Posts Tagged With: horse jumping

Meeting the family (and an oxer with a spread)

This month has been full of fun and exciting surprises. So many things have happened, and I want to tell you about them all! I don’t even know where to begin… so I’ll just begin with my favorite part: getting to meet more of my Mommy’s family.

For years, I’ve been hearing about my Mommy’s human siblings – and a little while back, I got to meet one of Mommy’s brothers – Josh – and his wife, Hannah (…as well as a bunch of other family members). It was a lot of fun to meet all of them!

More recently, I also got to meet Mommy’s other brother, D, and his two daughters, Liliana and her little sister, Angelina. Those girls are two of my favorite little humans ever! I felt like I’d known them their entire lives, though, because Mommy has been telling me all about them for as long as I can remember. It was amazing getting to meet them in person for the first time! And they even wore purple because they know that it’s my favorite color!

Liliana told me that she’s been eagerly waiting to meet me, too, and I was so flattered to hear that. She’s incredibly smart and knew a lot about horses already. She asked lots of really good questions, too, which Mommy and I love. It was clear that Liliana wanted to learn as much as she could about horses – and we were happy to answer all of her questions!

After introducing us,  Mommy explained to Liliana and Angelina how to behave and act around horses (no yelling or running, always let us know where you are and watch out for your own feet, because we might not see them… things like that).

Then, Mommy grabbed my grooming kit and we all went over to the hitching post so that Mommy could show the girls how to use the brushes. It was so much fun having both of the girls grooming on me at the same time! They learned quickly and did a great job – with my Mommy and their Daddy supervising (and taking lots of photos).

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Mommy and the girls tacked me up in the most colorful outfit they could put together; four different polos and my new owl saddle pad. I loved it! Mommy knows how much I love to dress in bright colors. D and his girls watched while Mommy and I had a sunset workout. Every time we came around the turn, they cheered my name and clapped to show me what a good job I was doing. It was awesome! (Needless to say, I was on my best behavior… so they clapped a lot!) After we were done with our “serious” work, I begged Mommy to let me walk the girls around… and she said yes!  Mommy’s brother, D, said that it was the first time his girls had ridden a horse! We were all very excited. First, Mommy let Angelina sit in the saddle in front of her so that she could keep a hold of her and make sure she was safe while we walked around. Even though I knew that Mommy would hold on tightly to Angelina, I walked as slowly and carefully as I could. IMG_2422 I was glad to hear Angelina say that she was having fun, because I was, too! When Angelina’s turn was over, her Daddy helped her out of the saddle – and then Mommy hopped down out of the saddle, too. She fastened the helmet snugly on Liliana’s head – and then explained to her the meaning of a “leg-up” (where Mommy grabs hold of Liliana’s left ankle and helps her up while Liliana jumps as high as she can and swings her right leg over my back) before attempting to give her a leg-up into the saddle. Liliana is very athletic, so she did a good job – even though I’m much taller than her!

Liliana already knew how to turn and stop using the reins, so Mommy just explained to her how to sit correctly with her back straight and her heels down, and how to get me to walk by using pressure from her heels… and we were off! IMG_2378 We ended our rides when it began to get dark outside, and then Mommy, D and the girls untacked me, gave me a quick shower and lots of carrots! Mommy doesn’t like to put me back into my stall when I’m still wet, so she had me walk on the hot walker for a little while. She told me that I needed to walk for a little while longer before having dinner, anyway – since I always have to wait at least an hour after my workout before I eat, in order to prevent tummy aches – so I didn’t mind. When I’m walking on the hot walker by myself, I usually just zone out and dream about jumping in a Grand Prix someday with Mommy…

Liliana and Angelina helped Mommy get my dinner grain ready, and when I was dry I got to go back to my stall and eat. I was sad to say goodbye to them when they had to leave, but Mommy assured me that I would see them again sometime. All in all, I think that was my favorite day (and night) of the entire month. IMG_2405 The next morning, Mommy and I had an early ride – and then she left for San Diego with her human parents, not to return again until… the next night. I know, I know; that’s not a very long time. But it was a long time to me! Luckily, my Aunt Bonnie was there to feed me my dinner and let me walk on the hot walker with my friends.

When Mommy finally came back home from San Diego, she let me out of my stall to run around and play in the arena. I had a lot of energy! We didn’t have a proper workout that night, though, because it was already supposed to be my day off.

The next morning, however, we worked over some raised ground poles – and it was way harder than it seemed! But Mommy said that it’s a good exercise for me to practice, just like all of our ground pole patterns and exercises.

Mommy also said that she and Daddy had a discussion about my training schedule, and they decided that I was ready to move up to hourlong workouts each time – just like before the “hot nail incidents!” Mommy and I have been gradually increasing the duration and difficulty level of my workouts in an attempt to get me back into the same kind of shape that I was in before – on my way to the Grand Prix… and I guess this means that I’m right on track!

Since moving to California and getting back into the swing of things, I was on a “three-days-on, one-day-off, two-days-on, one-day-off” (3/1/2/1) schedule, with mixed durations. Sometimes I would work for a solid hour, sometimes for a half hour, and sometimes for more or less time (depending on factors such as how well I behaved, or how hard I had worked the day before, etc). Now, I’ll be on a “4/1/3/1” schedule, working for an hour each time!

Anyway, enough of that technical mumbo-jumbo… Let’s get to the good part: my second favorite day this month, when Mommy and I jumped a 3’9 oxer with a 3′ spread! And I was even wearing an English Jumping Hackamore, too!

Now, although it wasn’t the biggest or the widest oxer I’ve jumped, it’s the first time I’ve jumped an oxer with a considerable spread since getting back into shape. And although I don’t usually like jumping in a jumping hackamore (because I don’t like the way the curb chain feels on my chin when I stretch out over the jump), I didn’t mind it this time. Probably because I was so happy just to be jumping… And I was excited to be jumping a big, wide jump like that, too!

Anyway, I haven’t jumped since then – but according to Mommy, we will be jumping again very soon…

did get new shoes from my friend, Tim the Horseshoer, though!

