Cloud's Honor Racing

Cloud's Honor Racing
www.GoodHorse.org

Cloud's Honor Riding

Cloud's Honor Riding
www.LeightonFarm.com

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Sky Is Falling And I Can't Get Up

So, a typical week for the Director of TPR is...........There is no typical week.  I get up at 3 a.m. most mornings to do site work and paperwork and return emails.  I feed the horses at 6 a.m. and back to the office.  I try, try, try to get down to the barn by 8 a.m. to start riding, but there are many days now that I am still in here until 10 a.m. or so.  The workload has grown to a point where once or twice a week, I get up at 1 a.m. to fit in a few more hours and try to get caught up.  Ha, that's a dream. 

There is more and more work.  Lots of people and horses who are desperate for help immediately or something horrible will happen.  I've got to find time this day for them.  There are the people who are doing everything right by their horses, so I've got to fit them in.  There are the endless emails and phone calls inquiring about horses.  That's what it's all about, so I've got to get to them.  Try getting up day after day and answering an average 100 emails.  I get around 5 to 20 phone calls a day. I answer them in the order in which I receive them. Sometimes I'm two weeks behind on returning calls. I'm very available in the morning before I ride. I don't have time to talk much during the day.  I also don't want to.  I'm riding and I don't want to be upset or distracted. You really never know what the person you are calling is going to say. Most are just inquiries, but not all. Just try it one day.  It sounds like I'm complaining, but I am not.  I'm going somewhere with this, just hang in there.

I regularly have people tell me how much they appreciate and respect what I do.  I always feel great when I get a horse into the right hands.  This is good because it prepares me for the dark side.  You might ask what is the dark side?  In just the last two weeks, I've gotten a horse here that was pulled from a kill pen at New Holland.  I sent it to a foster home because I didn't have room.  The horse had issues like they all do after going through that.  I received very little help from the people who instigated the horse's rescue.  They basically dumped the horse on me and told me I should put him down or pay for his rehabilitation myself.  Oh, they did give me $85 and they've promised more........  There is nothing wrong with this guy that can't be fixed.  He's beautiful and wonderful, he just needs a chance.  The good news is the horse appreciates his new, safe life.  That's actually good enough for me, but the problem is, I don't have a money tree.  At the same time I got an email about a horse that would be sent to auction in two weeks, if I did not take him.  I can't take him, I'm over full and still paying for most of this myself.  Luckily the trainer did have them sign a TOA.  I call the woman and say you signed a contract saying you'd never sell the horse at any auction.  She says I know and he's too nice to send there.  Too nice?  I wouldn't send someone I hated to the auction, let alone any animal.  I ask her - if I find a foster home, can she get him shipped there?  The answer is no.  I tell her to get me pictures and I'll find him a home.  She doesn't have current pictures and she's three hours from here so I put them up.  I hate putting up old pictures, it usually mispresents the horse.  Someone goes to see the horse and contacts me and tells me he's thin and they won't let him go unless they pay the back board.  I try to contact current owner and never hear from her again.  Someone else contacts me and tells me the horse is gone.  Gone where?

Oh that's not all.  I get yelled at regularly because I don't return calls fast enough.  I get crappy emails telling me I'm not doing enough and if I did better I'd place more horses and receive more money.  I put horses on the site that people tell me have 45 days or something like that.  I don't want to be God.  I just want to help horses.  I don't need pressure to make me perform.  I'm doing the best I can and that has got to be good enough.  Then there are the people that want to know what I am doing taking riding lessons when Thoroughbred Placement and Rescue is raising money to stay afloat.  I suppose they think I should hitch hike rather than buy gas for my vehicle too.

What do you think?  Would you like to walk a mile in these boots?

Someone was trying to do something really nice for me last weekend.  I take pictures of horses all the time, but I never have time to photograph my own horses.  Punkie is 25 years old.  Graycie is as big as a house.  They came to my farm and took pictures of my horses.  These friends wanted me to be there and were trying to work with my schedule.  I really appreciated that they would do this, but I couldn't commit to a time.  They came anyway and did it without me there.  That's precious to me.  They asked me "How do you do it?"

How do I do it?

I ride with Elizabeth Madlener and she has led me down a path where I can help each and every horse I work with transition to a new discipline.  She demands my full attention, thereby blocking out the rest of my world for a short time.  This is stability and hope.

I rode with Jimmy Wofford last Tuesday.  I guess I shouldn't disclose that.  I should keep secret the fact that I spent some of my money to ride with Jimmy.  I took both of my boys.  I had to get up at 1 a.m. to achieve this feat.  Jimmy was hard on me in a positive way and I got a ton out of it.  Riding is the only time I don't feel the weight of the world on my back.  It's the only time I am focused on one thing and not divided in countless directions, like the dots of light reflected off a disco ball.  This is an island of sanity in an ocean of chaos where I walk the finest line between a great life or no life for these innocent, magnificent creatures.

How do I do it?

I ride.  I love these horses.  I have wonderful people around me.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Bear Today

 I started to write about Bear several entries ago because I wanted lead up to this entry about him.   I knew it would be impossible to understand the importance of his life today if you didn't know how he arrived here.  This Bear is the most sensitive, caring and sweet soul.  He so appreciates everything anyone does for him.  He patiently waits for me to acknowledge him when I come into the barn.  He would never ask, but he desperately wants me to come over and put my hand upon his face.  Bear never wants to leave the safety of Leighton Farm, but he deserves to have his own human.  I can't be that for him, I have many horses that have to share me, although he will remain special to me always.

