Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Adventures in being "Turned Out"

From Princess Pony to... Fuzzy Draft x Pony Cross...

This is what I left:

Sleek, Shiny, Rodeo Star, General Badass...

 This is what I came home too:

Fuzzy, Fat, Cheeks bigger than a Clydesdale...

Jingle has been "turned out", and although he's still in a blanket throughout these cold months, he's really reversed back to his old shaggy disheveled ranch-horse self. That includes a wee bit lacking in the manners department section...

This is how I feel about his no manners self... ergh.


I found myself attempting to braid his mane (which is scraggly and lacking and so sad) and tail... as if that would bring back my sleek horse...

Frosted Tips = Princess Horse?

It didn't.

My farrier came out and Jingle was awful, oh right... he hasn't had a person pick up his feet since my farrier last saw him 8 weeks ago...

"Tehehe, screw farriers, what are manners, where are my friends, gimme cookies and get out"

Jingle also had his shoes pulled in September (remember... turned out), in the end i'm happy with how his soles and hoof wall look, both seem very strong. He's always had chipping on his hinds, which is definitely accentuated and his fronts didn't look very pretty from where he's growing out old nail holes. A very concerned Louisa asked her farrier what we can do about that... the response...

A crooked eyebrow, a head shake at me and a "put shoes on him, but you wont, because he is turned out"

Well then.

Yes, Jingle is loving life in semi-retirement, he is fat and fuzzy and happy. He munches hay all day and hangs out with an annoying bay that refuses to leave me alone. He no longer looks like a sleek machine because he doesn't need too be right now.

& his owner... she needs to get the heck over herself.

My most favourite thing in the whole wide world.

But, some things are still the same, Jingle is still an absolute cookie monster who loves his long brushes, and will still reluctantly do his stretches for me. I still completely adore him. Although I have visions of cowboy challenges and low-level dressage in our future, when asked at a get-together the other day what I "wanted" of Jingle in the future I had to pause. "Well, I would really like to wake up every morning, walk out to his field, and have my cup of morning coffee with him." 

So, being turned out has been a learning experience for both Jingle and I. 
Jingle is learning how to expand his belly every single day, and I am learning to stop over-reacting, and get over myself as a horse-mom.
Baby steps.

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year from Myself & The Fuzziest Winter-Pony around, Jingle!

Yes, Jingle is still alive and SO FUZZY.. more on that later. ;)

I just wanted to thank you guys for all your comments on my last post, and on all my posts in general!
 I so appreciate you guys taking the time to read my endless rambling!

2013 has been such an insane year, and, for the most part, that's insane in a good way.
I can't wait to see what 2014 holds for me, and even though sometimes it can be scary, i'm so excited to keep dream chasing. 
It's not just two words, it's a motto, and a lifestyle.

I hope you all have a wonderful New Years and can't wait to see where YOUR dreams take you in 2014!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Texas; A Life in Review

So, I've kind of been hiding from this blog... for various reasons, one of them being the post i'm about to publish... but, fear not loyal followers because i'm really going to attempt to be back in a big way this year. We have lots to cover!

So here goes...
Early mornings in TX

71 days. That’s how long I was in Texas.

Sitting on my airplane, flying above Wyoming, it’s hard to believe that I even “lived” in Texas. When I look back on my time there, sometimes it feels like I was there for  a year, other times, it feels like I was there a week.

Texas was an experience, filled with ups and downs. Somehow, having never loped at a show before, I found myself working for a trainer that has won over $2 million dollars. He’s one of, what I like to call, “the Weatherford Crew”. This is an important thing to note, because, in the cutting world, the Weatherford Crew are the kings. The Weatherford Crew is who wins the Triple Crown Events (The Futurity, The Superstakes and The Derby). Basically, they are the big time and somehow this teeny tiny little Canadian found herself loping horses for one of those men.