"Halfway there," she said...

“Halfway there,” she said…

Mr. Tim said that these new shoes have a “flight rating” that will allow me to jump up to five-and-a-half-feet high with a six-foot-spread. I’m not quite there again yet, but I know it’s going to be pretty soon…

Even though I used to get nervous while getting my feet trimmed and my new shoes put on (at least for the past year or so), I feel very calm and safe with my friend, Mr. Tim. And my feet feel better and better every time he gets done putting on my new shoes! My legs don’t get as sore after workouts anymore, either…

Can you tell that I love my friend, Tim the Horseshoer?

Well, although there’s much more to talk about, I think I’ll save the rest for next time. It’s getting late in the day, and Mommy said that we were going to be working this evening – so I’d better go get prepared for a workout!

I hope you’re all are staying cool in this heat, friends. I’ll catch y’all later!

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Categories: A Day in the Life of Icchy Star, Memories and Nostalgia | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Life is good (so enjoy the ride)

Have I mentioned lately how much I love my life?

Although I do work very hard, the work I do is mostly fun – and I get to hang out with my Mommy and all of my friends just as much, if not more. I’m never lonely because there’s always a friend or two somewhere nearby.

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And now, thanks to my wonderful Aunt Bonnie and my best friend, Chief, I have a toy in my stall that I can play with when I’m hanging out and waiting for Mommy to come back! Aunt Bonnie brought a big orange cone for Chief, but he didn’t seem to want it… And, because Chief knows how much I love to play with the cone in the arena, he asked his Mommy to give it me!

I like to play with my cone during the day when I’m bored, after Mommy and I have already worked, before she comes back for an evening visit… But it’s also fun to play with my cone at night before I hit the shavings!

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I’ll be forever grateful to Chief and his Mommy, my Aunt Bonnie. They spoil me so much!

Honestly, I’m probably the most spoiled horse in the history of horses. My Mommy loves to spoil me, too – and so does her Mommy! In fact, last weekend, my Mommy and her Mommy went on a shopping trip just to buy me pretty things! (They said that their favorite tack store was going out of business and having a sale, but I know that was really just another excuse to buy me lots of cool presents.)

I got a cool, stylish new fly mask and a brand new lead rope…

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And I even got a tail bag! 

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This is the first tail bag that I’ve ever had, and I really love it. But I didn’t know what to make of it at first! Right after Mommy put it on me, I tried to swat away some flies with my tail – and I seriously thought that someone was smacking me with something! I kept testing it out, and I kept getting spooked when I’d hit myself in the side with the tail bag. For the life of me, I could not understand why someone would smack me just for swatting away flies… and I had no idea who was doing it, either – because I could see Mommy standing right next to me! Of course, she was laughing, and I did not find the situation very funny.

Finally, Mommy grabbed the tail bag and pulled it as close to my face as she could to show me that it was actually attached to my tail. When I found out that I had been spooking at my own tail, I felt pretty silly – but that feeling didn’t last too long. The wheels in my head began to turn, and I realized something very important: the tail bag was much longer than my actual tail. You might be wondering why that matters – and I will gladly tell you. With a tail bag much longer than my actual tail, I can swat away flies that I otherwise wouldn’t be able to reach! I can even swat them off of my shoulders if I aim well enough! It’s absolutely heavenly… especially because I have great aim!

Anyway, the presents didn’t stop there.

Mommy and her Mommy also bought me some brand new saddle pads. Our unanimous favorite is the one with cute little owls on it! Mommy loves owls. I’ve never seen one in real life, but if they’re as cute in real life as they are on the saddle pad, then I definitely want to be their friend.

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In addition to the favorite owl pad, I got a bright blue saddle pad, a bright pink one and one with a black-and-white pattern on it to match the fancy saddle bag that Mommy got before she and I moved out here.

Mommy also got me five different pairs of boots, all of which I love (but some of which I love more than others).

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IMG_1495Those aren’t all of them, but those ones are my favorites. (And, of course, I won’t wear a different boot on each leg while I work, like I do sometimes with colorful polos… I’ll probably only wear matching sets. But you never know!) It just figures that the boots I love the most are the ones Mommy wants to save only for special occasions… like jumping day!

Speaking of jumping day… (…I bet you already know what I’m going to say…)

That’s right, you guessed it: I got to jump on Friday! (And yes, I wore my brand new boots and one of my brand new saddle pads!) But I knew it was jumping day before I was even tacked up… because Mommy gave me marshmallows, my super-special jumping day treat!

After warming up on the flat and then over some small jumps, Mommy and I worked through a line that consisted of three jumps. The first two jumps didn’t have a stride in between (which is called a “bounce”). That means that I land from the first jump and immediately jump the second one. The second to third jump had one single stride in between. So it was a “bounce to a one-stride” line. It was only a little bit tricky, but a lot of fun.

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Every time we jumped through the line successfully, Mommy would raise the jumps up a little higher. Eventually, the last jump was set to three and a half feet, which is the highest I’d jumped since getting to California and getting back into shape. Once that last jump was set at 3’6, it was definitely much more difficult… but nothing that Mommy and I couldn’t handle.

When Mommy had determined that I’d jumped through the line enough times – and praised me profusely for being such a good boy – she decided that I deserved another reward. Mommy knows how much I love to jump really high, so my reward was getting to jump a four-foot-high oxer! 

Mommy moved two of the jumps from the line together to make an oxer and took the last jump out completely. As we cantered around the turn and started our approach to the jump, I could feel Mommy’s heart pounding and realized that she was a little bit nervous! Even though I wasn’t nervous at all, I understood why Mommy was. It had been about a year since we’d jumped anything nearly that big, and Mommy must have been feeling a lot of emotions.

First of all, I know she was nervous just because it’s been so long since she has jumped that big, too, but she was also probably really scared that I’d hurt myself and have to take time off again. I didn’t want her to be nervous that I would refuse the jump or knock it down, in addition to all of the other things she was feeling, so I made sure to canter up to it with confidence. I wanted her to know that I would take care of her, but I also wanted her to know that I was ready for this!

