Posts Tagged With: racehorse

Redeemed and the Rattlesnake

It has been a pretty exciting week, friends – starting with last weekend!

So, do you remember in my last blog post, when I confessed that I had behaved rather poorly in my workout? And I said that I would just behave if I were to do my workout over again (so that I wouldn’t have to work on a circle forever and ever and ever)?

Well, because my Mommy is so loving and forgiving and redeeming, (are you reading this, Mommy?) in her infinite wisdom (don’t forget to bring the carrots!) she decided to give me another chance to prove that my mind was in the game the very next day, just like I had hoped for! We went down to the lower arena where my new friends were waiting in their field, just on the other side of the arena wall – egging me on and calling me over to hang out with them – and I was able to prove to Mommy that I was going to pay attention only to her and not to anything else! I gave my friends a brief hello and a quick apology for not being able to go out and play… and then I got right down to work.

It turns out that Mommy had a wonderful, fun-filled workout planned for us – as long as I behaved better than I had the day before.

And what was that “surprise” workout plan, you ask?

JUMPING! What else?! Of course, I did behave better than I had the day before because in my own infinite wisdom, I knew that Mommy had been wanting to jump again… and, knowing exactly how my Mommy thinks, I knew that she would use this learning experience as a chance to “reward” me with my favorite thing in the world! (Well, next to marshmallows, that is…) Anyway, her plan worked. Good plan, Mommy.

Okay, lets get to the even more exciting part: Mommy and I saw a rattlesnake!

After Mommy had hopped down off my back and we were leaving the arena, I heard a sound that I’d never heard before in my entire life – but one that was completely unmistakeable. The eerie, hissing, rattling sound of a rattlesnake!  Before Mommy had even realized what the sound was, I turned on my heels and I was OUTTA THERE! I did not need to stop and look at it. I already knew what it would look like – even though I’d never seen one – and I was pretty sure it looked like this:

Raaawwwwrrr! Hiiiissssss! I will eat you in one big bite!!!

Raaawwwwrrr! Hiiiissssss! I will eat you in one big bite!!!

After I broke free from Mommy’s grasp, I ran around to the other side of the arena before getting tangled up in my reins (don’t worry; I didn’t step on them and they didn’t break – they only hindered my escape!) and then Mommy came and got me. She made me walk back over to where the snake was (again, don’t worry; we didn’t get very close that time) and we both got a brief glimpse of what it looked like. I was right! It looked just like that photo, but a hundred times bigger and scarier and meaner and angrier! But the scariest part was that Princess, my kitty friend who likes to take naps in Mommy’s lap while she’s on my back, was sitting in the grass stalking the rattlesnake! I couldn’t take it. I bolted again – and that time, I almost took Mommy’s arm with me!

Mommy caught up to me just as I stepped through my reins again, and at that moment a woman came running out from the barn asking if Mommy and I were okay. Aside from me having almost ripped Mommy’s arm completely off of her body (sorry, Mommy… I didn’t mean to!), we were fine. Mommy told the lady that there was “a rattler over there” and that Princess was staring at it, about to get eaten in one single gulp. (Okay, maybe I added that last part in myself. But that was the gist of it.) The lady grabbed a couple rocks and threw them toward Princess to scare her away before running to alert the media that the biggest, scariest rattlesnake in existence was currently hissing and rattling right next to the arena!

The end result?

The rattlesnake was beheaded with a machete.

Boy, it sure was exciting! Not that I saw the beheading or anything. I’m not sure I could have handled that, to be honest with y’all.

Anyway, after we’d gone through our routine of cooling out, taking a shower, getting liniment on my legs, eating grass while drying off, getting groomed and then eating my grain mash, Mommy headed home… and I decided to have a nice, long roll in my shavings. There’s really nothing like a good roll to relax a horse after a hard workout and an exciting, near-death experience with a rattlesnake.

To my great embarrassment, however – and I was only embarrassed because my Aunt Bonnie and our friend, Shelley, were there watching me – I rolled a little too close to the side of my stall and got my right hind shoe stuck on the wire mesh. Trying my best to act nonchalant as I attempted to get up, I pulled as hard as I could and yanked the shoe right off! I didn’t hurt myself, though, and I only broke off a little piece of my hoof. I buried the shoe deep in the shavings so that Mommy wouldn’t see it, because I did not want to tell her what I had done. If Mommy asked me where my shoe was (because I knew she would see right away that I had lost one when she came back in the evening), I planned on playing dumb and telling her that I had no idea what happened or where it could have “fallen” off.