More horses than hours in the day

 The particular man I was working for had a full barn, this meant 70+ horses… he ran, what I like to think as, a production line cutting operation. Each horse there was worth upwards of $50,000. In this game, in this world, that’s a cheap horse by the way. “An amateur level horse”.  In the mornings, we would get up and be at the barn for 4 am (sometimes 5 am… a relative sleep-in). We would saddle as many three year olds as we could. When I first arrived there were three of us lopers, a 2 year old trainer who helped us get through the 3 year olds in the morning, and then Boss-man and his assistant who would ride up in the top pen. Boss-man working horses, and the Assistant turning back for him. You would warm-up a horse, and once the Assistant whistled, you would walk the horse up to the top, hand it off to Boss-man, take one from him, and bathe it while he worked the horse you had handed off either on a flag, or on cows. This would go on all morning long, once Boss-man got tired, he would leave. If there were any three year olds left, the assistant would work the rest of them. There’s your first hint at what I mean by production-line cutting horses. Rack em through, and let the lesser ones fall through the cracks.

We would get lunch, which, apparently, was rare. In the summertime, they wake up at 3 am, and work straight through until 3 pm to try to beat the 100+ F degree summer heat. After lunch, the lopers would tackle “show horses”, anything 4 years older and up. If any of those horses were for sale, or if their owners were coming to ride them, we would hand them off to the assistant to work. But, if not, we would make sure every single one got out of their stall that day, whether that be riding them in the arena, or putting them on the walker. While we were doing that the assistant, and the 2 year old trainer would tackle the many two year old horses we had. Usually we got done around 4-5 pm.

Horse trainers, and their staff, are comparable to gypsies, always moving.

 From there, my mind and body were so tired that I would often get into bed, talk to my mom, check my facebook and then fall asleep. At 7:55 pm my alarm would go off, and I would get up, we would all meet back up at the barn. We would then have to put on the horses slinkies, sheets, and heavy blankets. Cold days were blessed days, because it meant that blankets would have to stay on all day. Blankets… were the absolute worst. On days were the temperature fluctuated, as it does in Texas, we would often find ourselves spending hours just putting blankets on and off. Sometimes, the three year olds would have all three blankets put back on once they were dry, then, it would warm up and heavies would hurriedly have to be ripped off, then maybe after lunch, the sheets, then around 2 the Assistant would check the temperature and say “slinkies should come off”, well around and around and around we’d go. At night, if we had to put on all three, even with up to 5 of us being there, it would take almost an hour.

So, around 9 pm, I would crash back into my bed, and sleep. Our only days off were Sundays, sometimes (not during shows), and those days were strictly meant for sleeping for me

Tired, covered in poultice & whining, as per usual

 Now, I don’t want to make it seem like a big whine-fest, because it’s not, that’s the reality of the big cutting horse operations in Texas. I don’t think that’s what ALL of them are like, but I know a lot of them are. A lot of the trainers keep their age-groups smaller and manageable, so instead of the 20 three year olds we had, they might have 10. This means those trainers have time to really focus on their three year olds coming up to the futurity, but also ride the show horses and keep them tuned up aswell. That was not the case where I was, it was three year olds all the time for Boss-Man. Unless a show was coming up, like the Southern, this meant that Boss-Man would ride those show horses first, and then get through some three year olds. This also generally meant earlier mornings to accommodate for that.


 Two weeks after I arrived in Texas we headed to “The Southern”. I am at my best when busy, I am not an idle person, I quickly found that I really liked shows. Myself, and my roommate, “K” and another boy who started the same time as me, “L”, headed to the show. “L” quickly became frustrated with what he called “lack of organization”. I wouldn’t call it that, but just needing to be on his toes. But, by the end of the show, “L” had packed his bags and left. K and I, worked well together at the show, and figured out how to really work with, and for eachother. It was good. At the place I was working, the 2 year old trainer and Assistant trainer warned me that someone leaving after a show was commonplace and that there was a “2 show curse”. After 2 shows, most people pack up and leave. This is due to Boss-man not being the best communicator in the world, it can be frustrating, annoying and also really tough, because it means you really have to be even more on top of it.

Home for Three Months

 When we were home, the monotony of the days really got to me. I found myself getting really lazy with my riding, because after riding 20+ horses a day personally, my body just didn’t seem to want to care anymore. If you ever watch lopers in the warm-up pen at a show, you will see some qualities of their riding that comes from how many horses they have to ride a day. I never felt comfortable slouching around at the trot… I sure do now. I can also long trot in a sitting trot like no other. Holding the horn while you post? Lopers do that. Holding the cantle while sitting the trot? Lopers do that. No shame. No shame if it keeps your body from screaming in agony.

