Elvis is For Sale

Hello All.  I never thought I’d be posting such an entry but yes, Elvis is for sale.  I’ve come to the decision that this wonderful horse and I are less of a perfect riding match for each other than I expected.  Before you ask ‘why’, know that it’s nothing more than what sometimes happens when a rider begins moving in a different direction than the young horse.  It’s not a reflection of what either of us can or will accomplish in the future, it’s more a matter of how we will each succeed.  Clearly, Elvis has much to give; I’ve decided though that he can excel (perhaps more) with another rider.  He’s just as fantastic as he’s always been, and I love him the same.

If you are at all interested, please contact me at pariahpony @ gmail.com.


Yes, today was Trail Thursday!  This is a new thing in my life, and I love it!  As it stands, this is the third or fourth TT that I’ve had, and it appears as though Catherine and I have a standing date now established.  This is fantastic, because she and I both have languished on many a lonely trail ride.  Fortunately, we’ve found great trail partners in each other, and Elvis does so well with her current mount: a lovely golden pony.

Typically, we are pressed for time and can only make an hour-long trail.  Today however, we rode for two hours – such fun!  We crashed bush through the woods, popped out onto roads, rode alongside county thoroughfares, met area horses, talked to area people, saw two snakes (one alive, one dead), explored under a bridge, saved another turtle from an untimely end (Elvis was held off of another horse during this time, and was a gentleman!), and wandered through lovely wildflowers.  Really, it was a great day.  Elvis is truly a Trail Pony Deluxe, and it’s so easy to ride him anywhere.  He and I just had a blast, and it’s so great to have found such a great person to ride with.

That’s all I have for today.  Tomorrow Elvis will be long lined again.. maybe I’ll take some video.  This however is dependent upon whether I can locate the video camera in our new home!

Oh!  I’ve also decided to sell my Barnsby Whitaker.  That is somewhat of a big thing for me… so begins the saddle shopping process (again).

Recently, a reader (Jamie) made a comment regarding levels of maturity in ASBs.  This happened at an interesting time; I had just had my latest discussion on the topic with a friend who is an expert on saddlebreds and their various lines.  For me, this is a very interesting topic for a number of reasons.  As an owner of a traditional saddlebred who is predisposed genetically to be slow maturing, and who truly emphasizes this tendency as an individual, I have personal experience with “slow maturation”.  Also, as a self-professed ambassador for the breed for sporthorse people, I have discipline-influenced opinions on what would be an appropriate rate of maturation.  Additionally, as an observer of the saddlebred industry I regularly note the overwhelming preference for fast maturing horses.  Finally, as a general horse person I have discussions with friends on this trend across all horse breeds, its effect on the equine industry, and exactly how one would define it as a phenomena.  So, as I stated before, this is a favorite topic of mine to kick around, and one I’m happy to encourage as an open discussion platform – at any time!

Lately, Elvis has just been looking weird to me.  I’ve been assuming it was an illusion created in part by his clip job, and in part by his lack of work and loss of muscle.  However, recently I realized that he reminded me of a sprouting two-year old, in both quantitative and qualitative ways.  He’s just gawky looking: not thin but certainly not holding weight like he has in the past, and he is overall pretty immature in appearance.  He looked more mature last summer than he does right now.  He’s also really expressing social immaturity.  His confidence is there in a general sense, but he really strikes one as a horse with a very young attitude.  The recent move has really highlighted this change.  My new barn owner has even marveled at his tendency to be behind the curve. Noting these changes have left me feeling as though I may have missed that he’s going trough another one of those big transitional phases.

