The Best, Craziest, Dumbest of Decisions

I’ve had Ransom for a little over 4 months now, which is crazy in so many ways because part of me feels like I’ve had him just as long as I’ve had Red, and the other part is like “Didn’t I just make an ad to look for one?” When I first posted my ad, saying that I was casually looking for a young horse – a year old at the very oldest, would prefer a weanling, preferably a filly, with little to no experience/handling- on my Facebook page, I got about 10 messages from fellow horse people saying things like this:

“Are you stupid?”

“Why?”

“You’ll regret it.”

You see, I love groundwork. I love transformations. I love love love getting those horses with a screw a little too loose in their heads, a bit awkward, a bit skinny, a bit hairy, and watching them start to change. I feel like I’m unwrapping a present. I love it. I love being the one to take the tools that I have and fix things…with the help of professionals whenever I need them, of course. And I love doing new things. So…why not? Worst thing that could happen is I could regret the decision and rehome the horse later. Or get even more professional help than I planned so I don’t screw a horse up if I can’t sell it quickly.

I’d manage.

So, I brought a big, muddy, wild colt home and named him Ransom.

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I brought him home and then, for the next couple of days, I thought “Oh, what the heck did I do?” What possessed me to bring home a completely WILD colt? Scratch that. What made me think that i could handle this huge colt? If he was sized like a normal yearling…yeah, I could do that. But this horse is ginormous. Even bigger now. Bigger than Red. So if he decided to be stupid…I could get seriously hurt. And he did decide to be stupid. The first day with a halter was a breeze. And so was the second day, and the third day, and the fourth day. I added a lead rope. It went well. Then it went well the next day. Then he freaked out. He, not in a mean way at all, but in a “I am confused, I am unsure, I am a baby, help me understand.” Bless my trainer, God bless her, because the day I had her out she set all of my fears at ease and we figured something out.

This horse wants to please more than any other horse I’ve been around. He tries SO hard. The moment he figured what we were about, things changed and he hasn’t bolted since then. Granted, we’ve had some spooks on the lead but he tries his best not to be stupid and comes right back to me. He still has baby moments because, hey, he’s a baby and he was completely wild four months ago, but nothing he does is out of meanness. Nothing he does is stupid. He’s learning how to control himself and his spooks are almost laughable now.

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Getting this horse was probably a stupid idea on my part…but let me tell y’all, he was much needed. I got him at a very hard point in my life, right after losing my father, and I don’t know what I was searching for but I definitely needed something to get my mind off of things, something to help me prove something to myself. That my father would be proud, that he’d be happy, that I’m someone to be proud of. I needed to know that I am capable of chasing my dreams, and so far, things have gone in my favor. This horse means more to me than any other horse in the world…Red closely ties, but there’s something about him that just sparks something in me.

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There’s something special about bringing up a young horse, especially when you get to be the first one that they really know. Seeing that he is still uncertain around others but if I’m there, he’s okay. Seeing that he’s gone from running from everyone to following me like a dog. I went to the barn yesterday after being MIA for a few days with the flu, and he wouldn’t leave my side. Everywhere I went, he was there, being a goofball. He’s developed a personality now that he’s tamer, and he’s hilarious, quirky and weird. He likes to nudge everyone with his nose, he likes to give kisses and play in water, and likes to take my hats off of my head and throw them. He likes to nudge my ponytail with his nose and make it swing around. He loves scratches and to be curried. He likes to please and he likes to be around people.

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I made a crazy, sudden, stupid decision and I ended up finding something that has reignited a spark in me, a fire that I’ve been missing ever since my mother almost died thanks to one of our rescues. Instead of fear…I’m just excited. I can’t wait until the day that I can throw a leg over this horse. I could be having the worst day and seeing him there, regardless of how he acts or if he’s having a no good, very bad, very scary and spook filled day, I’m happy to see him.