It was a piece of carrot cake. I didn’t even have to try very hard to jump over it!

Mommy told me later that she asked me to go a little too fast on the approach because she was nervous, and she also joked that she was “hiding” in my mane while we were in the air! I assured her that she did a very good job during her first time jumping four feet since last summer… and she assured me of the same thing! She told me about a thousand times how proud of me she was… and, of course, I got more marshmallows afterward as a special treat.

Anyway, I know I sometimes complain about the hard work that I have to do in order to get back into shape (…especially about the exercises from that “101 Jumping Exercises” book that Mommy loves to practice), but I really do have to admit that the hard work is paying off! Mommy said that if I keep working this hard and doing such a great job, she thinks we will be jumping five feet again in a matter of mere months! I know that we can do it. I can hardly wait!

So, I guess that’s about all I have to share with you tonight. Not because there’s not more – there’s always more – but I’ll have to share the rest with you another time. For now, friends, I have to hit the shavings and get some sleep. But I’ll write again very soon, and when I do, I’ll be sure to tell you all about the first trail ride we went on since moving to California! Until then, remember to work hard, listen to your humans and always ask for one more treat (because you just might get it if you ask for it)! I’ll catch y’all later…

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Categories: A Day in the Life of Icchy Star | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Adventures Never End

Friends, I’m sorry that it’s been so long since I’ve written; I can assure you that it has not been for any lack of excitement around here! Actually, there has been more excitement than I’ve known what to do with. I have a lot to tell you and a lot to catch you up on… but first, I have to tell you about what happened the other evening when Mommy came out to give me my dinner grain!

As usual, I watched Mommy drive up and get out of her car. I waited (im)patiently for her to come over and say hello… but, to my surprise, she didn’t! She and Kimberly, Splash’s Mommy, were standing by the fence, staring at the horses in the neighboring ranch. When I saw some movement from the ground of the paddock by the hay feeder, I put my head over the top of my stall to get a better view of what was going on. I saw Mommy climb through the fence and run over there, and that’s when I realized that there was a horse down with his legs stuck in the fence of his pipe corral! He couldn’t get up!

Mommy went to the horse and tried to calm him down so he wouldn’t thrash around and hurt himself, and then she looked him over to make sure he wasn’t seriously hurt. I saw her get up and run all the way to the other end of the neighbor’s property where it looked like there was a little barn or a house, and I could hear her yelling for someone to help.

When she came running back alone, I knew that meant that no one was home over there. Before I could even make the suggestion to her, I heard Mommy say that she was going to go try to find the guys who work at our barn to help get the horse free. She asked Kimberly to go and keep the horse calm so that he didn’t injure himself by thrashing around, and then Mommy hopped back into her car and disappeared quickly out of sight.

When Mommy’s car returned, she was followed by Cassie, one of the guys who works at our ranch, and his brother. They all hopped the fence and ran over to where Kimberly and the horse were. Cassie had a knife and some rope, and I could see that they were going to try to get the horse free, even though the owners of that ranch were nowhere to be found.

Just a minute later, though, a big truck came driving up on that side of the fence and a guy and a lady hopped out. Everyone looked both calm and a little frantic at the same time. I strained my eyes to see farther (and by that, I really mean that I lifted my head – because, as you probably already know, that’s how we horses see things that are far away), and I realized that the horse also had his head caught under the raised hay-feeder!

Although this isn’t a photo of our neighbor’s property, their hay-feeder looked sort of like this:

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…and the horse’s head was caught underneath, with his neck resting on the bar on the bottom. It must have been so uncomfortable for that poor guy!

The first thing the “Rescue Team” did was to put a halter on the horse (Mommy got that part done), and then Mommy held the horse’s head up while two people moved the hay feeder carefully away from the horse’s head. It’s a good thing Cassie brought a knife, too, because the hay feeder was tied to the pipe corral fence with bailing twine, and they had to use the knife to cut it in order to move the feeder. Then, Cassie and his brother wrapped some ropes underneath the armpit of the horse’s front legs and more rope around his back legs, and together, Mommy and the two guys rolled the horse over onto his other side, with the other lady helping to make sure that the horse’s legs got out from under the pipe corral fence while they rolled him over.

Later, when Mommy finally was able to come over to me and give me my dinner grain, she told me that the horse had some big gashes from trying to free himself, but that he was otherwise unharmed. I was relieved to hear that! The only bad part was that the poor guy has COPD – chronic obstructive pulmonary disease – and that he was having a hard time breathing. The lady and the guy who work at the other barn were going to give the poor, sweet horse a shower and then clean his wounds and let him get some rest.

As Mommy was telling me all this, we saw the lady leading the horse out of the wash area. The horse was stumbling badly, and then we heard the lady start to yell to her co-worker. I don’t think he could hear her, because he didn’t come running. Mommy, however, did. She ran over and climbed the fence again just in time to see the horse fall down – hard. I saw the lady point up toward the barn at the other end of the property, and Mommy took off in that direction again. I assumed that the lady had asked Mommy to get the guy that she had been yelling for; sure enough, Mommy and that same guy came running back down toward the lady and the fallen horse.

The guy shoved something in the horse’s mouth – which Mommy told me later was a medicated inhaler – and then the horse lifted his head as though he was going to try to get up. He didn’t, though; I could see his sides heaving all the way from my stall. The poor thing had clearly blacked out from lack of oxygen! Once she knew the horse was okay and that she wasn’t needed anymore, Mommy came walking back over to me. She said that those nice people were going to let the horse lay there and catch his breath for as long as he needed to, and then they were going to continue taking care of his wounds. I was glad for the horse that he had people who cared so much about him.

When I didn’t see that horse for a couple days after that, I began to grow worried; but, as it turned out, the people had just been keeping him up in the barn so that he could recover from this traumatic incident. When I saw them walking him back out to his paddock, I wanted to cheer! Instead, I just shoved my nose into Mommy’s pocket and sniffed for carrots or treats.

So, that about sums up that bit of excitement… but there has been plenty more going on aside from that! Let’s see… Where do I even begin?