Well, as it turns out, I didn’t get off the hook that easily because my Aunt Bonnie told Mommy all about the incident!  But Mommy wasn’t mad; she just wanted to find my shoe so that I didn’t step on it and get a nail through my hoof. (And, Aunt Bonnie, if you’re reading this – don’t worry. I’m not mad at you for telling on me! I still love you very much. Just keep those treats coming and you can tell on me all you want!)

In the end, though, I guess it was actually a good thing that Aunt Bonnie told Mommy what happened, because Mommy new exactly where to look for my shoe and quickly found it where I’d hidden it.

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Mommy called my new friend, Tim the Horseshoer, and he came out in an incredibly timely manner to put my shoe back on. (Mommy called him on Sunday and he was there on Monday evening!) He even put some acrylic filler in the spot where I broke a little of my hoof wall off, which was pretty cool. He filled in the spot with wet acrylic stuff, let the acrylic dry and then sanded it down so that it looks and acts just like my actual hoof! If you don’t know it’s there, you can’t even tell.

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He’s a nice guy and he really treats me very well. I tried to be on my best behavior, and I wasn’t nervous with him at all because I can tell that he really loves me and cares about my well-being. He works with lots of Thoroughbreds and some really famous horses, too, so I know that he’s the perfect farrier for me! He told Mommy that he wanted to see me out there competing in the jumpers arena, and I seconded that wholeheartedly!

I only had my shoe off for about two days, but I was very happy to get it back on again because I wasn’t allowed to work while I was missing a shoe! And having two days off in a row is like torture when you have as much energy as I do! Although I have to give Mommy a lot of credit; even though she wouldn’t let me run around in the arena or anything like that, she made sure that I got out to graze for multiple hours each day. One morning, she was there for almost 5 hours! She and I got to watch the sunrise while I grazed, which was really beautiful.

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And, of course, my friend Olive hung out with us for a long time.

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Princess even came to hang out with us for a while, too!

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I really love having so many friends here in California.

Anyway, the morning after I got my shoe back on, Mommy came to the barn and turned me out in the arena. She said that I had been very well behaved the past two days, but that she knew how much energy I had – so she was going to give me to opportunity to get it all out in any way that I wanted to, instead of riding me and making me get right back to work.

I thought that was very nice of her.

So, how did I choose to expel my energy, you might ask?

I danced! I jumped and I spun and I kicked up my heels!

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I imagined that I was at one of Daddy’s rock-and-roll concerts and I jumped right into the “mosh pit!”

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I showed off how fancy I can be, just to hear Mommy tell me that I’m gorgeous!

Trotting

I ran and galloped and pretended that I was a racehorse again!

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And, of course, I paid homage to the mountains and the clouds, because they were watching my every dance move (and cheering me on)!

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Well, since then, it’s been work as usual… But that’s not so bad – I love working! I feel like I’m getting into better and better shape every day, which is a really good thing because Mommy and I need to get back to jumping five feet as soon as we can! I miss it, so I know she must miss it, too.

Anyway, friends, I think that’s about all I have to report today. I’ll have Mommy take some more photos of Robin and her baby soon so that you can see how much the little filly is growing. She sure is a cutie – and so is her Mama!

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And on that note, I’ll catch y’all later…

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Categories: A Day in the Life of Icchy Star | 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

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

Natural Horsemanship, Part 1: Why Age Matters

Friends, today I’d like to talk to you about something that is very important to me: I want to tell you about the way my Mommy and Daddy have trained me, using what they call “Natural Horsemanship.”

Now, although there are many different ways to practice “Natural Horsemanship” (and many different extremes), the main idea involves a few very simple principles:

1. Humans learn “our language” in order to better communicate with us, and they ask us (instead of telling us) what they’d like us to do.
2. They never use pain of any kind as a training aide; they reject abusive methods and use LOVE and PATIENCE as their main training aides.
3. They take into account the physical development of our bodies (as well as the psychological development of our minds) in order to develop a training program that fits our needs.