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So, happy 4 months to my horse, the horse that still feels like he’s too good to be mine, the horse that has stolen a huge hunk of my heart. Here’s to a lot of years training, riding and being with this big grulla.

Thanks for making me into a happier person, Rans.

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So Many Updates (and no time to write)

I can’t even tell y’all how many rides I’ve had since I posted last. In short, I’ve tried to ride 4-5 times a week and other than on very rainy days, I’ve succeeded. I’ve managed to ride both Red and Stormie most days which has been a huge success and I’ve gotten a really good schedule down. My plans to ride more this week seem to be ruined by rain and sickness, but I should – fingers crossed – be back to riding by Friday. We’ll hope my arena dries. Right now everything is basically a huge swimming pool and there is more rain coming tomorrow. When I say rain, I mean DOWNPOUR, very severe weather so blah.

Red had been having some very…off rides. He’s been extra stubborn thanks to the nice spring-like weather we’ve been having, but he does this every year so I just pushed through. He through a couple bucks and a lot of crowhops the other day but I rode it out and then he proceeded to kick butt in the good way and was fabulous the next day, so woohoo.

 

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I promise I released a half a second later, I’m always cringy looking at some photos with this hack because of the longer shanks but they barely touch his face.

I think the biggest thing that has helped Red get in a better mood is that we’ve been doing more of this…

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We left the arena and didn’t die!!!

Which always makes his ears perk up.

Stormie is an angel as always. I’ve been messing around with some western pleasure work with her, just to see what she seems to gravitate towards and pick up the easiest.She has been incredible. I’ve worked on her jog twice and when I rode her yesterday she jogged like a total pro. I posted the videos on my Instagram (@kalincraig) if you want to see. Her canter is shaping up although I need to get her a bit better at cantering as soon as I ask for it.

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Why am I not wearing a helmet? Because I’m stupid, that’s why. I acknowledge it.

That mare has so much potential and I couldn’t be more excited to unlock it.

Next on the list would be Ransom, who is doing better and better every day. He’s now letting me put his halter on without a fuss at all which is a HUGE success because that has been his biggest problem. He’s no longer spooking over tiny little things like the lead rope touching his side or me swinging it over his neck. I’ve just started putting lightweight things on his back – a saddle pad, my jacket, bareback pad..- and he’s doing okay. A little fidgety at first but really good. Best thing about him is he’s extremely eager to please so I don’t foresee any problems at all once he’s used to things. I give him two weeks and he’ll be perfect with the light weight on his back. On the next dry and warm day I plan on getting him up to the arena for the first time. I’m now able to pick up both front feet without a super big fuss. Back feet are still iffy, but we’ll get there.

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He lets me go to him anytime in the pasture without running off which is great. He’s starting to get better with new people as well although he definitely does the best for me. Also, he’s looking REALLY hunky.

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From today. Can you tell it rained?

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A question I get a lot is how tall he is..I have yet to measure him accurately but this should show how large he is. I’m wondering if he’ll make 16.3-17hh.

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I’m still loving him more and more every day. Every time I ride, I keep thinking about how great it’ll be to hop on him for the first time. There’s definitely something special about him.

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Donkey poop. Donkey poop everywhere.

Overcoming. I am.

Overcoming.

Though the year started out meh because of nonstop rain, I’m having a good year so far. I’ve dedicated myself to the horses, made decisions about college, careers and what I’m going to do with my life in the next two years. I’ve decided to take a gap year, find a decent job and invest myself 100% in the horses, my animals in general, and finding out what makes me the happiest. What makes me feel fulfilled. Like life is worth living and my dreams are worth chasing. Ransom has been a ginormous blessing in my life, bigger than I pictured. He’s made me see how much I love problem solving. Colt starting. Working with horses in general. I’ve been able to get over a lot of fears and for the first time in two years, I’m looking forward to continuing on and whenever I leave the barn, I leave happy. When I go, I’m not stressed, or scared, I’m looking forward to seeing my colt in the pasture, to working with him and the other horses. I’m excited for summer and more projects and spending long nights at the barn riding in my newly lit up arena.