In her comment to me, Jamie mentioned that her horse is also maturing at a much slower pace than his peers, enough so that his teeth are reportedly 1.5 years behind where they should be in development (per her dentist).   I think this is so interesting!  I do believe that much of this slower rate of maturation is rooted in a horse’s blood lines and, if my research and understanding is correct, the foundation lines all carry this trait.  In fact, even my non-saddlebred barn owner knows of this fact!  She has had very limited experience with saddlebreds, being instead a professional in the field of hunters and jumpers.  However, she has come in contact with a group of saddlebreds used for jumping, and was able to absorb some information through this experience.  She’s told me more than once not to worry about Elvis, that “saddlebreds are known for slow maturation”.  Maybe she’s just being polite, but I think she’s speaking from an experience with older style saddlebreds, and she helped me to adopt more of a macro level perspective.  These horses, as well as other breeds who have lines still heavy with foundation influence, will always be slower to mature physically and mentally.  It’s my opinion that this is greatly due to the different use of horses when breeds were being established: they were an integral part of work and transportation, and needed to be counted upon for long years of steady service.  Today, they are nothing more than a luxury item; their use in recreational competition has changed the template upon which they are bred in order to maximize competitive value.  Hence, faster rates of maturation which develop an edge and work to maximize profits.

One of my good friends tends to disagree with me on the concept of maturation, stating that she believes that there is no such thing as a “slow” rate of maturation. Instead, she believes, these terms are used in more of a marketing sense and have no bearing on what is really an individual-specific occurrence.  I absolutely agree that an individual horse may or may not fall within a general trend, and I also believe that this is an abused term that is used in sneaky marketing.  However, I do see enough of a difference to note that there are generally horses who mature faster or slower than others.  I’d propose though that today’s “slow maturing horse” is actually yesterday’s “normal horse”.  They stick out like oddities today, because they are surrounded by horses who have been selectively bred for around a century to gradually be taller, faster, and stronger by their second or third year.  This is a far cry from the traditional belief that horses should be started in their fourth or fifth year, since they aren’t supposed to stop growing mentally and physically until six or seven.  Today, I see a major push to manipulate rates of maturation through genetics, nutrition, and hormone intervention throughout the equine industry.  I absolutely believe that this sort of manipulation, especially when paired with early and intense (and inhumane) training is a recipe for disaster.  Rushed horses result in poor training and mental or social development at best, at worst physical and mental break-downs at the prime of their lives.  Being objectified as luxury items, they are stripped of value and typically disposed of.  Personally, I’ve witnessed this trend through the racing industry however I’m now learning about how it affects saddlebreds.

So, to bring this back full circle to Elvis, Jamie’s comments, and answer her questions.. I much prefer horses who mature physically and mentally closer to a normal rate.  I don’t really believe in getting rich through horses, as I firmly believe that nine times out of ten you have to objectify them to earn any cash.  So, I’m OK with giving them the individualized attention they need, especially since doing so often results in great dividends for me.  I won’t specifically look for a horse who appears to be physically ready to go at four, or who is in difficult physical and/or mental training before four (for me, four is the earliest I can imagine doing much of anything with a horse).  I also tend to see 16.2 as the ideal height.  In my observation, most horses who are finishing taller than this are being bred to specifically do so and, generally speaking I don’t believe that sport horses of extreme height hold up as long (on a personal note, I’d prefer to sacrifice huge height in order to retain quickness).  Certainly, young and physically mature horses can just “happen”, and I’d like to state for clarity that I view them differently.  However, in writing this blog entry I’m sharing my thoughts on general observations and how they influence my general decision-making procedure.  In my experience, there is too much risk associated with selecting horses bred to mature as fast as possible if you actually have the option to start with a youngster that is more than a rescue re-training project.  Elvis will likely be the first horse I’ve ever owned who will progress as closely to the rate of maturation noted as “normal” in texts.  Sadly, this positive trait sets him as an outcast within his breed today, and would also be considered a negative quality if he were a race horse, being pointed towards some breed futurity or the like.  Currently, he is a coming five-year old who looks like he’s maybe three.  Last I checked, he was 15.3, and that was after a big growth spurt at the end of the summer/early fall.  I think it’s fair to say that he’s been one of the most slow-growing horses his breeder has produced (which is saying something, since she prefers slow-growing horses).  He’s also arguably one of the most traditionally sport-type she’s bred, for what it’s worth.  I have a sneaking suspicion that his slow and steady pace will have him looking very different each year, and I hope that once six or seven, he’ll really come into his own.  Mostly though, I look forward to many years of life with an athletic and capable horse.

