On tenterhooks

On Tuesday, we set off with my builder brother-in-law and his real estate agent wife to evaluate the Italianate again! There’s a certain amount of rehabilitation to do. I call it rehabilitation because this house has been “done” attic to basement. In some ways, this house is brand new inside an 1873 shell. But there were some discordant choices made. A laundry area was never really landed on. A full bath in Home Depot glory annexed what was likely a pantry and coat closer in the main hall. We have a plan to remedy that. The countertop screams 1998. Black granite with pink flecks!!!! A horror back then , worse now. Who makes such a choice in the year for such a beautiful house. The bordello nudes are fortunately easier to remove.

So we made an offer. On the low side as there is a lot of cheap and gaudy to be removed. The owner is balking. He just lowered the price and wants asking price. He won’t be getting it from us. We are hoping he meets us halfway.

In the meantime, we had a potential buyer at our place who loves the property but feels challenged by the layout of the house. Our agent is trying to get them back to think it through again.

So we wait.

And success ….

This time the second ride was the charm. Waterford is my Rolls Royce. And we did it. No objections. I had to tap his shoulder to remind him not to fall in. But that was it. He’s soft, responsive, comfy, TALL. Can you feel the joy? We will simply add on to this walk until I feel comfortable and then we will pick up the trot. His canter will wait until his transitions are a little more confirmed.

Ive never sat on any horse this comfortable. And you feel his intelligence instantly! He’s the most like Callista of all my horses. That brain is sharp and quick. But it’s sensible and trusting. That’s the element I want to preserve so I will take my time. Jen gets to do the hard work and I get the rewards for now. But I feel confident that we will have a lovely partnership.

I have to use the four step mounting block. But it’s ok. As long as he stops growing.

Do they make a five step?

Love this horse!!!

Inauspicious start and is my five year old too smart for me?…

I’m prefacing my account by beginning with my conclusion. Even if my Waterford is loved, carefully started, very intelligent, generally accommodating, I have my work cut out for me. I have to win his respect. And he’s five!

Today was my long anticipated solo flight on my youngster bred especially just for me, by me. Up until now, I have had a few rides with Jen holding the lead line and me acting the SRS eleve. Meaning no rein contact. But today was supposed to be that solo twenty meter circle debut that I have looked forward to all winter.

And Waterford was having none of it.

We began at the mounting block. As soon as I put my foot into the stirrup, he stepped away, surprising me into a rather loud admonition. I know, you don’t have to tell me. Totally the wrong thing to do, but he caught me unawares. And I yelped. Second attempt went fine. I sat for a moment to relax. But he already picked up my worry. I mean I am 66, he’s 5 and over 17 hands. It’s been a while since I sat in him ( or any new horse for that matter). I think for most of us, a solo ride on a new horse, even one you know on the ground, means some elevation of heartbeat. I picked up my reins, asked him with my seat, rode a few reluctant steps ( he was reluctant , not me) and he halted. Jen marched to his nose, I asked again and I think we made a half circle before he ground to a halt.

So now I’m worried, because he’s behind my leg, because I’m not sure how hard to kick him, and he’s got my number. We lumbered forward again. He’s falling in, trying to get to Jen in the center. Now I put more leg on him and kick. Nothing. Jen walks back to his nose. She clucks him forward, I kick. Nothing. I kick harder and he starts backing up.

He’s never done this to anyone. So I’m in new territory. Jen is in new territory. I’m feeling reluctant to escalate tensions and equally reluctant to get off. I say out loud to Jen, “I really don’t want to let him get away with this.” So I try again, this time Jen grabs the inside rein and we have some reluctant forward, stumble around a quarter of circle or so. I attempt to cross the diagonal. Nope. He sees the exit, he’s tired and hot ( Jen had just worked him), and he knows lunchtime is nigh. He also knows he’s got a timid rider up there who is not impacting him at all with her aids.

So now when I kick, he goes into reverse. In all fairness, he has not threatened to rear or buck, but I feel him bunching up a little. Probably due to my growing tension. Jen asks me to lighten my seat and lean forward a bit to get him forward. I was so proud of sitting back in my seat, resisting any fetal position but I try to be game. A few reluctant forwards steps and he quits again. I send Jen across the circle with the hopes of taking advantage of his liking to be near her. It’s a no go. I know I need to stick this out but it’s getting worse. I can tell Jen wants me off and safe but knows it’s not good for either of us to give up now.