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I want to do this. I want this to be my life. Horses have always been one of the biggest parts of my life and I’ve gone to them on the hardest of days. I’ve gone to horses on their hardest days. I go to auctions and I see thousands of horses ready to go to slaughter for no good reason, and I want this to be my life. I want to offer them hope because that is what they’ve given me. On the days that I don’t want to get out of bed, or when I’m depressed or on the brink of a panic attack, I go to the barn.

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Do I want to make a name in the horse world? Honestly, no. I just want to keep helping horses. I don’t care if I never make it to the NFR or to some amazing show as long as I’m helping horses. Problem solving, rehabilitating, that’s where my heart is. So I’m dedicating this year to that. I’m going to work hard, find a trainer that will allow me to work under them, to watch, learn and experience. Regardless of what people think of this, this is what I want to do with my life. I refuse to let my fears to continue to rule my life, I want to overcome them.

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Maybe I’ll fail. Maybe I’ll fall. Maybe I’ll get in way over my head…but I’ll be chasing after who I am, and what I believe my heart is called towards. We’ll see how it goes.

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I know that watching my colt go from wild to following me in the pasture in two months has been one of the most incredible experiences of my life. That every time we make another step forward in training, I feel more fulfilled than ever. I know that learning from Red has been something that has taught me in every area of my life, even outside of horses. That Shalom still effects my life, that even Zippy taught me a lot about horses and how we can’t judge a book by it’s cover. That it’s okay to give up at times, and ask for help.

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I’m tired of waiting for my confidence to magically come back, so I’m pushing myself. With or without confidence, I ride, and I can feel it come back gradually every time I step into the stirrups or hop on bareback. I’m riding different horses, I’m working with Ransom. Before long, I’ll be back into regular lessons whenever I can afford it. Whatever helps, whatever gets me closer to the life I want to live.

 

Baby Animals EERYWHERE!

I love baby animals, as most people with hearts do. Kittens, puppies, foals/weanlings/yearlings, chicks, ducklings…my heart melts. Probably why I ended up with a baby horse and a baby dog in the span of two months. While my mind was going insane trying to keep up with the baby german shepherd who, during the first week home, decided that sleep is overrated (I was getting like two hours of sleep a night. KILL ME NOW) and peeing in the darkest spot of the hallway, right in the middle where EVERYONE steps in it because YOU CAN’T SEE IT is super fun, things seem to be settling down. Currently, I have said German Shepherd sleeping on the couch with his favorite bacon scented ball and baby horse gets to meet our farrier for the first time. His hooves are in pretty darn good shape and whether or not they get trimmed today or if he gets to wait a bit longer for safety purposes, we shall see. Either way. Baby steps.

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First day home.
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From like two nights ago.

Ruger’s ears are standing up, he’s now sleeping through most nights, only waking me up around 6 to go potty which is fine because I’m up around that time anyways, he’s learned lots of tricks and is pretty much my shadow these days. He was 23 pounds when he came home a little over a week ago and now he is 33 pounds. Yes. Much weight. Big doggo.

As far as Ransom goes, he is doing great. He got a couple days off because we’re currently building a new fence in our yard to help contain our two big dogs which has kept us busy in the evenings…we have a big yard and we’re trying to make sure that we do a good job with it. I did get to work with him yesterday and he got to wear what I have called a “big boy halter” for the first time. We opted to ditch the rope and try a normal halter. He did really good, tried turning into a giraffe a couple of times when I tried slipping it over his ears but we got it on after 3 or 4 tries and then he was cool with the whole ordeal.

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so much fluff.