So, what are your thoughts on rates of maturation in general?  Within the breed?  In regards to your own horse?  Do you note trends within the breed influenced by breeding and management, or do you believe it’s a more random occurrence.  Do you think fast growth is important for more reasons than competition?  I’d really like to know others’ thoughts on this topic.

**Jamie, I’ll go ahead and answer the rest of your questions here.  I tried to fit it all into this post, but clearly I stuck heavily to your theme of maturation, instead of the ratio between a rider’s height and a horse’s height.  I do prefer 16.2 as a max height and, as I stated above this is mostly due to their ability to generally withstand lots of physical stress in jumping and maintain quickness.  It’s really a personal thing for me, but I do know that while not hard-and-fast it is a common guideline shared among jumpers and eventers.  As far as Elvis goes, sometimes I think I’m too tall for him, but somehow it works – probably because I’m slightly longer in my torso than my legs and Elvis has such a nice and balanced neck.  I’m hoping that as he fills out, he’ll take up more of my leg.  Mostly, I tend to worry more about my weight ratio with horses when I ride them.  I’ve ridden some pretty short horses, but they were well-built and didn’t seem to notice me up there.  Sure, I probably looked silly… but I have a thing for ponies 😉 .  With you at 5″11, unless your horse is as narrow as a rail and with a shallow heart-girth, I bet you are just fine for your horse.  Elvis and I barely “acceptable” according to most hunters, and at the edge of the spectrum for most jumpers.  Eventers wouldn’t care, and dressage people may or may not think that we match.  So, it’s really all relative and boils down to how subjective you or your sport is.

Oh, and thanks for inspiring this post!

Today we visited Elvis.  We hadn’t seen him since Monday, when we dropped him off.  I was surprised that as we drove up, he wasn’t in his assigned pasture.  We got out of the car and ran into the BO, who was finishing up working a horse.  We stopped along the fence line to chat, and she told us that she had decided yesterday that Elvis wasn’t happy in his old group.  Tuesday we had spoken and, at that time, he was doing OK.  He wasn’t fully accepted by the herd boss, but things weren’t unusual.  Sometime on Wednesday though, the BO noticed Elvis standing by himself in a lonely corner of the pasture.  This instance, coupled with the fact that he had gotten a fresh kick mark and she saw him trying to bond through play with the lowest horse in the group with no success, caused her to decide things weren’t working out for him.  The problem though was that he was already with the most mild group, the herd made up of the most subordinate horses!  There was one other option though… the pony herd!

The BO has a mini donkey (pictured in the last post), two small ponies, and one medium.  She figured that this would be a very non-threatening group, even if somewhat untraditional for a horse to join.  To make sure that he had the best chance at building confidence, she put him in a smaller pasture with only one of the ponies.  He’s now been with his new friend for a day or so, and things appear to be working out much better.  At first he was frightened when the small hairy beast boldly trotted up to him, but then was pleased to find that the diminutive equine was friendly.  They have reportedly been seen galloping in circles in play – Elvis may have found his first friend!

For such a bold horse, I find it amusing and interesting that Elvis can have his confidence shaken within a herd of horses.  I tend to believe this will change with time and maturity, but what an interesting thing!  The BO sees him as extremely immature.  I do as well, but then again she has a fresh pair of unbiased eyes.  Perhaps he’s even more of a baby than I realize on a daily basis!  Aww, that makes me think he’s even more adorable.

Elvis and his Little Friend.

