Jayne's New Country Home

The Horses

I was first bitten by the "horse bug" when I was 8. My uncle bought a horse for my cousins, I had my first ride and that was it, I was hooked! Although I rode throughout my teens and into my twenties, it wasn't until I was 30 that I got my first horse, a dapple grey mare named Willow.

Annapolis (see below) was my second horse. He's a 16.2 hand Thoroughbred gelding. He has some pretty royal bloodlines and started life as a racehorse. In fact, horse "whisperer" Monty Roberts owned him when he was a yearling, and Annapolis still remembers the "Join Up" training that Monty did with him.

I got him in March of 1988, having sold Willow to a new family. Annapolis and I have had many adventures over the years, including competing in dressage and eventing, as well as the ups and downs of health problems, such as a bowed tendon, EPM and anhidrosis.

Now, in 2006, even though he has reached the venerable age of 27 and is beginning to look his age, he still enjoys being gently ridden. His health problems in the past put an end to any sort of progressive training, so the riding we do is just basically for exercise and pleasure.

This photo was taken where we used to board, in 2005. Not a lot of shade and, on this occasion, a LOT of mud underfoot. However, Annapolis and I did enjoy playing in the arena over there, whether I was actually on his back or not!

In the summer of 2006, I moved both horses from the barn I had been at for about 10 years, to a different barn which turns out to be better suited all round. First of all, there's a lot more shade there, which has helped Annapolis deal with the summer heat. Second, it backs on to 150 acres of wooded trails, which gives us a nice place for gentle trail rides. Thirdly, but really most important, the lady I board with now, Dee, is such a wonderful person. Not only does she take wonderful care of the horses, but she has become a very good friend to me. She's very good for me in ways too numerous to mention.

Here's a photo taken on the day we moved the horses. As you can see, Annapolis is taking great interest in his surroundings. Perhaps he's wondering if he died and went to heaven!

My other horse is Star, a 17 hand Percheron mare. Life with Star has been an adventure, to say the least. I originally got her for my then boyfriend, with the idea that I could ride her while Annapolis was recuperating from an injury. However, we discovered very quickly that although we had been told Star was trained, she was pretty much untouchable. While she was as sweet as anything, and it was her personality that won us over, she certainly wasn't ready to be ridden and had a lot of issues when it came to handling.

For the first year weeks would go by where she wouldn't let me catch her at all. However, when I was able to catch her, I tried to make it pleasant for her, and also did some training work in the round pen that made her easier to catch next time around. It took a while (two years), but now she lets me catch her easily.

The other challenge was picking her feet up, a concept with which she was totally unfamiliar. Her feet had apparently not been touched for years, if ever and finding a farrier that could work with her was a challenge that took almost three years!

I finally found a farrier who would work with her when I was introduced to Nick Brown. He got on really well with Star and was incredibly patient with her. He was willing to use unorthodox methods to accomodate her, while at the same time gradually training her to accept the more usual practice of holding her foot between his legs as he works on her. He gave her regular trims for almost three years before moving out of the area.

By that time, I had made the acquaintance of another farrier who was used to drafts, Steve Wieznicki. When he met Star for the first time, he gave me a lot of background on her, and clues to her behavior that I didn't have before. He said she looked "Amish bred", that is, very stocky -- a farm type animal rather than a riding or carriage type animal. He also told me about how the Amish shoe/trim their horses -- in stocks. That would explain why she would lift her feet up for me -- she was used to having them held up for her in stocks!

As you can see in this photo, she's become an old hand at having her feet trimmed :) This photo was taken on the day we moved to the new barn. Even being in a new place, with new things all around, she stood like a pro for farrier Steve.

At one time, I sent Star away to a "trainer" (and I use the term loosely!) who was recommended to me. Let me just say that he returned her to me two weeks later, about 100 pounds lighter, and no closer to being trained. I was livid when I saw the scabs and scars on her body. Apparently he had tied her to a tree with a chain around her head and she had panicked and fought back -- the tree won. She still bears the scars to this day in the form of permanent marks where the hair grew back white.

I promised her then that I would never let anyone hurt her again and it's almost like we came to an agreement then. I still haven't got on her, but as you can see from the photos below, I have manager to make some progress with her.

Her English saddle looks like a postage stamp on her back, but we had a bit of an accident with her western saddle. The cinch wasn't done up tight enough and as she trotted around in the round pen, it suddenly slid sideways. That, of course, spooked her and she galloped around with the horn hitting the bars of the round pen until suddenly something gave. Unfortunately, it was the leather skirt that the cinch attaches to that split and I haven't got around yet, to seeing if I can find someone to fix it.

When I tried her in driving reins, I got the impression that she's been faking me out all this time. She really seemed to know what she was doing and seemed very calm about the whole process. Farrier Steve is itching to ger her over to his place and try her out in a hitch - just to see what she knows.

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Painting is ŠPenny Parker, all rights reserved to the artist and Used with permission.

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