Dawn in TX

 I also found myself really missing home. Seriously, desperately missing home. When I was busy, home was the farthest thing in my mind, when I was bored, as I would be trotting endless circles waiting for a whistle to call me in, home encompassed my entire mind. Finally, the monotony brought forth some serious insecurities, I wasn’t getting any one on one time with Boss-man, and I wasn’t “learning” anything about actually cutting. My dreams of showing felt like they were slipping farther and farther away. It was a true battle in my mind that I would have every day – I was at one of the biggest trainers in the world, I was working in the epicenter of it all… was I being a spoiled little brat? Should I just keep duking it out in the trenches? I didn’t know what to do.

Taking a break in the centre of the warm-up pen to say hello

 Then, the pre-works started and we were thrown back into “busy”. It was mostly just “K” and I, and we were really figuring eachother out. We were a well-oiled machine, and by the end of San Angelo we felt like we had really figured out our three year olds and our sights were set straight to stun and we were ready for the Futurity. We were so confident, we felt like our 20+ three year olds were just going to storm into Will Rogers and sweep the whole thing.

Well… Boss-man didn’t have as much faith in us as we had in ourselves. He hired a show-help girl that had helped him at many other shows. He didn’t tell us he was going to do it, and it meant that the most inexperienced loper was likely to stay home. Well, that was me. It really deflated “K”’s sails, and although I rationalized it… she was much more experienced than I and this was a serious, serious show for him… she had loped for him at multiple shows… he knew her really well… my sails lost some of their puff too.

Sleepy Three-Year Olds

 The futurity is 3 weeks long… the futurity is never ending.. K and the show-help girl went down to Fort Worth most days, and I stayed home with the boys to keep the show-horses exercised. One big plus of getting to stay home was that the boys let me turn-back for them. This, honestly, saved me. Mentally I was in anguish and just so badly wanted to be at home. I counted down every single day, every single hour. It was a terrible thing to do to myself, I felt like I’d never get home. But turning back really helped me since I was finally doing something that felt a little more like I was… ya know… learning about cutting. I could watch them work their horses and ask them questions after, and it was really good for me. They were both great, especially the two year old trainer, about breaking things down for me and letting me ask my numerous “question of the day”. I felt like I was soaking up some of their wisdom, and picking up on subtleties that I would have missed before. So, in the end, leaving me behind was actually a good thing for me. 


 It was around this time that I knew that I wouldn’t be returning to Texas. (spoiler alert – haha). K and the show-help began to fight, and bicker, and it brought big old storm clouds over the mornings… which by the way were 3 am mornings. So for 3 weeks, we were up at 3 am, and often done around 5 pm. For the girls down at the show, some days they weren’t home until 9 pm. The Futurity, is not for the weak of heart. The futurity went sideways really quickly… Boss-Man didn’t make it past the first round on a horse that everyone expected him to go out and possibly win it on. His second horse made it to the semis. Not the best show for him. Each person is only allowed to show two horses at The Futurity, so that meant he was done. Two of our horses were handed off to other trainers in what is called a “Catch Ride”, both of those guys didn’t make it past the first round. Our Non-Pros and Amateurs? Just as bad, I think maybe 2 people made it into the second round, and then quickly got bounced right out.

Kickin' up their little two-year old heels after being worked

So, all of a sudden, what I thought was a seriously “winning team”, wasn’t so winning anymore. Furthermore, Boss-Man seemed to have figured out what was on my mind, and without ever speaking to me, made up his mind that I wasn’t coming back. This meant that for three weeks, he maybe spoke to me… three times. Those three times were generally a “good morning” or a gruff “thanks” for handing a horse off to him. The atmosphere just kept spiraling downwards, and I just kept counting down when I could come home.

The futurity ended on Saturday the 15, I flew home on Tuesday the 17.