Elvis’s New Digs

Well, yesterday Elvis began a new chapter in his life: we moved him to his new home in our soon-to-be new city of residence.  The day started out a bit dicey with unexpected weather.  I had checked the NOAA forecast and radar multiple times Sunday night and Monday morning, and I was prepared for some showers.  I wasn’t, however, prepared for the flurries that looked out-of-place while we were having our coffee, or the downpour of frozen rain that heralded our approach to the barn.   I was pretty nervous about the conditions worsening, especially since I had never trailered Elvis before and we were facing the tail end of rush hour traffic.  Fortunately though, by the time we had finished our final preparations the clouds parted and we actually had sunshine.

We ended up leaving a bit after predicted, partly because my barn owner and another boarder were there to say goodbye to Elvis and I.  This was such a nice surprise, and it made me realize (again) how much I’ll miss our small barn community.

I collected Elvis, swapped his blanket for a cooler, put on his shipping boots, and proceeded to load him.  I wasn’t sure how he’d do, as we’d never officially tried the trailer out.  I was so happy to see him calmly walk up to it and step right on.  He stopped once and took a step or two back, but it was a half-hearted attempt which was cut short with one sharp look from me.  Then, he proceeded to march right on but not before he paused once more, this time to reach out to Carla (the barn owner) and give her a nuzzle as if to say goodbye.  Then, once on he stood while I clipped him in and Carla closed up the trailer behind him.  We did our final door and light check and then, punctuated by a single and demanding stomp, we were off!  I was so proud to be driving my very own “rig”, with my very own horse inside, and accompanied by my husband.  We had a three and a half hour journey ahead of us.  Travel went very well with no fussing from Elvis and no trouble from impatient city drivers.

Once we arrived at our destination, we pulled onto the convenient circle-drive around the barn and parked.  My husband and I easily and quickly unloaded Elvis who once off the trailer, looked around briefly, and then noticed the grass underfoot.  Nicole, our new barn owner, greeted us and showed us to our stall.  Elvis walked into the barn like he owned the place and we left him in his stall to relax for an hour or so while we parked and unloaded the trailer.

Nicole’s place is really great.  It’s a very nice barn with loads of amenities, and she runs it like a tight ship.  She’s a professional and this is her professional career – that much is clear right away.  She designed her property for efficiency and she runs it in such a way that you can tell she takes pride in her work.  I really look forward to meeting the other boarders, and beginning some lessons with Nicole and the two dressage instructors.

After we put our things away, Nicole suggested turning Elvis out in his new paddock.  I was a little nervous about turning him out so quickly, but I trusted her judgement: she had a field full of low-on-the-totem-pole horses who acted as her regular welcoming committee.  So, I took Elvis over to visit these horses and they did indeed seem very mild.  After turning him out there was a lot of squealing, fake striking, and a few kicks.  Elvis was booted in the hamstring once but that was all that I saw, and the rest of the kicks were pathetically harmless.  Elvis was shunned by the group’s lead horse for about thirty minutes, during which time he became friends with the herd’s loner, but by the time I left the herd boss and Elvis were both grooming each other.

We plan on going back later this week to check on him, but I’m confident that he’s in the right place.  In fact, as we were driving away I asked my husband what he thought and how he felt.  He told me he wasn’t concerned in the slightest, and I realized I felt the same way.  I’m sad to be leaving my friends, and change always makes one nervous, but I’m excited at the same time to be in this new farm with new opportunities, and with the chance to make a new friend in my barn owner and the other boarders.

Below are photos of the day.  Elvis has lost a lot of muscle tone with his lack of riding and general movement due to the weather, just look past that for now.

Elvis takes a look at his new home.

Beautiful Barn.

Can I sneak him into the pasture before the other horses notice?
Can I sneak him into the pasture before the others notice?

I think he was saying here: "Are you sure about this, Mom?"
I think he was saying here: “Are you sure about this, Mom?”

First Greeting.

Working things out.

The Pony Dance.

Startled that the others took off.

Left Alone.. he looks rather shocked.

Strutting his stuff.

He is totally full of himself.
Full of self confidence.

Looking for an excuse to be silly.

One of the farm’s cutest residents.

The awesome ring… it is HUGE.