Those of you who have followed along with my training from the beginning likely know most of my story, already… but my goal is to educate all of my four legged friends, so you can share this knowledge with your humans and create a better relationship with them. Because I’ve seen a lot of things in my young life – a lot of different so-called “training methods” used on my friends by other humans – and I have to say, Natural Horsemanship is the way to go.

So, I guess I’ll begin at the beginning.

My Career in Racing

I was born in Kentucky at a racing stable, and started under saddle way too young at only a year and a half. One thing many people don’t know about the Thoroughbred racing industry is that, as racehorses, we’re officially considered “a year old” on January 1st of the year following our birth, regardless of how old we really are. So, even though I was born on March 15, 2007, I became “one year old” on January 1, 2008. Why, you might ask? It makes it easier to group the racehorses by “age.”

As you can probably tell, the racing industry does not have the well-being of the horses in mind. (And if you don’t know why I say that, well… I’ll explain in a minute or two.)

Anyway, I was lucky enough not to get injured, which is VERY easy to do as a racehorse – because a horse galloping at race speed will place three times its body weight as force on the lower limb. I was also lucky enough to have run only two races – the first one in January of 2010, and the second in March of the same year. Being that I hated racing (partly because I was much too young to have any kind of a work ethic, and partly because I was always sore from working too hard for my age) I lost both races… and that was where my racing career ended.

For many racehorses, this is a fate worse than death. For many racehorses, failure on the track means being sent to auction, or worse: being sent to slaughter. But that’s another story for another day…

Rescued from the Racetrack

When my short career in racing ended, I was lucky enough to be rescued by a woman named Phyllis Dawson, who took me to her beautiful farm in Virginia, where I was put out to pasture with other horses my age and allowed to be a baby for an entire six months. Ms. Phyllis knew that I needed time to be a baby and rest my tired bones; she knew that I had worked far too hard for my young age, and that I needed time to rest and play, and to let my bones and muscles recover without having to carry the weight of a human.

It wasn’t until six months after being put out to pasture that I began doing some light work under saddle, when I was just a little older than 3 and a half. I didn’t do too much work – only a couple rides each week, and only very light rides each time.  I was happy, and realized that I had been given the kind of second chance that many horses never get. I was lucky to have fallen into the hands of people who understood what I needed, and who would see to it that I made it to the best possible home.

Physical and Mental Maturity in Horses

So, going back to what I said about the racing industry not taking into account the well being of the equine athletes: most of you probably already know that, as horses, we are not even close to being physically or mentally mature at the age of two! In fact, no horse in the history of existence has ever been fully physically mature before the age of five and a half and that is only the small horses! The bigger the horse, the longer it takes to become physically mature – and male horses take about six months longer to mature than female horses.

As an example, any of you Warmbloods out there – you’re naturally bigger and taller than the petite little 15.2 hand high Thoroughbreds, like me – so you won’t be physically mature until you’re at least 7 or 8 years old! Mental maturity is different for everyone, too; I know that I’m physically mature, but my humans tell me all the time that I still think and act like a baby!

Anyway, as we all know, there’s much more to “growing up” than actually growing upwards; by the time we are finished growing to our maximum height, our bones still have to grow in density – and the last part of our bodies to mature is the spine.

What Can Possibly Go Wrong?

There are a lot of different things that can happen to a young horse who is worked too hard, too soon. As I said before, racehorses who run at race speed place three times their own body weight as force on their lower limbs – so you can imagine how easy it would be for a two year old to injure themselves while running, or to develop long-term injuries and lameness. And that’s not even taking into account the other many dangers of racing, like tripping, getting trampled or kicked by other horses… things like that. It’s a scary business, and I never liked it.

But if horses are worked too much when they’re not yet physically mature – especially if the work involves carrying a human on their back – they can develop serious conformational problems like lordosis (another word for “swayback”), scoliosis, arthritis, and serious damage to tendons, ligaments… and joints (which I will explain in more detail tomorrow).

The bottom line is that horses should never be worked harder than is appropriate for their age and maturity level.

To Be Continued…

Okay, I know that this was a lot of information to take in at one time, so I’ll end it there for now… But I still have a lot more to say! 

Tomorrow, I’ll tell you about the training program that my humans have come up with for me, which has continually evolved over the past two and a half years, in order to fit my age, physical and mental maturity.