Well, the last time we spoke, I had just encountered my first rattle snake, right? Yes, I remember now… I was incredibly brave. I think it was Mommy who ran away scared, wasn’t it? Since then, I’ve done lots and lots of things. For instance…

Mommy has been stepping up the intensity of our workouts. She has this horrid little book – ummm, I mean… this awesome little book with A HUNDRED AND ONE exercises to prepare a horse for jumping, and she’s been pulling ideas from it constantly! That’s right. OVER A HUNDRED EXERCISES. And Mommy clearly thinks these exercises are great. Not that I don’t, of course… At least she doesn’t make me do more than one or two different ones each day. One if I have to practice harder before I can get it right, and two if I seem to pick up on one or both fairly quickly.

We did a pattern of circles with some lead changes thrown in…

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And we did cloverleaf patterns with tiny little circles in each direction at the trot and canter…

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And then one day we did some other squiggly pattern with lead changes thrown in…

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And we even did a crazy little circle pattern that took me the entire second half of our workout to perfect. First, we went over two poles on a circle to the inside, and then turned to the outside for a circle… and back over two poles on a circle to the inside… and so on. (If you still don’t understand what the pattern is – don’t worry. Neither did I!)

All of these exercises have been hard work, but I have to admit that they’re actually kind of fun. They really make me think hard about what Mommy is asking me to do, and they force me to pay better attention. Mommy said that she feels I’m behaving much better in general lately – and I guess she thinks it’s because of that!

Anyway, it hasn’t all been work without play… I got to jump a little one-stride line a few weeks ago, and it was pretty fun. We got up to about three feet high on the second jump, which was plenty for me. It’s a lot harder than you would think, going from one jump to the next with only a stride in between!

I also got to meet a bunch of Mommy’s family one weekend. I got to meet some of her second cousins, as well as one of her great-aunts and one of her great-uncles. And they were all pretty great!

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I even got lots of hugs, which was the best part! You know how much I love hugs.

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And a couple days after that, I got to meet Mommy’s brother and sister-in-law!

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Mommy’s sister-in-law is pregnant with a baby human, so – naturally – she wanted to go over and say hello to the baby horse!

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But, of course, she was much more excited to meet me than any of the other horses… because, you know… I’m a celebrity and all that.

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It was truly wonderful getting to meet Mommy’s human family – and not only because they all gave me a ton of treats! I love making new friends, especially when they’re humans who mean so very much to my Mommy.

The week following the excitement of meeting the family, I got to jump again! That time, though, we worked our way up to a vertical that was three and a half feet high! Now, as y’all know, that’s basically child’s play to me… Except for the fact that I’m still not in my top performance shape, so it was actually just a little bit difficult at first. But then it got easier and easier. I begged Mommy to let me jump higher, but she said that 3’6 was plenty high enough for that day.

Aside from all of that excitement, Mommy and I have just been hanging out together…

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…and hanging out with friends…

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Watching romantic sunsets together…

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Goofing around…

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And just enjoying life in general.

That’s about all the excitement that I have to share with you today, friends. I promise I’ll try not to wait so long before I write again! Stay cool, and I’ll catch y’all later!

Categories: A Day in the Life of Icchy Star, Memories and Nostalgia | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

A Fearless Princess

One of the things that I love the most about California – as I know I’ve mentioned before – is how friendly and outgoing everyone is here, and how easy it is to make friends!

You see, I’ve always been able to make friends with humans pretty easily, being that I’m super lovable and sweet (and handsome and charming) (and modest!). Most of the horses I’ve met have ended up wanting to be my friends, too… except for the ones who had a major chip on their withers (which honestly haven’t been that many). I’ve even made friends with some dogs – like Annie, the dog I became friends with when I lived at my Aunt Joyce’s house in New York.

But all my life, I’ve always wanted to make friends with a kitty. There’s just something about them; they’re so regal and independent. If you win the hard-earned love and friendship of a kitty, you know you’ve done something worthwhile. (Not like winning the friendship of a dog, where all you have to do is glance in their general direction and you’ve won them over. Don’t get me wrong, though; I’m pretty much the same way. I love making friends with dogs – because my friendship is just as easy to win!)

Anyway, I’m sure most of you remember Rocky the Kitty, right? He was a kitty that I became friends with in Tennessee. He was shy and a little nervous at first, but we quickly became buddies. The only bad part about my friendship with Rocky was that he didn’t like to hug or cuddle – and I love to hug and cuddle. 

Then, when I moved out here to California, I became friends with a kitty named Olive and also with her barn-sister, a kitty named Becky. They’re both wonderful and love to hang out with Mommy and me. But I have finally met a kitty who takes the entire carrot-cake. She’s probably my best kitty friend in the whole world, and I’ve barely known her a single day!

Yesterday, while Mommy and I were working, we noticed that we had an audience.

Look, Mommy! There's Princess!

Look, Mommy! There’s Princess!

So, when it was time to take a break, we went over to say hello.

Princess gave me the warmest, friendliest hello of any kitty I’ve ever met before. She gave me a “kitty hug” before I’d even had a chance to introduce myself!

Well, hello there, Princess! It's nice to finally meet you up close!

Well, hello there, Princess! It’s nice to finally meet you up close!

Mommy leaned down to pet Princess and say hello, too, and then Princess did something completely unexpected.

She climbed right up into Mommy’s lap… on my back!

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I stood really still, because I didn’t want to scare her – but I should have known better. Any Princess who is brave enough to climb onto a horse’s back is clearly fearless!

As soon as she hopped up into the saddle, I could feel that weird, happy vibration that humans call “purring.” (I don’t know how those kitties do it, but I sure wish I could purr. There are lots of occasions when I would purr if I could, like when Daddy used to massage my ears… Or when I’m eating my grain!)

Anyway, Princess was apparently so happy to be sitting on my back that she decided to take a nap. That was fine with me, though, because it meant that I could take a longer break and just hang out, eating grass over the wall!

You just sleep as loooong as you want to, Princess!

You just sleep as loooong as you want to, Princess!