I have gotten to the point with him that I feel like leading is no longer dangerous or risky. A month ago, even less than that honestly, it was. It was risky and scary at times because he would blow up. Luckily, my fears that stir up in the saddle on occasion go away on the ground and I’ve always prided myself on the abilities I have on the ground. I’ve dealt with very bad horses on the ground and I’m decent at groundwork. I knew that his behavior didn’t come from aggression, but from uncertainty. He had no clue what I was doing or what I was asking for. The first thing my trainer noted is he tries SO HARD to please his handler. Whoever is with him. He thinks about the situation hard and he really does try to do good all the time. When he figures things out, he’s golden.

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I’ve also been working on desensitizing with whips and throwing things over his back. I’ve had a saddle pad on him a number of times but he’s still not really a big fan of the whole getting it up there process. He’s fine after a moment or two, but still fidgety. I’ve started draping light stuff – a small english pad, my jacket, just random things – over his neck and dragging it until it is placed on his back. He’s nervous with whips unless I’m the one with them, in that case, he has pretty much stopped reacting to them. I can rub every part of his body with them with no negative reaction, and yesterday he even started following me and nudging the whip, being playful. He loves to play with muck rakes – he picks them up and carries them around, and he started doing that with the whips which I like because I know that fear is going away.

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His weight is near perfect now, mane and forelock are something straight out of my dreams can you imagine how long it’ll get?! He’s just a yearling! I can’t wait to get him on some Biomane when he’s a bit older, hahaha. Long manes and forelocks, GIMME.

I can go up to him all of the time in the pasture and touch him without him bolting, and 9 times out of 10 he comes to me. He’s PERFECT in the stall. My goal is to be able to start working on tying him by the end of next month. I wouldn’t consider him halter broke yet but we’re getting there. I think he’ll learn to tolerate tying just as easily he learned that stalls aren’t scary.

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I’m excited for summer because of longer days and better weather. He’s turning into a really good horse and I like him more and more every day. The more I work with him the more I’m sure that he’s going to make a great riding horse.

The Best Geldings.

I can’t even tell y’all how happy I am to have Red in normal work right now. I rode him on the 18th and he was fabulous. One of our best rides in a very long time. He was happy, responsive, very eager to work, and he felt great. You may have seen some posts on Instagram about the ride, but if not…

The ride was about two things- getting him more supple and making him work to get some muscle building up again. It was a short ride because I didn’t have a huge amount of time, but he was ready and happy to work. Our ride before this one was good, as I posted about, but I noticed that he wasn’t really lifting his back enough. Mostly, I imagine, from lack of muscle. This ride was much better, he was trying much harder to lift himself up and I tried my best to stay out of his way while he found a happy place. Not ideal yet, but it won’t be ideal until he has more muscle anyways. He was able to hold a really great trot for 99% of the ride.

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No helmet again, I’m the worst.

His back is obviously a bit more rounded than it was during the ride before last, and he seemed more relaxed. This trot came with very little help from me, which I was happy to see. No helmet again because I’ve been noticing that it has started to sit oddly on my head after it was dropped recently. I’ll be fixing this problem soon, but I’m going to continue to ride, just nothing crazy until that situation is fixed.

I asked for a stretchy trot a few different times, knowing it will be good for him to build up his topline and honestly, he seems to enjoy stretching out. We did this in the beginning of the ride then the end, and he’s really starting to understand it a bit better.

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I think I’m starting to see a lot of improvement on the trot front, and I’m just happy to have my riding horse back in action and seeming so willing to be back into work.

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Yesterday was Ransom’s day. I’m noticing a few exciting changes in his personality. He’s starting to act more like a gelding as opposed to an untouched stud colt, which makes me happy. πŸ™‚ He let me put his halter on in the stall without any bribery involved, and was extremely calm during the whole haltering process. He’s always been a bit spooky when I toss the long part of the halter to tie it on the side, but yesterday was great. Very calm. I got him out to lead and he was more on the lazy side than anything,but I’ll take it. We did some leading and worked on engaging the hindquarters and then I brought out a crop from the tack room to see how he would react. I’m starting to handle his legs a lot more to prepare for farrier work, and the longer crop helps make this a lot safer. True to Ransom’s typical personality, he gave it the side eye and stepped away at first, then the second touch of the crop was no big deal. Eventually he was trying to get a nap in while I handled him.