For now, friends, I hope that this has given you a lot to think about! I’m off to eat some grass with my friends, Troy and William; stay cool, and I’ll catch y’all tomorrow!

Catch y'all tomorrow!

Catch y’all tomorrow!

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

My Sunday Surprise!

Friends, I found out today what the amazing surprise was that my Mommy has been planning for me! I can’t wait to tell you all about it!

Okay, so: remember yesterday, when I told you that I thought the surprise was a trail ride? Well, I was half-correct. Or, I was correct, but there was more!

Wait, wait, wait. Let me back up a second. Do you remember when I told you the other day that I was going to be moving to a new home soon? And then I told you the story about how I left my best friend, Cooper, in New York, and made my way down the Florida?

Right. Well, since I’m moving to a new barn soon – and because it’s so close to where my home is, now – my Mommy arranged to have me take a day trip to my new home! She and Daddy met a really nice human there named Jenny, and they all became friends. I hadn’t met Jenny until today, but she asked my Mommy if we all wanted to come over for a ride. Jenny is so nice, that she and her two kids and their dog came with a horse trailer to pick me up! I walked right onto the trailer without hesitating, because you know how I love to travel. I got a little nervous as we pulled away, though, because I heard Isis and Leo start to yell and whinny to me. They sounded very upset, and – briefly – I wondered if I was going to come back. But then I calmed down and realized that I was probably coming back soon, because Mommy wouldn’t make me leave without letting me say goodbye to my friends.

Anyway, we got to my new home, and it was beautiful. It was so big and there was so much grass! I was pretty nervous, though, because it’s been a long time since I left my barn and went on an outing. In fact, since I moved from my first barn in Tennessee to the one where I now live, I haven’t left the property even once! And it’s been almost a year!

So, needless to say, I was a bit wound up. I could see that Mommy was trying to stay calm, even though I was freaking out, screaming, and dragging her all over the property. (Mommy, if you’re reading this – I’m sorry!) She told me that I really tested her patience today… and I know it’s true.

Mommy decided to put me in the round pen and let me trot and canter a little to get out some of my nervous energy. She didn’t even have to chase me; I worked myself out until I felt better, and then I came right over to her.

I think I'm getting tired now, Mommy...

I think I’m getting tired now, Mommy…

We walked up to the barn, and she hooked me up in the cross ties to groom me and tack me up. I didn’t hold still; I pranced and pawed and screamed, and I even thought about trying to kick her when she asked me to pick up my feet so she could clean them… but then I thought better of it, and I didn’t. Once she got my saddle on, she went to get my bridle and I started pawing at the pavement in front of the cross ties. I was pawing so hard, Jenny got nervous that I would hurt myself and she untied me, and held me until Mommy came back over. By that time, I had worked myself up into hysterics again with my own senseless pawing – so Mommy thanked Jenny and took me back down to the round pen for one more little gallop.

I felt a lot better after my second gallop, so Mommy finished tacking me up and got on. And that’s when the real fun began!

There were seven other horses – including the horse my Daddy was riding, and the pony named Rocky, who helped me out a lot – and we all went to explore the property together!

One of the first things we did was to gallop up a really big hill. It was so much fun! The other horses started galloping, and I wanted really badly to follow – but as soon as I tried, I tripped, and then I got a little nervous. I wasn’t sure what to do, until Mommy told me to go – so I did! I galloped up the hill and felt like a king when I reached the top!

A little while later, we got to this field that was fenced off and had some cross-country jumps inside. Mommy always says she’s scared of cross country jumps when they’re big, but these ones were pretty small – so we eventually got to jump them. But first, Mommy cantered me around and around the field, asking me to collect and extend and do flying lead changes until I was tired and much calmer. Then, we walked some – and after that, I got to jump! It was so much fun! We jumped all the little jumps first, and then we jumped the bigger jumps, which were right next to the little ones.

Daddy’s horse was nice, but she didn’t really want to jump the jumps. Daddy kept trying, though, and he ended up getting her to go over them nicely. She is really pretty… I liked watching her, even though it made me jealous to see my Daddy looking so good on another horse. But it’s okay; she can totally still be my friend.

Wow, Daddy... You and Casson look great!

Wow, Daddy… You and Casson look great!