Again I gain few steps when rein grabs the reins. She ends up slapping him on the butt with her hand. Three more steps. I guess I look more worried. Jen advise me to hop off and she gets back on.

I feel better when I see that he doesn’t want to go forward for her either! She resorts to the short crop and with reluctance, the kid eventually responds with a good trot and canter.

So, yes, I’m disappointed. I guess I really expected just to get on and do some walk. By the time I got off I was shook, which my confidence certainly didn’t need. But I told Jen, should this happen again I would get back on after she put him to Rights. I decided right then and there to just assume this was an anomaly and it’s also his age. He’s going to test the rider. Next time I will carry a crop. I did kick him enough to know he wouldn’t buck or get dirty today. So next ride, I feel I can be more assertive.

Now I need to put aside the dream first ride. That just wasn’t in the cards. Tomorrow he gets a hack with Jen, so I will try again Saturday. Maybe it’s better for both of us to have early disagreements in a somewhat controlled scenario. We just have to believe in each other.

The best thing about today? It can only get better! “Forward” is the new mantra!

Loving the Spook, Pt. One


I’m on a hunt. There must be a rational way to deal with a horse that you love on every level and with all your heart. But that horse is a spook.

First, I’m going to lay out my rationalizations. I’m a baby booming adult amateur who didn’t starting training until my mid forties. I’ve had too many falls to remember. My first fall nearly ended the whole horse thing. I was hurting for months after and the only reason I stayed with the sport was that I already owned the horse. After some real work getting back into the swing of it, I soldiered on. But my lousy seat betrayed me several times over the years and I ate more than my share of dirt. Ten horses later, I can’t say that I’ve totally recovered from the last few. 66 years old makes for some pretty hard ground and lack of bounce.

Enter Casanova. On the surface, the ideal horse. Only 16’2 with a compact build, sweet as can be on the ground, easy to sit, lovely gaits, loves to please. He seemed exactly what I needed after all the big horses I had been pushing around the arena the last twenty years. My trainer, Jen and I tried him about a half dozen times or so. My legs draped easily. He was responsive and soft. So easy off the leg. He was schooling a very green  Prix St. Georges. Everything said go. He was glad to see me each time we tried him. Check out the photos above. It just doesn’t get better.

So home he came in November 2016. He immediately carved his own corner in my heart. To this day, that corner just grows larger.

But, he’s a very spooky horse. He is a true Chicken Little. His spooks are not big. Jen can bring him back in an instant. But with each spook I witness, my courage falters. Riding on the buckle at the walk is an exercise in adrenaline control.

I’ve set up my darling horse. Now me.

My last fall in 2012 was quick and dirty and on my relatively new mare Delhia (Lhia). In retrospect, I think it has colored my riding ever since. Fortunately, I had Callista who I never was afraid to get on. But once Lhia dumped me, I found myself discouraged. I worked hard on my seat, as I rightfully concluded it wasn’t good enough to help me in an emergency.

I pushed myself to get back to a good place with Lhia. We were making progress. But she went lame in the late spring of 2016. I’ve only just got back on her at a walk ( we are rehabbing her from a subsequent surgery) and she’s still fairly gimpy. On the days she’s really fresh, I don’t get on. That’s what brave, confident, YOUNG trainers are for.

With  Waterford a two year old, Callista being retired, Lhia laid up, the purchase of Novi was everything! And we started well. I was letting Jen start him and I was finishing him, always working on my seat. Then the spooking showed up.

We checked his eyes, kept an eye on saddle fit, asked for the work kindly. We were and are very fair. We offered as much turnout as our boarding facility  could allow. When we came home to Bella Blu, we offered even more. We vary the program, offer walks on the bridle path, we are committed to a regular show and clinic calendar to vary his environment. But he remains a spooky creature.

When he is good, he is perfect for me.

