Well, I’ve been living in California for almost three weeks now, and I think it’s about time for me to report on what I’ve learned.
Important Facts About California:
- This time of year, the nights get chilly (but not quite “Tennessee-cold”) and the days get hot rather quickly.
- The sun actually does shine as much as “they” say it does, but so far it’s not as humid as Tennessee or Florida… or even New York. (I guess we’ll see what the summer brings!)
- Psyllium, although I haven’t had any yet, is definitely a necessity here because there is a lot of sand – and Mommy told me that Psyllium will help to clean out the sand from inside my belly.
- People (and horses and cats) are as warm and friendly as the weather here, which makes it really easy to make friends. I’ve made quite a few friends already; even the horses who were grumpy at first and swore they’d never be my friend have warmed up to me (and some of them even whinny at me when they see me coming!)
- The Alfalfa hay here in California is like candy, it’s so delicious.
- Palm trees look neat, but I can’t really form an opinion on them until I’ve had a chance to taste them… which I don’t think will ever happen, because they’re all really tall.
I guess there’s more, but that about sums up what I’ve learned thus far about the culture and the environment. I’ll share more of my findings as I learn more about this amazing state. (After all, I still haven’t gone out on a trail ride yet!)
The Most Important Ingredient
I’ve been getting into a pretty good routine here, but I know it’s probably going to change a few times. For now, though, I get to see Mommy twice a day (every day!) and I’ve already made a few friends, like I mentioned before. The best part is that I’ve made friends with a fairly wide range of species, including horses, cats and humans. And friends are the most important ingredient in the recipe of life… that is, aside from family!
The first friends I made, of course, were Ringo and Chip – but Chip actually moved on to a different barn to become a dressage superstar. From what he told me, he loves dressage and was pretty excited to pursue his passion. I’m happy for him, but I do miss him.
I didn’t get a chance to miss him for long, however, before a new friend moved in. This sweet, older mare named Splash now lives next to me in Chip’s old stall. (She’s the one who told me at first that she didn’t want to be my friend.) When I came over to say hello to her the day she moved in, she pinned her ears and squealed at me like I’d done something wrong. Of course, I’ve gotten that reaction from horses before (though not very often – I’m much too lovable for that), so I wasn’t really phased by it. I simply gave her a minute and then tried another tactic. I very casually told her how my Mommy loves to share my treats with my friends (and there are always lots of treats to be shared), so friendship with me definitely had a couple upsides.
After a moment’s contemplation, Splash said that she’d give me a trial period. But the first time Mommy came through with carrots for everyone, Splash realized that I hadn’t been fibbing – and I think it solidified our new friendship instantly. Now, after I’ve been out of my stall for a while, she even whinnies to me when I come back!
On the other side of Splash is a pretty little gray mare named Sally. I met Sally one day when she was running around in the arena and showing off how beautifully she moves. Mommy wanted to go for a walk, but I was too captivated by Sally; I just wanted to stay and watch her dance! Sally’s human is named Elizabeth. She and her Mommy, Shelley, are two of my other new friends. They’re both very sweet and always say hello when they see me. Shelley is also a trainer at my barn!
Another friend that I’ve made is this older horse named Khalid. He’s not in the Mare Motel where Sally, Splash, Ringo and I live; he’s actually up the hill in one of the pipe corrals. I met him one day while Mommy and I were taking a walk around the property, as we do every so often (for exercise and a change of scenery). When I got to his corral, he came right over to the fence to say hello. I don’t know what it was about him, but he and I made an instant connection! We started grooming on one another and declared each other our new “besties.”
Khalid wears a big fly mask that I always want to take off for him. I’ve never actually asked him if he even likes wearing it – I just know that I don’t like to wear my fly mask (it makes my face itchy, even though it keeps the flies off of it), so one day I unfastened the velcro for him. He seemed to think it was pretty funny, and I bet he would have let me take the whole thing off for him… but Mommy told me to stop before I got that far. “Not everyone hates their fly mask the way you do, Icchy,” she said to me as she re-fastened the velcro. “Khalid might actually like having his on. It keeps the flies off of his face – and it’s like wearing sunglasses! You’d be a better friend if you left it on for him!”
I supposed that Mommy had a pretty good point, so the next time I saw Khalid I just shared my carrots with him instead of trying to take off his fly mask. (But that still doesn’t stop me from taking of my own fly mask whenever Mommy puts it on my face!)
Two more human friends I’ve made are Bernie and Lou. They are so nice! They always bring carrots and give everyone some as a special treat. I haven’t really made friends with their horses, Lady and Whisky, but I know I’m going to. Lady is also a retired racehorse – just like me! But she squeals at me when I try to come over to her and say hello, so I don’t want to make her uncomfortable. I know she’ll warm up to me one day soon, and then I’ll be able to make friends with Whisky, as well!