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You can see the crop slightly in this, lol.

And then, he did something new. I stood there for a few minutes with the lead on him while I talked with my mother and our boarder, and looked over at him and he had dozed off right next to me. Huge, huge changes. Not a big deal for normal horses of course, Red will go to sleep in a second on the lead next to me if I sit there for too long, but Ransom is normally 100% alert and ready to bolt when he’s being led. Not yesterday.

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I worked on touching his back, his legs, belly, etc, and he did wonderful. By far the calmest session we’ve ever had. He never even thought of spooking.

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omg snuggly colt

As soon as the weather dries up again I’ll be taking him to the arena for the first time to get some desensitizing done with a bareback pad and some tarps! πŸ˜‰

A Month With Ransom & Finally Riding!

I’ve decided to make up a schedule-albeit a flexible one, because of the weather we’ve been dealing with since like, June-for Ransom starting this week. In short, he gets one day in work, one day off, and repeat. He’ll probably always have Sunday’s and Wednesday’s off because I’m always busy because of church and other plans, but with this schedule I feel like he won’t be overworked but will still be worked with enough. I’ve been careful not to overload his baby brain because they get frustrated so much easier than an older horse. Everything is hard for them, and I have to remember that even having a halter on is a new thing for him, and he has to really think and work just to let me halter him. He doesn’t have the attention span of Red, and where Red is typically okay and forgiving if we end on a slightly bad note, Ransom is not. Ransom remembers every bad thing that happens and remembers it for a long time. So I have to make sure that when we work, I don’t work him to the point of him being tired and frustrated, I have to work him lightly so that we can be guaranteed a good note to end on. So, I’ve been doing 15-20 minute sessions at the maximum, normally twice a day. I take him for one longish walk-the distance is growing each week!-on his work days, and then on his days “off”, we just focus on touching and occasionally some desensitization. He’s gotten much better with being hard to catch, although it’s easier for me to get his halter on when I have feed or when he’s in a stall because he’s still a bit scared and flighty when it’s around. Time, I know, will change that.

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In other news, it has been 31 days since Ransom came home. I feel like I’ve had him for much longer, and so it’s been easy for me to get slightly discouraged when things happen. Like when he spooks over the halter while I try to put it on, or when he bolts around after we try to desensitize him to crops, whips, etc etc. But in reality, it has been a month. Here are some things that we’ve accomplished in 31 days:

  • He can now wear a halter. Despite the occasional spook when we try toΒ  halter him, I can get it on safely. It takes more time than I want on some days, but he allows it, and that is a step forward.
  • He leads calmly. Once the halter in on, he’s good to go. We’ve managed to extend our walks and he has continued without bolting, charging or rearing ever since my trainer came out. This is major, when just weeks ago, he would literally explode when we hooked the lead rope onto his halter. He does silly baby horse things, like spook over the puddle while on the lead, but he controls himself without spooking majorly.
  • He has been GELDED. Praise the Lord. Not a stallion person.
  • He now allows us to touch him and come up to him anytime in the pasture. Whereas 31 days ago, he would bolt away.
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After mom tried petting him.

There have been a few other accomplishments, of course. I feel like there are positive changes every day, even very tiny ones. Those things add up.

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My greatest inspirations through this process have been Ray Hunt, Tom & Bill Dorrance, and Buck Brannaman. So much gold in the things that they’ve said. Every time I’ve come to a hard point, I can find some inspiration in them. Everything has been slow and steady. I’ve learned not to rush, I’ve learned how to get along and how to make sure I don’t get angry. I’m excited to see where we’re at next month.

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Taken last Wednesday.