Mommy thought it was absolutely hysterical that Princess just jumped up into her lap while she was on my back, but I thought it was really cool. I knew that Princess and I would be best friends forever!

Now THAT is a happy kitty!

Now THAT is a happy kitty!

Eventually, Mommy told Princess that she’d either have to ride double with us while I finished my workout, or that she would have to get back down and watch from the sidelines. After a few more cuddles and a big hug (and head-scratchies from Mommy, which made Princess purr even louder), my newest kitty friend hopped back down onto the wall and wandered off to catch some mice, or sleep in the sunshine, or whatever it is that Princesses do in their free time.

Yep, I think I’m really going to love it here in California… In fact, I already do!

That’s about all I’ve got for you today, friends. I’ll continue to keep you updated on my California adventures; I’m sure there are many more to come. Catch y’all later!

Categories: A Day in the Life of Icchy Star | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

California Culture

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!

My friends, Splash and Sally

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!

Khalid, I think you're my new best friend.

Khalid, I think you’re my new best friend.

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

Seriously, dude… Do you want me to take that off for you?

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!

I love you, Aunt Bonnie!

I love you, Aunt Bonnie!

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!

Hey, Chief!

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!

My special little friend, Becky.

My special little friend, Becky.

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!

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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!

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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.

All my friends

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!

Acting 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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

Easter Cupcake

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!

Jumping!

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.

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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!

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Categories: A Day in the Life of Icchy Star | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

A little encouragement goes a LONG way!

This is just too exciting not to post. I don’t mean to brag (even though I know I brag all the time, because, well… I’m awesome!), but my human and I were featured on New Vocations Racehorse Adoption Program‘s Facebook page! They posted a photo of us jumping five feet on their Facebook page to show people that small horses can still do anything that big horses can do, as long as they have a good human and a big heart!

 

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Friends, this just goes to show you that you can do anything if you put your mind to it. When I left the racetrack all those many years ago, I was certain that my failures on the track would mean a one-way ticket to the livestock auction, which would almost definitely mean death for a scrawny little guy like me! But I was rescued by a wonderful woman named Phyllis Dawson, and soon after that, I was adopted by my Mommy and Daddy. Even though I wasn’t adopted through the “New Vocations Racehorse Adoption Program,” I still feel like I was absolutely one of the lucky ones. And I have all the respect in the world for “New Vocations,” because they’re dedicated to helping all of my friends and relatives find a new life after they are done racing.

New Vocations Racehorse Adoption Program was founded in 1992 to offer retiring racehorses a safe-haven, rehabilitation, and continued education through placement in experienced, caring homes. Most of the horses arriving at New Vocations are injured and thin, suffering the normal occupational hazards of racing. Without a useful skill to offer, their previous option was often a one-way ticket to the local livestock auction.

New Vocations provides a safety net for these horses, matching them with qualified individuals and following up on their rehabilitation and vocational training to ensure a successful transition. Our focus is on adoption versus retirement, believing that each horse deserves to have an individual home and purpose.

Nearly 5,000 retired Thoroughbreds and Standardbreds have been placed in qualified homes through New Vocations’ efforts since its inception. These horses have come from 30 different racetracks and have been adopted by families throughout the country.”

Thank you, New Vocations, for giving me such amazing and heartfelt encouragement. Mommy and I are ecstatic, and we really appreciate all the work you do to rescue, rehabilitate, and re-home Thoroughbreds and Standardbreds after their racing careers are over!

Well, that’s about all I have to say for now, y’all. Thanks for sharing in my excitement, friends, and remember: you can do anything if you put your mind to it! And don’t forget to tell your humans about New Vocations, so they can spread the word to any of their human friends who are looking to change the life of a lucky horse in need of a second chance.

Catch y’all later!

Categories: A Day in the Life of Icchy Star, Memories and Nostalgia | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Cheeky does not mean Naughty

Okay, I know I’m pretty cheeky – ask anyone – but I have to admit that I’ve been more than cheeky this weekend; I’ve been kind of naughty. And cheeky does not mean the same thing as naughty.

Cheeky is trying to get a bite of the plants in the planter when Mommy’s back is turned, and accidentally pulling the whole plant out. And then dropping it and looking away, like, “It wasn’t me.”

That's cheeky.

That’s cheeky.

Of course, Daddy put the plants back, and as much of the soil as he could fit back into the planter. (Daddy, if you’re reading this, I’m sorry for the mess!)

Do you know what else is cheeky? Cheeky is getting to go into a dry paddock for the first time, as I told you before… and finding a way to let myself out!  (…and then proceeding to go on a joy-gallop around the property until Bruce’s Mommy, Marlena, caught me and brought me back in to my own stall!)

Cheeky is also saying hi to Bruce, and then taking a big ol’ drink of his water before walking away!

Thanks, Bruce! I appreciate it!

Thanks, Bruce! I appreciate it!

Daddy filled his water back up, though. (Thanks, Daddy… I don’t know what I’d do without you!)

Naughty, however… Naughty is getting upset because I bumped my head; rearing up, spinning around, kicking out like a Fancy Lippizaner Horse… and accidentally kicking Daddy in the hand. (Daddy… I’m so, so sorry. I promise I’ll never do it again!)

Naughty is also bucking and bucking and rearing and bucking when Mommy tried to have a nice, calm, quiet ride in the dressage arena yesterday.

I promise, I'll be a good boy from now on...

I promise, I’ll be a good boy from now on…

Cheeky is chasing Lily around in the arena, because she didn’t believe my Daddy that I actually would! I like Lily, though. She and her pony, Rocky, are my friends. (Remember Rocky?)

Trotting after Lily!

Trotting after Lily!

Naughty, though… Naughty is bucking Mommy clear out of the saddle on my first day back to jumping in over two months! She said that she got a couple little cuts on her face, a scrape on her elbow… and dirt in her braces!

YEEEE-HAAAW!

YEEEE-HAAAW!