Sometimes things just work out.  It's always bothered me that Bear didn't have his own human.  I knew he would feel betrayed if I ever placed him, no matter how wonderful the home.  It took him a very long time to trust that he was safe and it was for real.  Then one day a about a year ago down my driveway comes Bernadette, the Human Force of Nature.  She's done everything imaginable  to keep TPR afloat.   She's done everything humanly possible to help me keep the balance between my rescue and placement work and my riding.  It's very hard to do both correctly because both demand your all.  Bernadette is the reason I have been able to accomplish this.  I appreciate this more than I can express here.

There is one thing that Bernadette has done that I value over all else.  She has loved that Bear as much as a human could love a horse.  He has his very own human who puts him first before all other horses.  He's the first horse she wants to see when she walks in the barn and to Graycie's dismay, his is the first stall Bernadette stops at.  Bear is special and he knows it.

Recently Bernadette had to do time in Miami.  Well not jail time but almost.  Her job required her to go there for three weeks to work on the Haitian crisis.  She ate PBJ's so she could buy that Bear the best blanket ever.  Bear is now the proud owner of not one but two Draper blankets.  One for inside and the other while turned out.  He has lameness and pain and the Draper blankets are state of the art in therapy for the equine.  Olympians have them and that Bear has his own.  He's the best dressed horse on Leighton Farm, but he doesn't rub it in to the other horses.  He's not that kind of horse.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Piaffe and Tempi Changes

I've had my own horses, Birdie and Willie along with a few others at another farm for the past sixy days or so. At the end of the month I'll be moving all of my horses back to Leighton Farm. It's been hard to have them at another farm, but it's been well worth it. I've had the privilege of working with a master of riding on a regular basis. My riding has achieved a new level and I'm very excited about it. Both Birdie and Willie have transformed many times over. We still have a long way to go, but steady progress is enough incentive to keep working hard.

Elizabeth Madlener has devoted a ton of time and energy to me and my boys. She is a true dressage master, but what I have learned will benefit each and every horse I transition off the backstretch into the show and pleasure world.

I am from a racing background so much of the time I am reaching for a feeling I have never experienced on a horse. This makes it more difficult to know when I've achieved results. Self carriage and coming over in the back are not required in racing.

Last Saturday Elizabeth invited me to ride a horse she has been working with for several years. Quandel, I hope I spelled that correctly. I am told he is schooling fourth level. It was an eye opening experience. I was able to feel a truly forward and free walk. I had to use my legs more and in an accurate way to produce good results. My seat, well I learned my seat has a habit of going crazy at times.

Quandel reacted each time I wavered, even a smidge. I now know what my boys are having to deal with and this has made me a better rider immediately. In addition, Quandel was cutting me no slack - legs on, back up, legs off, back down. Put your legs on to be carried or pooh on you and they better be in the right place. I love and adore another horse, his name is Quandel.

Now for the great part. After a lot of laughing about the results I was inadvertently producing on poor Quandel, I started to put it together. I was honored to do my first Piaffe on him and Tempi Changes. YES! Tempi Changes! It's like riding a wave. Incredible power and stability from Quandel as a gift to me. I'm changed forever and now I have a clearer understanding of self carriage and responsiveness. I have a much better idea where we are headed. I'm inspired.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

More Bear

It has been five years, but Bear still goes directly to the water buckets to check if there is water when he walks into his stall. Most horses check the feed tub. He also goes over to the water trough when you turn him out. We keep to a schedule here at Leighton Farm. Horses rely on the fact that everything happens at a certain time each day. They find comfort in it, especially the horses who have been abused. The down side is if we are late bringing in from the fields, Bear starts pacing the fence in worry that “today they aren’t coming”. It’s a fear that I don’t think will ever leave him. When we go down the line of stalls to feed Bear stands quietly in his stall – waiting. I’ll never forget the first time he let out a low, calm nicker at feed time. He had dared to ask. Bear is always serious, he lost his sense of humor somewhere along the way. I watch him in the field and many times he reminds me of Eyore. There is an ever-present sadness that surrounds him, even when he’s happy to see you.

Bear appreciates everything you do for him. I mean everything. Your gentle touch is something he has longed for his entire life. When I walk in the stall and put my hand on his face, he accepts it and relaxes. He craves kindness and love. He draws people in with his need. He’s so appreciative that you fed him today, that you turned him out, brushed him, brought him in. Whatever you do, he’s glad you did it. Most horses begin to expect certain things after a while. Bear takes nothing for granted. Look in his eye and you can see the pain. It is obvious he has seen Hell and it wrecks me that I will never be able to make him whole.

One thing I’ve learned from working with abused horses, Bear and Charlie in particular, is if they get to the point where they want to die, they never fully recover. Charlie rebounded from the abuse. He handled the starvation better than Bear. When I bought them Charlie was in terrible shape, but Bear was far worse. Charlie had not given up, he knew someone was coming and better times were ahead. That’s why he trusted us and went onto the trailer. He knew it would be better. He knew it for a fact. Bear had given up, he had wanted to die. He was ready for his end and had accepted the fact that no one would ever come for him. When you look into his eyes that is what you see. I don’t believe animals consider death until it is imminent. I don’t believe they understand it exists. Once they do, everything changes.