New Super-Find Posted

I’m hoping this guy gets snapped up.  He’s being sold at an auction hosted by The Ranch Program at Salem, a horse program at the Salem Children’s Home.  I think he’s worth taking a chance on, plus he’s a flashy palomino!

Missing in Action

Hello blog-friends,  I’m sorry this update is coming so late.  Since my last post, I’ve gotten a lot of emails, phone calls, and messages from many of you asking “where the heck are you?!” (Carolyn gets the prize for being the most insistent, she claims I’m some form of critical entertainment for her.  I’m not sure if I should take that as a compliment or not…*grins*).

Anyway, I’d first like to thank you all for the show of support.  It really has meant a lot to me during this crazy time, especially since I’ve not been able to see much of Elvis at all.  Second, I’d like to offer an explanation.  As you know, this winter has been very difficult for people in my region (the south).  We’ve had record and sustained lows and outrageous amounts of rain and snow fall.  We simply aren’t prepared to deal with this type of weather, and many barn situations aren’t set up to be efficient with such environmental demands placed on them.  This winter definitely destroyed a lot of my ride time: it was either flooding, or the ground was too boggy to ride on (everywhere), or the ground was frozen mud.  This winter makes me realize how much I love my home state of Florida.   Anyhow, with the change of seasons we’ve not seen much improvement, unless you consider unfrozen water an improvement upon frozen water.  It seems that, without fail, any free time I have will coincide with a downpour.

In addition to this, we have some big changes taking place in our lives.  My husband’s job is requiring us to move to a new city!  Naturally, that means that it’s my job to move us, as his job is much less flexible than mine.  Also, he finally convinced me that we should look at buying our first home.  This too was my task and I’m proud to say that I’ve not only become an expert on our new location, I’ve used that knowledge to choose a fantastic home, made an offer that was accepted, and I’m now just waiting for closing.   So, I’ve been juggling home buying (a process that is way more complicated than it appears on the outside), packing, traveling for my job, traveling to our new city, interviewing barns, buying furniture, and planning renovations all on my own.  I feel like Super Woman!

Following that feeling though is one of major disappointment.  I miss Elvis so much.  I’ve never been the sort to have a horse and not ride them at least four times a week.  This is partly because I’m goal oriented, but it’s also largely because horses are a balm for my heart.  They are the best therapy, and Elvis in particular brings so much joy into my life.  He’s the perfect combination of best friend and athletic partner; we enjoy our company together and we enjoy working towards goals.  Acknowledging that I’ve not gotten to see him, that he’s stagnating right now, and that he’s lost a lot of muscle tone (all he does is stand in his shed, the only dry spot he has), is just more than I can take.  Since this blog is greatly dedicated to all of the things we do together and accomplish, it’s been so hard for me to even think about its existence.

There is a light on the horizon though.  This move should be complete in the next few weeks.  I’m so excited to share that Elvis will not only be on a fantastic farm, but he’ll be 10 miles from me!  This is a vast improvement from 30 miles one way, through one of the nation’s most notoriously congested cities.  My heart literally does flips when I think of how this will improve my riding life.  Also, the farm is hunter/jumper focused but provides dressage instruction from two individuals twice a week, boasts a very active clinic schedule, is forty-five minutes from one of  the south’s best eventing facilities as well as the seat of a very active hunt, and Elvis will be living in style.  Absolute style.  I’ll have electricity, hot water, an amazing tack room, a small but thriving social network, and my guests will have access to comfortable amenities to encourage them to visit with me.  I just can’t wait.  My husband and I move Elvis next Monday.

All in all, my life is about to face some amazing and wonderful changes.  I can’t wait to be done with this transitional phase so that I can enjoy these new and exciting things!  I look forward to working on our first home, and being closer to Elvis.  Yay!

I hope this posting provides the explanation you all would like for my poor blogging lately.  I promise to pick things back up soon, once things calm down.  You can certainly look forward to an update on Elvis’s move.