(Mommy, if you’re reading this – and I know you are – I’m sorry I threw you off into the dirt today. I really didn’t mean to… I sort of thought that you just never fell off. Especially because I tried really hard to get you off my back yesterday, as I’m sure you’re aware… and you stuck like glue. Until I knocked the wind out of you, and you jumped off and grew to be, like, ten feet tall and really scary. But anyway, Mommy, I hope you’re not hurting or sore, because I know I sure am!)

I went for a long gallop around the arena when Mommy fell off, and I probably shouldn’t have, because then Mommy got back on and schooled me into the ground. I was exhausted… but not too exhausted to keep acting cheeky! I couldn’t help it; I was just too excited to be jumping again, after all this time! 

We worked through it, though, and there came a point when I had to give in. I just didn’t have the energy to “keep up with the cheek,” as Mommy says.

That's what we're talking about, right Mommy?

That’s what we’re talking about, right Mommy?

My Uncle Jody and his daughter, Skylar, showed up at the barn to watch me jump a little, too.

Uncle Jody and Skylar got the best seats in the house!

Uncle Jody and Skylar got the best seats in the house!

And then, Mommy and I cantered into (and out of) a five-stride line beautifully; the best we did all day! Granted, it was only about 2’3… but hey, we have to start somewhere, right? It’s been two months! And even before I landed, Mommy was already crying out, “ATTABOY, ICCHY!” It felt great to hear some real praise! (I guess maybe I should behave more often, huh?)

We are definitely back!

We are definitely back!

Well, anyway, I got a long shower and a liniment bath after my hard workout, and although I usually hate cold showers and liniment, it felt great today. I was hot and exhausted! 

Chillin' in the wash-rack!

Chillin’ in the wash-rack!

Skylar helped Mommy to hose me down… and then, since we were the only ones up at the barn, Mommy and Skylar started spraying each other with the hose, too! They were giggling and it sounded like they enjoyed it. They just stood there, spraying each other! I rolled my eyes and sighed, because they’re crazy. Skylar even said, “I can’t understand why you don’t like this, Icchy – it’s so much fun!”

I just stood there and napped in the cross ties while they had their fill; I mean, like I said – it was really, really hot today. And after such a long, hard workout, the cold water did feel good…

Anyway, I got to go outside again today, for the rest of the afternoon… but I didn’t escape this time. I knew better. I could hear my Mommy’s voice in my head saying, “Enough with the cheek, Icchy… I’m serious!”

And when Mommy and Daddy came back in the evening, they wrapped all of my legs in pillow wraps so that I’d feel less sore tonight. And I have to say, it really helps. Because I worked hard today. While Mommy wrapped my legs, my best friend in the whole wide world, Rocky the Kitty, hung out with me and checked out the beautiful scenery.

That's Rocky the Kitty, my best friend.

That’s Rocky the Kitty, my best friend.

Rocky the Kitty is awesome. He follows me around and we just chill, wherever we go. He likes to lounge around in trees sometimes, but tonight he just stuck by my side.

Chillin'!

Chillin’!

After my legs were wrapped and Daddy fluffed up the bedding in my stall, I got to go home and eat my hay.

That's my lucky blue wrap.

That’s my lucky blue wrap.

And now, I think I’m going to sleep. It’s nice, falling asleep to the sound of the rain. I’m pretty sure I get the day off tomorrow, too, so maybe I’ll sleep in for once…

Have a great Monday, friends! Catch y’all later!

Categories: A Day in the Life of Icchy Star, Memories and Nostalgia | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Working man, take two

I know, I know… It’s been too long since I’ve written. Let me just say that this month has been rather frustrating.

It all started with that nail that was just a little too close, which bruised my laminae; I couldn’t work or go outside for a month.

But then I was better, and Mommy and I got to work a couple times!

But then… the boys and I were playing a little rough in the paddock, and one thing led to another, and… well… I came in with a front right leg that was badly swollen and hot, just about the same area as the splint that I already have. It was twice as disappointing, though, because my Uncle Jody and his daughter, Skylar, were there to see Mommy and me work. Mommy trotted me in the dressage arena to see if I was sound, but I wasn’t; my leg hurt, and it hurt to put weight on it. So she walked me back up the hill to the barn and cold hosed my leg for a while. She said that she was glad to see the swelling go down some after the cold hosing, because that meant that it wasn’t as serious as it looked.

Anyway, it took three days for my leg to feel better and for the swelling to go down completely. Mommy had me trot in the round pen yesterday, and I was sound, so she rode me today… and I’m still sound! I felt great, actually! I was having a hard time keeping slow and not pulling on the bit, because I just had so much energy! And I only had one small fit where I took off bucking. But Mommy understood.

We only worked for about 20 minutes, but I was dripping with sweat by the end of it. It was hot today!

Mommy found a five-leaf clover, so she said that she thinks something good is going to happen soon. I think that means we’re going to be back to work… again. Finally.

A good omen!

A good omen!

It’s probably needless for me to even say that I’m not allowed to go outside at night for a while. I get to hand walk and, if I behave nicely, I get to graze a little.

So, anyway, when Mommy and Daddy got to the barn tonight, I had a lot of energy. There was an open paddock, and Mommy wanted me to stretch and graze a little, so we started walking out toward the paddock. I just couldn’t stay calm though, so we went to the round pen instead. As soon as Daddy took off my halter, I took off running and bucking! I had to get out some of that energy!

The look of crazy!

The look of crazy!

I was still sound, to Mommy’s relief, and once I had exhausted my energy, Mommy said she would let me graze in the paddock for a half hour, supervised, and only if I behaved and stayed calm. I had lost my paddock privileges. (So this is what it’s come to, Mommy?)

Walking to the paddock...

Walking to the paddock…

 

When we got to the paddock, I met Cav and Isis over the fence.

Meet Isis and Cav! They're awesome!

Meet Isis and Cav! They’re awesome!

We all got along really well. Cav even stretched his neck over the fence and started to groom on me. I returned the favor. Isis and I have met before, and she likes me, too. She didn’t even squeal at me like other mares do sometimes. She just said hi and then let Cav and me get to know each other a little. He’s nice, and I think we would like to be friends.