We went up another big hill, and came to this weird, scary old barn with a boat in it. No one else seemed to care that it was there, but I thought it was pretty scary.

IMG_8638

Come on, guys! Someone come with me! That barn is scary!

We all had to get back down the other side of the hill, which was really steep. Mommy asked Rocky’s rider – Lily, Jenny’s daughter – if she’d mind going down the hill ahead of us, because Rocky and Lily are really good at helping to keep horses calm when they’re nervous out on the trail. And I sure was nervous! I must have bumped into Rocky about ten times, but he didn’t mind. He just kept a steady pace, and Lily even reached out to pet my nose and tell me I was being a good boy! That made me happy; I was trying really hard to be a good boy.

After that, we went out into a bigger field with even more cross country jumps! And then another one, and then another one! The last field was HUGE and had more jumps, which were also bigger. That one was the most fun because I got to gallop around really fast, and I only had to slow down and collect when Mommy wanted me to jump another one of the jumps.

Once Mommy and I had jumped almost all the jumps – big and small – in that big field, my new auntie Jenny told Mommy to jump me over something called a “Trakehner” jump, which I learned is a terrible, awful jump! The most awful jump in the whole wide world! You see, it’s a log – not a tall one, just a log – that’s sitting over a ditch with water running through it. And I can see the water. And I can hear the water. But you know what the kicker was? I had to go down a hill to jump it, and when I landed, I was going right back up a hill again! I felt like I was going to trip and fall in every time I went to jump it. I stopped the first time Mommy asked me to jump it, but then I swallowed my fear and leapt over it!

And then, of course, Mommy wanted me to jump it again… in the other direction. I did not want to do that. So, I stopped again. About four more times!

My auntie Jenny stayed near us on her horse, Trevor, and coached Mommy through it. I was really glad when Jenny suggested that my Mommy trot me up to it, instead of cantering, because it gave me time to look at it and get myself prepared. I will tell you one thing; I was not going to touch that jump!

WHY!?!!!

WHY!?!!!

Everyone cheered and hollered for us when we did it, and Mommy pulled a treat from her secret stash (in her back pocket) and gave it to me. I was so proud of myself!

We galloped up a couple more hills, and then we got to the best darn hill that I’ve ever galloped up! It was really steep, and really long! Trevor went first, and he hauled up that hill. He galloped so fast!  Mommy was trying to hold me back, because I saw Trevor take off and I desperately wanted to follow, but finally I grabbed the bit and just took off after him. I felt bad, though, because as I did it, one of the other horses was about to go – and we cut them off, because I wouldn’t let Mommy stop me or even slow me down that time. Mommy yelled “Sorry!” to them as we passed, and then up we went!

About halfway up the hill, I didn’t think I could do it anymore – and I slowed down. But Mommy wasn’t having it; she kicked me on and told me that I wasn’t allowed to stop! “You’ve been overly energetic and giving me a hard time since you got off the trailer, Icchy; there’s no way I’m letting you get away with being tired now! So gallop!” she said to me.

And gallop is exactly what I did.

The rest of the ride was kind of a daze, because I was so tired and so amped up at the same time. I know we went back to the barn that will soon be my new home… I got to walk around in the big jumping arena… I got to have a shower in the wash rack… I got back on the trailer… and we came back to Kyalami Farm. Mommy let me graze for a while, and she put a lot of liniment on my legs and wrapped them in those big, fluffy pillow wraps. Then, she put me into my stall with a bunch of hay, and she and Daddy said goodnight.

It was the most fun and exciting day I’ve had since… well, possibly ever! It was definitely the hardest workout I’ve ever had; I’m already sore. It’s a good thing Mommy knows me so well, because she said that I’ll be getting at least two days off after today – and that I can have more, if I feel like I need it.

For now, though, all I need is to sleep! So I guess I’ll catch y’all later…

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

A (mostly) fantastic ride

Out of all the perfect days, I think today might have been the most perfect. Remember when I told you that my Daddy was going to ride me today? Well, he did!

My day started out peacefully and beautifully, as I got to graze in the paddock all morning and all afternoon. Since it rained yesterday, my favorite big side field was covered in water again – so Mommy put me in one of the medium sized fields on the other side, instead. Daddy put Isis in the back field, the minis in their little paddock… and Leo next to them. You know… because he’s so fat.