I need to learn how to cut. That’s it. That’s all. No excuses. I’m going to be showing by next year, and to do that, I need someone to mentor me. It wasn’t going to happen for me where I was. This was due to multiple things… the size of the place meant that boss-man was always busy. The truth of it is that even if he desperately wanted to teach me every single thing he knew, he didn’t have any time to let me work a horse, or show me how to work a horse, or anything along those lines. Boss-Man, and the lopers (so, us), are for the most part, gone half of every single month of the year hauling to shows. Some of them are “home shows”, like The Futurity, this means waking up at 3 am (sometimes 2 am) to get horses worked before we head down to the show. Away, well… you’re away… where in that schedule does one find the time to teach someone how to cut? Plus, Boss-man was a terrible communicator, and could be a very negative and passive-aggressive person. This was rarely directed at me personally, but just being around someone like that can be toxic, and it affected my mood greatly. I was spiraling into a really dark place, and I knew that no matter how good, or glamorous, being and working in Texas seemed, it wasn’t for me, and so I made up my mind to leave.

Last Light

 It was a very hard decision. I felt like I was walking away from the big-time. It felt like someone handed me the golden key but then hid the door and wouldn’t let me find it... but what’s the big-time when your just another underappreciated minion… honestly? Not much. So, It really was for the best, and who knows… Texas may be in my future… but not right now.

Actually. I know Texas is in my future. Because one day? I will show at Will Rogers at The Futurity. No Excuses. Stay Hungry. Be Relentless.

So what does the Future hold you ask? Well, things are never dull around here, so after I take a much needed break at home for the Holidays, I’ve booked a one-way ticket tooo….

dun dun dun

you’ll just have to wait for the next post, this one was insanely long as is ;)

Sunday, December 15, 2013

NFR 2013

There are two times a year where I really get into, watch regularly and love rodeo...

The Calgary Stampede

Because... hey that's me with the City of Calgary flag!


Because... my mom and I have been going strong at the Stampede since I was a little itty bitty baby. It's my favourite family tradition.

The Second is...

The National Finals Rodeo

Truth of the matter is... guys i'm going to share a secret here... much like most canadians are hockey bandwagoners (the stereotype is a lie, half of us don't know what we're talking about when we root for "our teams", I promise)... I am a rodeo bandwagoner.

Serious rodeo contestant guys... at the one & only gymkhana i've ridden in.. marking probably a solid 2 minute run on thread the needle.

& Although I DO know what Tuf Cooper competes in...

Maaaaybe I'm a bit of a buckle bunny....

I will give you some serious rodeo-props if you know what movie this early buckle-bunny Renee cameo is from

But, all of that aside, the NFR was another good one this year. My favourite event is Barrels, and one of my favourite racers is Sherry Cervi. No one contests that the woman is a talented, talented hand with a horse, a serious competitor, and a gracious, lovely woman. I even met her once at the Stampede and she was so nice and down to earth. 

& after a solid year, Sherry won the average as well as the Gold Buckle, the Top Gun Award and the world this year on her phenomenal horse Stingray. I can't pull it up on youtube, but if you want to see how cool these two are together, especially just in their everyday routines on the road, search "Up Close & Personal with Sherry Cervi" a video put on by The Classic Real Deal.

However, two big controversies have come out of the NFR after the dirt in the Thomas & Mack settled after Round Ten. 

The first being the team of Taylor Jacob and Bo, Rookie of the Year. Taylor won an impressive number of rounds AND set an arena record on her horse. Taylor was quickly becoming the world's newest Rodeo golden girl, the way she enters the arena is so wonderful - quiet, composed and Bo is clearly listening to her. Then.. after two nights of knocking barrels she knocked the third barrel in Round Ten, the camera panned to her in the alley and it showed her see-sawing on her horses face. The camera quickly panned away, and just as quickly the internet BLEW UP with forums and facebook posts about how people the world over had lost their respect for the rookie of the year.

Here is the video...