Isis, Cav and me

Isis, Cav and me

Mommy said she would let me eat a little grass and took off my lead rope. I trotted around a little, and then I went to the far end and galloped back over to where Cav and Isis were. They cheered me on, but Mommy put my lead rope back on and said that I only got the one chance, and I’d blown it. I guess she was right, though; I know better, I just can’t help myself sometimes.

Walking back from the paddock.

Walking back from the paddock.

Anyway, I walked for a while, and then I got a shower, and then I got to go into my stall with my fan on until I was dry. Mommy and Daddy said goodnight… but it was undetermined as to whether I’d get to work tomorrow. So… I’ll let you know.

That’s about all I have to say about that. Catch y’all later.

Categories: A Day in the Life of Icchy Star | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Dressage for Jumping!

Friends, I know a lot of you Jumpers out there might thoroughly dislike Dressage. Trust me, I understand; it can be infuriating and sometimes, we just can’t understand why our humans make us do the silly things they make us do.

But you should know that it’s about more than just dancing and looking pretty. If you’re a Jumper and your human is making you do Dressage, well… they’re doing it for your own good.

I know, I know; right now, you think I’m crazy. How can Dressage be for your own good, when all you want to do is run fast and jump high?!

Well, you see, Dressage is meant to help you become instantly responsive to even the most subtle cues of the hand, seat and leg; the goal, as a human, is to ask you once, and have you respond immediately – and then hold it (whatever the command is that they asked you for) until they tell you to do something else.

The better you are at Dressage, the easier you and your human will be able to communicate in the Jumping Arena!

For instance, here is a video of me practicing a “Haunches In,” and then a “Shoulder In.”

Now, I’m not the best at either – and I’m better at the Shoulder In than the Haunches In. However,  I can do both effectively; when I’m finished, though, I have a good reminder in my head of the subtle difference in cues between my rider’s leg, hand, and seat.

Subsequently, when we jumped the next day, I was listening more carefully to my Mommy’s aides – and we had a really, REALLY great day!

In fact, we had such a great day, that we jumped the TOP HOLE of FIVE FOOT standards! It was fantastic!

So, if your human starts asking you to do Dressage as a Jumper, don’t despair – it might actually mean that you’re going to be better at jumping because of it!

However, if they tell you you’re going to start doing Dressage instead of jumping… well, if that happens, call me immediately!!!

For now, I’m off to eat some grass with my two best friends, Troy and William. Catch y’all later!

Jumping the top hole of five foot standards!

Jumping the top hole of five foot standards!

Categories: A Day in the Life of Icchy Star, Memories and Nostalgia | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Natural Horsemanship, part 2: Age Appropriate Training Programs

In my last post, I spoke a little about my time as a racehorse – and about being lucky enough to receive a second chance when that career ended.

After leaving the racetrack, I had the great pleasure of living at Phyllis Dawson’s farm for a while, where I was allowed to be a baby for six months before beginning some light training as a “future jumping prospect.” When Ms. Phyllis decided that I was well-rested and ready to find a permanent home, I moved to Long Island, New York, to live with my “forever humans” – who you will know as “my Mommy and Daddy.”

At the time, I was only 3 and a half years old, which was still far too young to do any serious work under saddle. And, although you may think it’s because I am naturally very small, it actually goes for horses of any size and breed: no 3 and a half year old horse is old enough or physically mature enough to be ridden a lot, no matter what they look like, how big they already are… or how mentally mature they might seem. 

As I explained before, small horses (like me) don’t become physically mature until they’re around 5 and a half or 6 years old – while larger horses, like Warmbloods, continue to mature physically until they are 7 or 8 years old. But the same principles still apply: if you ride a horse too much while they are so young, you will interfere with the development of their bones (especially their spine, since it’s the last part of the skeleton to mature), as well as causing serious conformational problems and damaging ligaments, tendons, and joints.

With this in mind, my Mommy and Daddy developed a training program that was appropriate for my age and maturity level. The training program continued to grow and evolve as I continued to grow, and will undoubtedly do so for the rest of my life!

Age Appropriate Training at 3 and a half

At my first home in New York

In New York, age 3 and a half

Although it’s important not to work too hard under saddle when you’re just a baby, it’s also important to get exercise and start building up your strength and stamina. Having strong muscles (but not muscles that are over-tired) will help to support the growth of strong bones, as well. My humans kept that in mind when they developed a training program for my cute little 3 and a half year old self.

The training program was comprised of the following rules:

  1. No more than 4 days of work per week, total.
  2. No more than 2 consecutive days of workouts before having a day off to rest. (Turnout and hand-walking are acceptable on days off.)
  3. No more than 2 days per week of “under saddle” workouts, and never consecutively.
  4. Under saddle workouts should be light, keeping as much weight off my back as possible.
  5. Day off after being ridden.
  6. Free-lunging (or letting me walk, trot and canter on my own in a large, open space – like an enclosed arena) at least once per week – but more, if possible.
  7. Long-lining (not lunging, as lunging makes us work off-balance) no more than once per week, as small, repetitive circles can also cause damage to the joints.
  8. Light jumping over SMALL jumps (no bigger than 2 feet high) no more than once per month as a reward, and only during a light workout week.
  9. Free-jumping no more than once per month, and no higher than 3 feet.
  10. Day off after jumping, whether free-jumping or under saddle.
  11. Turn out as much as possible in a controlled environment, without too much extra room to run and hurt myself.

During this time, I learned things like moving away from pressure, moving off of the leg (leg yields, turn-on-the-haunches and turn-on-the-forehand), responding to my rider’s seat and hand, picking up the correct leads, stopping with as little pressure on the reins as possible… things like that. Believe it or not, a lot of those things can be taught from the ground! Subsequently, we did a great deal of groundwork, and – of course – we joined up as much as possible.

Age Appropriate Training at 4 and a half

The "jumping hackamore"

In Miami, age 4 and a half

Now, because the difference in age wasn’t that great, the training program didn’t change very much by the time I was 4 years old. However, since my muscle strength and stamina were increasing, Mommy did  make a few small changes to the rules by the time I was 4 and a half years old.

