August 15, 2022

Disco's Welsh Show Adventure

I keep wanting to title this post "Disco's First Show", but I remind myself that no, this is his second show!


This time he's a little bigger.

But stop growing though!

This is the same WPCSA North Central Regional that we went to last October, only moved to July, and at a different facility 2.5 hours north of me because the facility 30 minutes down the road from me was booked this year.

"Where am I?" - Disco

This, as you might imagine, threw a wrench into my "I can keep a one horse trailer even though I own two horses because the only place I'll ever show both of them is 30 minutes down the road" plan. I still really don't want to or need to own a two horse, and I certainly don't want to sell a trailer I love just to accommodate one Welsh show once a year. 

Because I didn't want to put anyone out on account of my choice to own a one horse trailer, I decided to make three round trips to bring them there and back. Yes, that is 15 hours of driving. In two days. I reached levels of exhaustion I didn't know were possible, but I got it done.

Me and Connor getting gas at 10:30pm on a Friday

I was worried about how Disco would haul and handle it all, since he hasn't left the property since I brought him home in November. None of my barnmates were available to help me load him, so I had a non-horsey gym friend come out. 

I needn't have worried - he thought about it for a second, but hopped right on. He seemed to have a good time too, I saw him flapping his lips out the window many times over the trip.


He arrived and settled straight into drinking and eating hay, which is one of the things I've always loved about Connor, so that made me happy. Of course, there were also baby shenanigans because oh my god entertaining a yearling colt in show stabling is horse ownership on hard mode, y'all.

He broke two bucket straps making water art on the wall over the 24 hours he was there. TBF drinking out of a bucket was new and exciting to him, since he'd only ever drank out of a decidedly (mercifully) less exciting Nelson auto-waterer or stock tank before that weekend.

He spent that whole first night across the aisle from Lisa's horses but separated from Connor, who I would bring up at 4am the next day. Got his socks washed, got his feet rasped (my farrier is hurt and we needed to clean them up) and was just generally a good boy, or as good as a yearling with a need for constant entertainment can be, anyway.

 That theme continued into the next day.

I didn't even bathe his body and hadn't groomed him in a month before this show, he's just that soft and shiny all the time.

He was the only entry in his C/D 2 and under colts class, which was fine with me. We were there to get points for Lisa and to practice the whole show experience. To my delight, but not my surprise, he trotted in hand like an absolute champ, staying next to me as I ran quite fast (and I ran cross-country, so that's saying something).

After that, we had a brief break before we had to go in for the Sec C/D Champion class (all genders). I did end up putting a chain on him for that class - he was being subtly rude and pushy in the flat leather show halter in a way I didn't appreciate. He was MAD about the chain, but only in a "I want to make my opinion known," way.

Reminder: I'm 5 feet tall, he's not THAT big!

The funniest moment of the show was sadly not captured on camera. During the Champions class, the two stallions were on the other side of the judge's tent from the rest of the horses, putting Disco and one of Lisa's other stallions, Castleberrys Red Dragon, next to each other. As soon as the judging was announced and Disco didn't win, he laid down and rolled right there in the arena, I'd have called it a protest if I was prone to anthropomorphizing. 

But even better, Dragon saw Disco rolling and started rolling too! Then Disco started to get up, but got halfway up into a sitting-like-a-dog position when he noticed Dragon rolling, and he sat there and watched him roll for a while. Everyone was laughing so hard! What a Welsh thing to do.

One of the other handlers asked if I was going to tame his mane onto one side. HAHAHAHA. I would if I could, but he literally has two manes worth of mane. That's never happening.

So, did he win big again? No. But I don't care. He was well-behaved for 5 hours of trailering, a hot night in show stabling, being around strange horses, and being amped up in the show ring. These are the kinds of experiences I want him to have right now, and he exceeded every expectation I had.


July 11, 2022

More Trail Riding

Yesterday we got enough of a break from the heat to take the ponies back to Brown County, and this time, the sun was shining.


This time, I also remembered my (much too large $15 Facebook find) bug quarter sheet, and $15 4th of July sale saddle bags purchased a couple weeks ago.

After riding in his custom fitted Dressage saddle for the last six months, it's wildly apparent that he's not 100% comfortable in the Western saddle, in his own obvious-to-no-one-but-me Connor way, so I'm trail riding in the Patrick, hence the need for English saddle bags. I don't ride enough to buy them when they're their usual $65, but at $15, YOLO.

It does fit so well

This time we did more of A trail, plus J trail, which are both labeled as easy trails, and they are, but the terrain on the part of A I'd never been on before was definitely more challenging than the part I usually ride. In a fun way.


We had several water crossings in the beginning, which were great for the 3 year old with us to figure out, and much of the first mile or two was on limestone, both in and out of the creek bed. It's hard to see, but that's not mud under us in this section, this is a rock ramp.

It was a little slick going up but nothing that caused our barefoot ponies any trouble. If we had been going down, I might have thought twice about it.

