to the point that she got bored and kept trying to snatch handfuls of grass.

We stopped by the show and visited with a friend and her horses. Grace was back to normal, standing quietly, not really impressed by anything going on around her. I took her back home with the intention of riding her later in the afternoon when the show was over. As soon as I took the halter off in the pasture Grace blew up! Running, bucking and snorting, my wild horse was back. She started to run the fence line (who is this horse?), fearing that she my injure herself, I pulled her right back out of the pasture and tacked her up for a ride.

It must have looked like one of those wild horse competitions at the rodeo when I tacked her up. She was spinning at the trailer as I put her saddle on. Since this behavior is rare for her, I didn't get after her for it. Maybe I should have, but it has been my experience that it only makes her worse and that once I get on she settles right down. This is where I get to be the amature owner and not the trainer (cause she's just so darn pretty, I don't want to get mad at her!)
I decided to ride her in a snaffle, since I knew I would have plenty of forward and wouldn't have to work as hard to get her to come to my hand.

Grace got right to work when we got into the warm up arena. She was incredibly focused, similar to how she is when I haul her to a show or barrel race. As soon as we started to trot, I was again convinced that someone had switched out my horse in the middle of the night. This horse was driving up from behind and lifting her back. She was incredibly soft in the bridle. After a few minutes I was able to let out more rein and she just floated above the ground. Who is this horse? I don't think I've ever felt her drive up from behind like that, ever! The friend that I had been visiting with earlier commented on how well Grace was moving. She felt incredible! I finished up with some lope circles, turning her off the outside rein. She felt like she would have done a canter pirouette if I had asked for one.

After we watched a few jumping rounds, I took her back home. This time when I put her in the pasture, she went to what was left of her breakfast. My quiet Grace was back. For the last two weeks I've felt like she was telling me that she's ready to get out and do something. I believe that yesterday she stopped telling me and started screaming it at me. Now it's time to find something for her to do.