So, all of the rules stayed the same, except for the following changes:

  1. No more than 5 days per week of work, total.
  2. No more than 3 of those days under saddle, and no more than 2 consecutively.
  3. No more than 3 consecutive days of work before a day off. (It was usually 3 days on, one day off, 2 days on, one day off… and so on.)
  4. Jumping no more than twice per month, and no higher than 3 feet.
  5. Lots of exercises over ground poles.

By the time I was 4 years old, I was very good at doing flying lead changes, counter-cantering, collecting and extending at each gate, and I could even hold myself in a proper frame.

Age Appropriate Training at 5 years

At the age of 5, I was well on my way to being full grown – though not yet completely. My muscles were very strong and I never felt over-worked; I had reached my maximum height, and my bones had almost finished growing in density, as well. Pretty much the only thing left to finish growing was my spine, so my workout schedule didn’t change that much.

It consisted of the following rules:

  1. No more than 5 days of work per week, total.
  2. No more than 3 consecutive days of workouts before having a day off to rest. (Usually 3 days on, one day off, 3 days on, one day off, etc.)
  3. No more than 4 days per week of “under saddle” workouts.
  4. Long-lining (not lunging) no more than twice per week.
  5. Jumping no bigger than 3’3 feet high, no more than three times per month.
  6. Day off or long-lining after jumping.
  7. Turn out as much as possible in a controlled environment.

Age Appropriate Training at 5 and a half

Age 5 and a half, jumping like a pro!

Age 5 and a half, jumping like a pro!

When I was just a little more than 5 and a half years old, my Mommy and Daddy got the good news from the vet that my body was fully physically mature. Mommy knew that this meant we could start working out harder and jumping higher – but being as cautious as she is, she still wanted to take things slowly. She always says, “You’re going to be with me for the rest of your life, Icchy. Why would I want to rush anything?”

So, at 5 and a half, my training schedule consisted of these rules, which weren’t all that different from the last set of rules:

  1. No more than 4 consecutive days of workouts before having a day off to rest. (Usually 4 days on, one day off, 3 days on, one day off, etc.)
  2. No more than 5 days per week of “under saddle” workouts.
  3. Long-lining (not lunging) no more than twice per week.
  4. Jumping no more than once per week.
  5. Day off after a hard jumping day; light ride after a light jumping day.
  6. Turn out as much as possible in a controlled environment.

Now, the great thing about being full grown was that I got to try out new things… like going for record high jumps every couple months! I jumped 4’6 for the first time in December of last year, and then I jumped FIVE FEET in February, a month before I celebrated my 6th birthday!

Age Appropriate Training at 6 years

Age 6, rockin' like a rock star!

Age 6, rockin’ like a rock star!

Now that I’m 6 years old, I get to work a lot more and a lot harder. I get to jump twice per week sometimes, as long as one of the jumping days is very light. I get to jump bigger jumps on a more regular basis. But you know what? I still don’t work more than 4 consecutive days in a row before having a day off, except on very rare occasions.

Now, you might wonder why that is, right? I mean, if I’m 6 years old, finished growing, and have big, strong muscles – why can’t I just work 6 days in a row every week? Well, I’ll tell you. It’s because my Mommy and Daddy don’t want me to get something called Osteoarthritis, also known as degenerative joint disease.

You see, Osteoarthritis can happen to a horse of any age, no matter how old or young. If my workouts become too repetitive, or I’m not given enough time off to let my joints repair themselves… I’ll basically fall apart!

Here, allow me to explain in better detail…

Osteoarthritis

Now, I know I’ve talked before about degenerative joint disease, which is unfortunately pretty common among equine athletes of all ages… but I really want to talk about it again, because it is so common – and so easy to prevent!

Osteoarthritis (OA) is basically a term used to describe a series of changes inside of the joints, and it is also known as Degenerative Joint Disease (DJD), which can easily lead to Bone Spurs… or worse.

Basically, DJD is a breakdown of the cartilage inside joints. The cartilage is the stuff the sits in the middle of the joint, allowing the bones to move freely without scraping against each other. It also helps to evenly spread out the force that is exerted on the joint.

The breaking-down of this cartilage can be caused by too much hard work, training on hard surfaces (or even on surfaces that are too soft), trauma to the joint, infection in the joint, poor hoof care, or poor nutrition – all things that can be prevented! (However, it can also be caused by some things that cannot be prevented, like being born with poor conformation or certain deformities.)

Anyway, when a horse (or even a human!) works out too hard without resting their muscles and joints, the cartilage inside the joint becomes inflamed, and doesn’t get proper nourishment or lubrication.

When the cartilage doesn’t get proper nourishment or lubrication – and it cannot effectively repair itself (like with rest and lots of walking) – it begins to thin.

If the cartilage continues to thin, it will eventually dry up and disappear completely.

If the cartilage disappears, the joint will no longer have any lubrication, and then you will basically have bone scraping against bone.

When that happens, it becomes very easy for Bone Spurs to develop.

Now, Bone Spurs can be a couple different things. First, they can be the sharp, bony projections inside the margin of the joint, which you can see in x-rays – and those ones are referred to by vets as “osteophytes.” As I said above, those develop when the cartilage of the joint wears out or thins. Bone Spurs can also be “enthesiophytes,” which is just another fancy term for the bony projections when they’re at the attachment of a tendon or ligament. Either way, Bone Spurs are bony projections, and they’re a symptom of damage… which is caused by any number of the things I listed before.

It’s actually a lot more complicated than all that, but I think you get the general idea. If you’re worked too hard at any age, and you’re not given enough time off, your joints are going to break down until you’re not able to work anymore.

And that’s all, folks!

Okay, there’s actually a lot more I want to talk about… like stone bruises and abscesses and the reason my Mommy long-lines me, instead of lunging me… But I’ll leave all of that for another day. This was a lot of information for you to take in again, I know; I hope that it has given you much more to think about! And I hope you’ll be able to communicate these things to your humans, so that you can have a happy life and an effective workout schedule!

So, on that note… I guess I’ll catch y’all later!

Categories: A Day in the Life of Icchy Star, Memories and Nostalgia | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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