Go to 2:33 to see what I'm talking about

Tough. Part of me feels bad for Jacob, who has yet to release a statement about it, perhaps it was a Rookie mistake. Perhaps she really did loose her cool (which a lot of people are alleging was the cause of the incident) and, in that case, she does have a long way to mature and learn how to lose gracefully. I agree with most in that she owes a lot to Bo. However, another camp is stating that Bo can be a really bad stopper in the alleyway and that multiple times he's tried to crash her into fences instead of stopping. The Thomas and Mack is also set up in a very barrel unfriendly way, if you keep running, you will end up on cement and hit a fence. So, perhaps it was a dangerous situation and she was attempting to stop him, and make him stop. Either way, it put a bit of tarnish on all those buckles (5) she won during NFR.

Second, and perhaps even more insane, was this announcement from Las Vegas Events via their Official NFR Experience Facebook Page...
The 2014 #WranglerNFR Las Vegas dates will be December 4-13, 2014. You will hear many rumblings over the next few months about the future of the NFR and Las Vegas. Here is the statement we issued earlier today. We look forward to a great relationship with our fans in 2014 and beyond! 
Statement from Las Vegas Events Regarding the PRCA’s Rejection of Las Vegas’ Offer to Extend the Contract for theWrangler National Finals Rodeo 
The PRCA voted today 6-3 to decline the offer Las Vegas Events made for an extension of the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo to pursue an offer made by Osceola County, Florida. Osceola County exceeded LVE’s offer by more than $4 million.

We are disappointed that the PRCA has chosen to pursue a completely speculative offer versus Las Vegas’ proven 29-year track record.

Adding an additional $4 million to the budget would require a 40% increase in ticket prices. That is not sustainable. We have to balance the demands of the PRCA with the consequence of pricing our fans out of the market. In fact, LVE does not generate a profit from the NFR. All revenue generated from the NFR including ticket sales, Cowboy Christmas, local sponsorship sales and a $2 million LVCVA and LVE rights fee, go directly to the contestants and the PRCA.

Now that we know the PRCA’s true intentions, we will put our full effort into developing a new Series and Finals. For almost 30 years, we have developed a loyal fan base that calls Las Vegas home for the first two weeks in December. We are confident our new “Finals” will exceed all expectations.

The PRCA voted today 6-3 to decline the offer Las Vegas Events made for an extension of the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo to pursue an offer made by Osceola County, Florida. Osceola County exceeded LVE’s offer by more than $4 million.
We are disappointed that the PRCA has chosen to pursue a completely speculative offer versus Las Vegas’ proven 29-year track record.
Adding an additional $4 million to the budget would require a 40% increase in ticket prices. That is not sustainable. We have to balance the demands of the PRCA with the consequence of pricing our fans out of the market. In fact, LVE does not generate a profit from the NFR. All revenue generated from the NFR including ticket sales, Cowboy Christmas, local sponsorship sales and a $2 million LVCVA and LVE rights fee, go directly to the contestants and the PRCA. 
Now that we know the PRCA’s true intentions, we will put our full effort into developing a new Series and Finals. For almost 30 years, we have developed a loyal fan base that calls Las Vegas home for the first two weeks in December. We are confident our new “Finals” will exceed all expectations.
Team... this is NOT OKAY... Florida?! Vegas is all glitz and glam and cowboy christmas... it was made for the NFR. Florida is... snow birds... and oranges.. and stuff.. who even knows? Meanwhile, there are the diehards that are saying "if it ain't vegas, it's Oklahoma, and if it's somewhere new it better gosh-darnit-Itellya-be-in Texas." However, I'm right there with them. Vegas is glitz and glam, but it's also pretty cheap - totally affordable flights and hotels (.. even if they get a bit crazier during NFR time) so that thousands upon thousands can go down and do some serious shopping and rodeo-watching every year. Furthermore, Florida is pretty far away for a lot of rodeo contestants, most of which are from Texas, or other more central states, and hard on horses who have been hauled all year and now have to be hauled even farther for the finals. Although it's not official, and nothing is set in stone, it appears Las Vegas events is very offended by the PRCA's actions.

Furthermore, I HAVE NEVER BEEN TO THE NFR IN VEGAS, and gosh-darnit I want to be there, more importantly I want to SHOP there. This means some serious saving, because I need to get my butt down there next year in 2014, especially if it's the last Finals that Vegas ever sees...