His spooks are largely visual when he is going left. It’s his right side when it’s on the outside that presents the problem. Yes, we had the eye specialist out to rule out any vision problem. But lines of any kind, footing variation, sun and shadow lines are all issues for him in this direction. As I said, most of his spooking is easily ridden through. He never loses his head over it. He just is a horse that thinks the sky is falling on a regular basis.

Anyone reading this would say, “Just sell him and get something else.” That’s not why I’m writing this entry. This is my Challenge. I want to trust ME to learn to ride this otherwise wonderful animal.

So that brings me to today. I’ve only been back to riding less than a month. This last year, I’ve been plagued with Lyme, shingles, my mom’s death, my torn up Achilles and ankle. I finally was out of my cast about four weeks ago. I’m soft and more chubby than usual, due to a year of zero activity. But I really wanted to get back into things ASAP.

So it’s been mostly walk-trot this month. I started well, I think. I stay off of Novi on the days he is very “up” and when he is particularly spooky. But I have days when I let my environment get to me even when he is not spooky. Today it was windy. Novi had been particularly good with Jen in the schooling. Because she is showing him this weekend (Four One), I was just getting on to cool him out. We’ve been incorporating a lot of  walking on the buckle to make up for the casual kind of fun riding I didn’t get as a kid ( it’s a huge thing to be an adult rider without that careless childhood horse history). But I let the head games begin. And I dismounted unnecessarily early because I caved.

And it’s me. It’s not Novi. And I truly believe selling him and getting a different horse is not what is needed. I truly believe this is about me believing in me. When I can get over this hurdle, I do think Novi and I will do well together.

A Super Large sigh is echoing across the void.

We have a plan. One is taking advantage of Waterford’s training to help me. Just now, I get on about once a week for a lead line ride, using my seat and leg aids only. Jen proposes we put her up on him and begin teaching him how to longe with a rider up. When I graduate to trot on him, it will be on the end of a longe line. Waterford is a supremely confident youngster. As he matures, he will be a great help to me, I know. And hopefully, we can eventually have Novi do the same.

Now I need to work on sport psychology. I’ve a good library with all the classics. Time to read. Time to practice mental strategies. Time to believe in me.


to be continued….




Bella Blu Farm




AF02F0BC-9D93-41C6-9B2F-C9FD83328467It’s been eons since I have blogged. But life is rich and full just now and it seems right to catch up here and enlarge on the adventures life has offered the last few years. Yes, I’ve been very active on the Facebook  front. But nothing beats blogging for getting into detail.

Where to start? In 2016, we sold our Wellington property and bought another with an existing four stall barn. The house was pretty, the location ideal and we moved in the end of  July. Since moving we’ve painted, put in an arena, renovated the barn, added six paddocks . In short, I have this tiny jewel of a farm now. The horses arrived December 18, 2017. And except for a chronic injury keeping me grounded, it’s been heaven here.

The November before,  I acquired my sweet Casanova ( Novi). This last two years, we’ve been shoring up his basics and building his trust and confidence. He’s showing Third Two this weekend at the Palm Beach Derby. So proud of how he is developing!





The great joy of 2016 was bringing Waterford home. First to Stillpoint of course, but now here at Bella Blu. And I’m on him in a very rudimentary way. This is Rafi’s Son, for those of you that used to read this blog!





I rode my lovely Waterford for only the second time today. I felt like an eleve at the Spanish Riding School. No touching  the mouth! Just sitting lightly, reins at the buckle, and following the walk with my seat. He will be five on May 1. Seems unbelievable! He’s so tall. Over 17.1 now, I think. But the saddle area is so comfy. My legs drape his sides in such a nice way. Very reminiscent of Rafi. Possibly more ideal. He’s a total Roll Royce!

Delhia ( Lhia) is coming back slowly but surely. I was on her for the first time in nearly two years last week. Tomorrow, I’m hoping for my next ride.


So, I am back! I will try to post more often about our Farm doings. Nearly time for night check now!








Tristan Tucker Clinic ~ sharing a great blog!


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Tristan Tucker Clinic.

Had to share this. Linda did a brilliant recap of what we learned last Saturday and Sunday at Ashby Farm. I will study all her notes and the videos. I will attend any of his clinics that cone my way. This is the only “cowboy” trainer to make an impression on me. My horses can only benefit !!!