Mommy came back later in the day, and when she began to groom me and tack me up, I thought that perhaps Daddy had forgotten he was going to ride me today. My heart sank a little as Mommy got into the saddle, but we had a really nice warm up, anyway. We worked on the flat for about twenty minutes – just walk, trot, canter and lead changes – and then (after a walking break and a treat), we jumped!

I love jumping with Mommy!

I love jumping with Mommy!

We didn’t do very much; we warmed up over a couple jumps, and then Mommy dismounted so Daddy could get on! I guess she just wanted to make sure I would behave for him… or maybe it was because he wasn’t finished working yet when Mommy arrived. I don’t know; I can only read one of their minds at a time, and only when they’re on my back!

Anyway, Daddy got on and cantered me once each direction, with a couple lead changes thrown in. Then, we got right down to business. We warmed up over a small line a couple times, and then Mommy had us jump it a little higher. We did great! We kept a steady, even pace, and I jumped it in six strides like I was supposed to.

After we did that nicely a couple times, we moved on to the “flowers” vertical, which was set at about 2’9. We jumped that nicely a couple times, and Daddy decided that he wanted to jump the oxer in the middle, which was set to 3’3. We cantered it on the left lead, and after three jumps, we had it down perfect! Daddy wanted to end on that, but Mommy told him we couldn’t. You see, I’m getting a little stronger on my left lead than on my right lead again, so I need to make sure I work evenly to each direction.

Well, as we cantered up to the oxer from the right lead, neither Daddy nor I could see the right take-off distance. I was about to jump from a long spot, but then I added a stride – and when I did that, I no longer had time to jump! So I ducked out to the side.

Oops... I'm sorry, Daddy!

Oops… I’m sorry, Daddy!

Needless to say, Daddy didn’t fall off… and I had to do the jump over again. So we cantered up to the oxer again, but I felt that Daddy was still unsure, and that made me feel unsure… and, well… I stopped again. I was so ashamed of myself, especially when I realized that I had unseated Daddy! He hung on tight though and, somehow, he stayed on – even though I was still cantering and bucking and spinning! He sure does have a tight grip with those legs!

Now, I’m sure you all know what happens when you do something bad in the lesson, and the trainer gets mad? Yep, that’s right… she made Daddy dismount so she could “sit on me for a minute.” And Mommy made me jump that oxer. It’s funny, because my Mommy sits so quietly in the saddle – but somehow, she can feel me start to waver before I even do it, and she presses me forward, leaving me no room to duck out or stop. And that’s exactly what she did.

Woah! Hold on tight, Mommy!

Woah! Hold on tight, Mommy!

Mommy made me jump it a couple more times – for good measure – and then Daddy got back on and we headed for the oxer again.

This time, I didn’t dare stop – and Daddy didn’t let me, either.

Yeah! We did it!

Yeah! We did it!

We jumped it so well together! Mommy jumped and cheered, and Daddy gave me the treats he’d secretly stashed in the pocket of his breeches. And he let me gallop a little to stretch out!

I LOVE running... especially with Daddy!

I LOVE running… especially with Daddy!

After our short gallop, Daddy cooled me out for a long time – and then he and Mommy gave me a shower. Mommy walked me around and let me graze while I dried, and I enjoyed spending more time with her. As I was grazing, Mommy kept going ahead of me and inspecting the patches of clover before I got to them. She said she was looking for ones with four leaves, because she wanted to pick them. I guess she found one yesterday, and she wanted to make sure I didn’t eat them. I don’t know why, though… I don’t think they’re poisonous, because I’m pretty sure I remember eating a few…

Mommy's four-leaf clover

Mommy’s four-leaf clover

When I was dry, Mommy brought me into my stall. Daddy brought in Isis and Leo from the paddocks, and after we had all had some time to settle down for the night (and I had waited an hour from the time I was done cooling out), we got to eat our dinner grain.

Mommy said that I am going to long-line tomorrow. She said that she knows I don’t like it, but I’m having an unusually long week this week, and she wants to give my back a rest. She said that she’s going to just let me be silly and play and stretch – but that I need to make sure I work a little bit, because she doesn’t want me to be stiff. She also told me that on Sunday, she’ll probably be riding me for longer than usual… which usually means a trail ride… I wonder where it’s going to be! I’m so excited to find out!