So, any rodeo fans in my readership, what do you think of Taylor Jacob and what do you think of Florida as the potential new home for the WNFR?

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Winter in Texas

Santa got lost in Texas...

"Your pretty dumb like me, he said, to work in the wintery frost"
... with ya on that one Santa.

... & perhaps he couldn't leave

Because at the moment Texas is experiencing record-breaking cold and ice. This morning Fort Worth had to shut down the freeways so that a "Task Force" could work on clearing ice off the roads that in some areas is 8" thick. Not. Okay.

Last week it got a little chilly... in fact our donkey had little icicles on his ears...
My Canadian friends basically told me to zip it since they were experiencing the beginning of what would become -40 C weather. Yes friends, my hometown/home province was one of the coldest places IN THE WORLD for about a week and a half.. sorry guys, that's just bad luck.

Then, the storm hit, and it got REAL cold in Texas REAL fast.
None of my friends and family seem to care, since they are all living in Antarctica currently (actually.. Antarctica is warmer), but I know for a fact it is really cold. How do I know this? Because I have been wearing MORE clothes out here while riding than I ever did in our unheated barn in the dead of Winter  in Calgary last year.

The problem with Texas cold is that it is humid, so when it gets cold, it starts to rain, then it starts to sleet, then it starts to rain down ice chunks from the sky, and all this "snow" that you see in my photos? It's actually legitimately pure ice... no snow here... just a big statewide skating rink.

Infact, part of our roof caved in, in several different parts of our barn, so we had to move horses around.
Jake, one of our three year olds, was ELATED that the resident goofy stud, Bear got placed beside him.

Because they played, and played, and played all day long, and have finally just settled down. 

My second major problem with the Texas cold, the first being the gosh-darn-stupid-I-hate-it RAIN all the time, is that Texans just don't know how to deal with cold. So, instead of building INSULATED barns, and INDOOR arenas, all the barns are just shells (hence the roof caving in from ice in some areas) and all the arenas are semi open. Ours is three walls, and then the back wall is opened out to pens and runs in and out for the cows. That means that even when you are inside, you are freezing cold due to third major problem, the wind.

Rain + Semi-Outdoor Arenas + Wind
= Not. Okay.

Everyone likes to come up to me and say "This must just be a breeze for you, hey you crazy Canadian?" & i'm over here in 18 layers, soaked to the bone, wanting to die, like ... actually I want to die now, thanks.

The one thing I do find amusing about this whole situation is how wholly unprepared Texans are for this. Driving back from Fort Worth the night when the storm first began, Boss-man told us to put the truck and trailer in 4 wheel drive and drive slow. The loper driving about had a mental breakdown because she had never driven in 4 wheel and thought she wasn't allowed to go above 30 mph. I tried to explain to her that in Canada I drive in 4 wheel all winter long and that's what it's meant for... bad conditions. Well, she tried to speed up and kept saying "IT WONT LET ME", so I just let it go thinking she was being a nitwit, after asking her several times "You're in 4 wheel hi right??" She kept saying she was. Yep... turns out she was in 4 wheel low, and had no idea what that even meant. Sigh... They were also SHOCKED and totally confused about the concept of "winter tires" haha.

The Cactus, I am sure, are not happy about their new frozen conditions...
Cactus just aren't meant for this kind of weather, ya'll.
Nor, am I.

The boys found a good way to amuse themselves in the ice...

Finally, this evening, the sun started to appear again and we got a bit of a release from the crazy storm. Fingers crossed that we're almost out of it...

So yes, Canada, I feel awfully bad for you guys, and I hope that you are all staying warm. There is nothing okay with how cold it is up there right now... absolutely ridiculous!
But atleast you have indoor arenas to ride in, and are prepared for snow.. unlike Texas, where the whole state is having an ice-induced mental breakdown.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Because I miss Ponyboy...

... I purchased this Tory Keepsake ID Padded Bracelet for myself off Horse.com

I actually love the quality, the leather is really soft and supple and the padding is comfortable against my wrist. My co-workers teased me mercilessly for it, (they said I was a big lame-o haha) but I really love this bracelet. I think it looks really clean, polished and timeless. It also means a little piece of him is always with me, even when we're in different countries. :)