Anyway, I didn’t tell you about my Aunt Bonnie yet, or about her boy, Chief. My Aunt Bonnie is the one who spoils me the most (aside from my Mommy, of course). I love her! She’s always bringing me over treats and little buckets filled with the most delicious hay pellets. I mean, you’d think they’d be boring because they’re just hay made into pellets, right? Wrong! They’re scrumptious and I love eating them! Mommy said that they give me green lipstick, but I don’t mind – especially because Mommy said green lipstick looks good on me. (How could it not? Everything looks good on me!) I try to let my Aunt Bonnie know how much I appreciate her by giving her lots of kisses (without the lipstick). But I think she probably already knows that I love her. After all… she’s my Aunt Bonnie!
And do you know what the best part is? My Aunt Bonnie’s boy, Chief, is another one of my good friends! We met one day when I was walking around with Mommy. We didn’t have to walk very far because Chief lives in the row of pipe corrals right next to the Mare Motel! It was another one of those instant connections; we met and began grooming on each other immediately. Chief is a big sweetheart and has lots of love and patience to go around. Do you know what Chief does? Among many other things, he gives lessons to children with disabilities. He keeps them safe and gives them confidence. He’s basically a superstar! That’s probably why we got along so well to begin with – we’re both superstars! (I know, I know… I’m supposed to try to be more modest… But come on, we all know it’s true!)
Now, I know I’ve told you about my kitty friend, Olive. (She’s the one who came over and hung out with me while I worked and then even stayed to graze with me afterward.) But I’ve made more than just one kitty friend; there are so many cats at this barn who love to be around us horses! That makes me pretty happy. Y’all know how much I love making friends, big and small.
So, aside from Olive, my next best-kitty-friend is Becky. She’s a pretty little Calico cat and she loves to hang out with me, whatever I’m doing. She even comes into my stall and cuddles with me sometimes while Mommy grooms on me. When she’s hanging out with me, I try to stand really still so I don’t accidentally step on her or scare her – but she seems to be very familiar with horses and knows when to get out of the way. She’s so fast! She can jump so high! And, from what I hear, she’s a really good hunter, too. Becky likes to rub her body and her tail against me, and Mommy told me that’s like giving a hug in kitty language. I love hugs; I’ll take all the hugs I can get!
There are a couple other kitties at the barn who I don’t know that well yet, but they still like to come and hang out with me. Sometimes they even watch me work in the mornings, which is awesome, because – as anyone who knows me knows – I love having an audience. It’s nice when my friends come and watch me work because it gives me a chance to show off a little bit – even when it’s just a group of my kitty friends. Having anyone there, though, gives me confidence and makes me want to work even harder than I already do!
A lot of the time, on a hot, sunny day, I see the kitties sitting together on the patio of the show barn. They’re all such good friends; it makes me happy to see them enjoying their life. These lucky cats get to roam around the property during the day, making friends and hanging out with humans and horses and each other – and sometimes even catching the mice and rats who like to try to steal our grain. And then, at night, they get to sleep indoors, safe from all of the scary animals who lurk in the darkness at night, just waiting to catch a small kitty for a midnight snack. It’s clear that their humans give them the best of everything… just like my own humans do for me!
Not All Fun And Games… But Mostly
Now, in case you were starting to think that my life mainly consists of hanging out and making friends… well, I guess that’s actually true. But I do still work very hard on a(n almost) daily basis. As many of you know, it’s my goal to become a “Grand Prix Jumper” someday in the very near future, and that means that I have to practice and get into the best shape of my life! Last year, I had a lot of time off because of a couple misplaced nails in my shoes, and then the winter in Tennessee was cold and rainy and snowy – so I arrived in California with very little muscle and even less stamina, because it had been so long since I’d had a consistent workout schedule. But that all changed the day I arrived in Sunny SoCal. It was time to get into shape and start really working toward my goals! Mommy said that she was out of shape too, though, so we would be able to get into shape together.
Mommy and I have both been working very hard. We don’t work more than 4 or 5 days each week, though – and never 5 days in a row – because Mommy feels that resting after a hard workout is just as important as the workout itself. She doesn’t want me to get degenerative joint disease, which is a real possibility for horses who work as hard as I do! So the days of rest give my muscles and joints a chance to repair themselves, which in turn makes me even stronger. Of course, “a day of rest” doesn’t mean that I just sit in my stall all day, bored and unfulfilled. Sometimes it means I get to go for a long walk around the property with Mommy, saying hello to all of the friends I’ve made.
And it usually means that I get turned out in the arena, where I get to run and play and roll and buck as much as I want to! Mommy doesn’t chase me or make me run on my days off; I only run if I want to, but I almost always buck and roll and take some time to act silly!