Alright, friends, I’m off to hit the shavings. Have a great weekend, and stay tuned to hear about my upcoming adventures! Catch y’all tomorrow…

 

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

From New York to Florida…

You know, all this talk of moving to a new barn brings back a lot of memories. I’ve moved to a lot of new barns in my young life so far. Not that I mind; actually, I like it very much. I like meeting new horses and people and getting to experience new barns and arenas. From what I understand, that’s how my life will be when I’m showing on the Grand Prix circuit, too. I’m looking forward to it.

There was one barn in particular that it was hard for me to leave. It was the first time I had a real best friend… Do you remember when I told you about my best friend, Cooper? Well, I loved my best friend very much, and I remember distinctly the day that I had to leave him behind.

I knew that things were going to change; I had known it for a while, really. You see, my Daddy had already been gone for an entire month – the longest I’ve ever gone without seeing him – and Mommy had been packing things for weeks. There was practically nothing left in my tack box save the bare minimum. I had only lived at Cooper’s barn for about six months; the longest I’ve ever lived in one barn is the one I’m at now, with Leo lives. But after that, it was Cooper’s.

Anyway, on the day of my departure, I knew something was different: Mommy came to the barn and groomed me, then put me back in my stall – and just stayed there, waiting around. A little while later, this lady pulled up and parked on the street… She had a big truck and a huge horse trailer. I mean, in retrospect I guess it wasn’t that huge, but it was the biggest horse trailer I’d ever seen at that point in my life. She and Mommy struggled to get my tack box and grain onto the trailer (that tack box is metal and it’s heavy) and then they came back for me. I hesitated when I walked up to the trailer, before I stepped onto the ramp. I looked back at the barn and whinnied one last goodbye to all my friends, and then I walked into the trailer without looking back.

Mommy said goodbye to me, and she told me she would meet me in Florida. Then, as she was saying goodbye to the lady who was going to drive me to Florida, I heard the lady ask my Mommy if she was leaving immediately.

“I was going to leave early tomorrow morning,” my Mommy said.

“Well, I would suggest leaving no later than tonight,” the lady replied. “There’s a big snowstorm coming through, and you’re likely to get caught in it if you don’t hurry on up and get going!”

After that, I was very worried about my Mommy. She ended up driving all through the night – but she missed the snowstorm and made it to Florida in time to see me off the trailer at my new barn!

The lady who drove me had stopped several times along the way to pick up horses who were also moving to Florida. All of us got off the trailer at my latest home, and the rest of the bunch got to graze while I went to investigate my new stall. Well, I got to graze and stretch my legs for a while before that, but you know what I mean. Mommy and Daddy were both there, and a couple girls that I hadn’t met, who I knew must work at the barn. I was excited to see what the place looked like, but it was nighttime – so it was too dark to see much of it.

When I was all settled into my new home, the lady had to put the other horses back onto the trailer and be on her way. One by one, they all loaded up – and most of them without much of a fuss. But then she started to lead the last horse onto the trailer – and he began rearing and backing up very quickly, pulling the poor little lady with him as he did. He looked like he was terrified, and I remembered that he was the same horse who took a while to load when we picked him up from his home. It took the lady almost an hour to load him into the trailer… and then, when he was finally on, he started kicking – and he almost kicked the lady in the head! He backed up against the partition in the trailer – which the lady was trying quickly to close, so the horse could no longer escape – and the force of it threw her against the back wall.

When she finally got him on and latched in, the girls who worked at the new barn gave the lady calming drugs for the horse, which she fed to him. But before the drugs had time to calm him down, he began kicking again… only this time, he kicked so hard that he actually bent the metal of the trailer! He was very powerful… and very, very scared.

The poor guy cut his hoof very badly, and the lady ended up having to take him to a horse hospital nearby as soon as she left.

And all this time, I was just hanging out in my stall, sleepy after my long journey. But I did hope that he would be alright.

Needless to say, the barn in Florida was beautiful!

Everything is so green!

Everything is so green!

Although, it didn’t turn out to be so nice in the long run. But that’s a story for a different day! For now, I’m going to hit the shavings. I didn’t get to work today, since it rained all day… but being cooped up in the small paddocks still takes a lot out of a horse. So, I’m off to sleep. I’ll catch y’all tomorrow!

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

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