Setting out


We were out for about two hours this time, which was plenty. There was far less mud this time, but more hills, and our 3 year old in particular was getting pretty tired by the end of it. Connor, for his part, was still trying to trot and canter any chance he got, which I did let him do a little bit on the hills. I'd feel him asking to move, coil him up and then let him go. He had a blast.


In fact, I'm starting to think he's truly enjoying himself out there. When I put him on the trailer both times yesterday he didn't nervous poop or call, and he ALWAYS does both. I know I'm enjoying it. After several years of competing and learning and pushing myself and him, it's so nice to just meet my horse where he is and enjoy him.

Rode him through camp with no hands on the way back

July 4, 2022

Disco's First Braid

Lots of pictures in this post that may or may not display in RSS readers, heads up.

Last week Mary came out just to hang out, and we ended up going to the barn at sunset to pet pony noses.

Connor, as usual, wanted nothing to do with us just in case we were there to catch him. He's not hard to catch anymore, as long as you stick strictly to the routine.


Disco, though, was his usual people-loving self and didn't want to leave our sides, but was still respectful enough that I didn't even need to halter him. He's slowly outgrowing the "explore the world with your teeth" phase, which I am very grateful for.

Hanging out with him slowly turned into Mary giving him a running braid.


While I distracted him.


I didn't need to do much, he didn't move a muscle the entire time.


And then we set him free and he promptly wandered off...

To show uncle Connor his sweet new braids.


Gotta be honest, my second favorite part was seeing his neck without hair for the first time! There's a nice neck under all that hair!


But my favorite part was how good he was. Standing loose in the field for ten minutes while his mane got braided for the first time and still kept coming back for more people love as we walked away. He is just so cool.

June 22, 2022

One Year Co-Op Anniversary

As of this month, we're celebrating one year as a co-op.

A recent Sunday morning on the farm

At our June monthly co-op meeting, I mentioned the anniversary and that I was still sometimes amazed at how smoothly it had gone. The barn owner laughed and said, "I'm amazed too, I didn't know if this was going to work out at first, but it really has!"

It's not just amazing that it worked at all: it's amazing that it worked so well. This has been the smoothest year of boarding I've ever had. Certainly the most work as well, but never so much work that it felt like I couldn't get away. 

 

My mom doing stalls on Christmas morning

In that year, not a single shift has been missed. Service complaints have been minimal, and when they happen they're something benign like someone left Shoo Fly Leggings on a horse inside when they should've been off. We've seamlessly dealt with 10 day vacations, multiple unexpected week-long absences due to family emergencies, extreme weather, holidays and business trips, and never missed a beat.

Waiting for the hay guy on my day off this week

 

Even drama has been at nearly zero. We had one moment where something could've gotten petty, but instead of letting it happen, I set a firm precedent that we are not going to use me (the co-op manager) to hide behind rather than directly sharing valid complaints and thoughts with the group. Direct and honest communication is what makes this co-op work, and I'm going to preserve it fiercely.

This isn't something we HAVE to do, but sometimes the BOs can't keep up with the landscaping and I take it upon myself to help out
 

The top picture to the bottom picture took me an hour!

I think for me the biggest lesson here is that with the right group of people and the right motivations, this might be the most sustainable boarding model of all, at least in this economy. I've seen so many full care facilities close around here recently for various reasons. I've seen so much drama boarding over the years. I've seen so many entitled boarders ask for truly ridiculous demands. 

And we have almost none of that, because we all have skin in the game of keeping the facility open and running smoothly. If one boarder asks for a change that will impact all of us, we discuss it and agree to it, or if there's disagreement we figure out a compromise. It just works.

Neatly organized feed room from last fall

This post is long enough, but sometime soon I'm going to make a list of all the things that did and didn't work in the first year of our co-op, since I've had readers come to me for ideas. Am I an expert, no, but I did write our model and have a year of experience under my belt at this point, which I think is worth sharing.

June 20, 2022

Trail Riding in Brown County

Two weekends ago, barnmate Leah and I took Connor and her baby Pyro out to Brown County for a quick trail ride with friends and fellow Castleberry Cob owners Nic and Haley. It was the last cool day before the weather was to turn sharply warmer and more humid.

Half Castleberry Cob half WB Castleberrys Rockette pictured on the left

Under threat of storms, we had to be quick. It ended up being a muddy one, about an hour long, which was more than enough for how hard the horses had to work in some spots.

As with a lot of things in life, Connor has earned the right to do whatever he wants in certain situations, such as out on the trail. I let him pick his own way down the trail, which typically meant the driest route he could find, which made everyone laugh.

Connor was making everyone laugh with his usual impatience on the trail. Once you get this pony going, he does not want to stop. Period. And if you stop, he will let you know he's unhappy. It's one of those weird personality quirks that I absolutely would have dealt with ten years ago if he was for sale, but he's not, so I didn't.

Related: even after nearly an hour on sloppy, tricky trails, he would still try to trot to go faster every so often and I'd have to growl at him. Dude is just cocky enough on trails now to be bolder than he needs to be, lol.


Once again, we were left wondering why we don't do this more often when it's just an easy half hour haul from the farm! We'll see how long before we go back out there. Hopefully not long!