My workouts have been getting increasingly more difficult since landing here in California. We started out with light, easy workouts, just aiming to get back into the swing of things. At first, that was plenty; I was out of breath after a twenty minute workout… and so was Mommy. But we’ve been increasing the length and intensity of our workouts as we both get into better shape.
We work out at all different times of the day, too. Most of the time we ride mid-morning, but sometimes Mommy rides in the evening – and sometimes, we get up before the sun even peeks out over the hills of the canyon where we live!
Because I’ve been working so hard and trying my best to focus and behave every time Mommy and I ride, I got rewarded by getting to jump a little bit! The jump was really small, though, and it made me frustrated because I miss jumping BIG jumps! I mean, I used to jump five feet high, before the “hot nail incidents,” so why can’t I just go back to jumping five feet again right now?!
Well, I found out the answer to that after jumping a little, tiny jump a few times in a row: I was sore! Even though the jump was small, I was using muscles that I hadn’t used in a while. Then I understood why Mommy was torturing me by making me jump something that seemed too small to be worth the effort. She knew I’d be sore the next day, and she wants to make sure that I work my way back up to those big jumps slowly. She even gave me a liniment bath afterward and wrapped my legs in standing wraps, which I was pretty happy about, because it helped keep my legs from “stocking up,” or getting swollen, when I went back to my stall.
After another week’s worth of flat work, Mommy decided that I deserved another day of fun. So one morning, instead of riding me and doing our normal workout, Mommy turned me out in the arena and let me gallop around. Then, to my surprise, she set up a small jump and let me go over it by myself, without her on my back!
It’s been a long time since I’ve “free jumped,” and it was a lot of fun. Mommy actually ended up putting me on the lunge line, though, because she didn’t want me wasting too much energy by galloping all around the huge arena after each jump; she knew I’d be tired and sore enough just from jumping. I had so much fun! I even got to jump a small oxer! Mommy let me jump as many times as I wanted to, until I was so tired that I could only trot over the jump. I wanted to keep jumping, even at a trot, but Mommy said that it was probably enough for the day.
Because I had worked so hard and I was so tired after free jumping, Mommy decided that I should walk on the hot-walker. Of course, she let me walk around in the arena first (and roll, because I was itchy and sweaty), but she wanted to make sure that I walked enough, so that I wouldn’t tie up or colic or get really, really sore.
After walking on the hot-walker for a while, Mommy gave me a liniment bath and wrapped my legs in standing wraps again, too. Then we got to hang out and graze for a while before I went back to my stall and took a long nap! I’m usually pretty exhausted after my workouts, but it’s a good feeling because it means that I’m officially back in the game!
Today I got two extra special treats. Not only did Mommy’s human parents come to see me, which was really exciting and fun, but they also brought me a scrumptious carrot cake cupcake with delicious cream cheese frosting that Mommy’s sister-in-law made for Easter! At first, I didn’t know what to make of it and I accidentally spat it out. But then I regretted that immediately! Mommy picked it up and took the dirt off of it before giving it back to me, and then I gobbled it up!
Actually, those weren’t even the only two special treats that I got today. While Mommy and I were working in the lower arena, I was trying to be on my best behavior and show off a little for her parents (because, as I’ve said, I love having an audience). Since I was being such a good boy, Mommy decided that I would get to jump a little bit today, too! That made me very happy, not only because I love jumping, but because it meant I’d have a chance to show off a little bit more for “my audience!” We still only jumped a small jump – but it was still a lot of fun. And since I’d gotten to free jump a few days before, I didn’t feel the need to rush or get silly when I was jumping today! Mommy was very proud of me and I could tell that her human parents were, too!
Everything is Meaningful
Mommy said that the most important thing right now – in regard to jumping, anyway – is that I stay calm and listen to her, instead of getting excited and trying to rush over the jump or take control. She promised me that I’d get to move up to bigger jumps pretty soon, as long as I keep working hard on my flatwork and grid work, and focus on everything she asks me to do.
She assured me that even the boring exercises have a purpose; if I try my best, even at the exercises that I don’t particularly enjoy, then I’ll be back into shape and ready to start jumping courses again in no time! Then again, I’m sure that “no time” means something different to her than what it means to me… I have to admit, though, I really don’t mind working hard when Mommy and I ride because she gives me lots of love and attention, and she allows me to have a lot of fun, too. I mean, I wouldn’t have been able to make as many friends as I have if she didn’t come to the barn to spend so much time with me and make sure that I’m not bored and lonely. She also promised that we’ll get to go out for a trail ride soon so that I don’t have to be in the arena all of the time. Although, I must say, having three arenas to work in makes the arena work much more interesting!
Anyway, I’m sure there’s more that I could tell you – as always – but I’m about ready to hit the shavings and get some sleep. So I’ll catch y’all later!