I managed to ride my other horse today, first ride in over a month due to the rain and mud. The arena was sloppy which prevented us from doing much in certain places but we still managed to get in some nice walk/trot work. The majority of the ride was about getting Red supple again. Due to him having so much time off of work and me neglecting his stretches/bending on the ground, he is SO stiff/hard to turn. A lot of it is also just him being stubborn, I know. He sees the chiro often and I know that while he does get stiff like any horse out of work, he’s not that bad, it’s mostly just him refusing to work or do what I ask. He’s a horse that needs to be ridden several times a week, and I just need to get more disciplined with this. While we had some rough moments with the bending, he actually behaved better than I expected and we got some nice work in. He felt great as far as soundness went and his trot felt wonderful.

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Best looking tail that he’s had in years. Any of my old readers remember when it only when to his hocks and the top part was bald from sweet itch!?

As y’all know, I’ve drilled collection like nobody’s business on this horse. It has been our number 1 struggle for the 4 years that I’ve owned Red. Now, I believe that he has grasped collection and knows what I’m asking/how to do it, but he doesn’t have the strength to do it and stay in a good frame for very long. He needs time to build the topline up, so we won’t have a perfect frame until that happens. That said..he’s trying. So I can only imagine how nice he’ll look later on when he’s in better shape.

We’re trying to find out where that head goes…he will go low, and back before the abscesses from hell and the thrush, he was building his topline up and rounding his back VERY nicely with a beautiful low headset. Now, his back is still hollow when he lowers the head.

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In the middle of coming down from posting, excuse where my butt is, lol.

I asked him to raise his head up a bit more and he seemed to find it easier to get his back lifted after that, when I shortened my reins a bit more and asked him to lift. He seemed to just want to drag his head low before.

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back is way more rounded in this, and I think he looks very relaxed.

All in all, it was a good ride. If my plans go well and the rain holds off, we’ll ride again tomorrow and keep working on the same stuff for awhile.

Oh hey, another new addition.

Before I get to the non-horsey topic, a brief update on Ransom…

My parents have been out of town for the last week and just got back home yesterday. Because of this, I’ve been feeding alone and didn’t want to get Ransom out by myself considering he’s still spooky and green.I didn’t want to take any chances and get hurt while alone, so he got over a week off of most handling. I groomed him a few times out in the pasture, of course I pet on him, fed him, touched him and loved on him, but no halters or groundwork. I haltered him yesterday and did groundwork and he was PERFECT. He’s remembered everything he learned from my trainer and has done amazing.

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He’s also made it to 15 hands.

I plan on doing as much groundwork as possible in the next few days if the rain would just STOP already. All is silent on the Red front because it hasn’t stopped raining, and when it did stop, it was 9 degrees outside. He’s doing great, enjoying time off while I die and curse the nonstop rain.

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He did great with engaging the hindquarters, backing..leaded very calmly. He continues to impress me!

Now…in other news…

My family has always loved German Shepherds. My mother grew up with them and loved them just as much as she loved her horses. Her best friends were Shepherds. My grandmother still refuses to go without one, and the highlight of every trip I ever made to Florida was seeing the Shepherd’s at my grandparents house. They are so beautiful and intelligent, and I loved them. I’ve never been able to have one of my own because of multiple reasons…I was too young and not ready for the responsibility, then we got our two big dogs and we didn’t have the room, and so on. But today, I fulfilled a dream and bought my own German Shepherd. Meet Ruger!

 

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He is a 9 week old AKC registered German Shepherd. Mostly out of German lines. He’s absolutely gorgeous and is going to be a BIG boy. He is so sweet and smart. He has already learned how to sit, stay and knows what “come” means. Doing great on the leash and today is his first day of potty training. He’s already going to the door when he needs to go potty. He’s extremely talkative and very relaxed and laid back.

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This is his sire.

I’m so excited about him! Expect more posts about him and his training later on. πŸ™‚