Happy Holidays

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

There wasn’t time for a real holiday photo shoot this year but Juniper and Highlight did try out their reindeer antlers. One set had lights and bells which Juniper was fine with but were a bit too much for Highlight.

Juniper with the bells and lights.

Here is Highlight with the regular reindeer antlers.

You can see how toed out highlight is in this picture. She’s still young so we’ll wait to see how things pan out once she is fully mature.

We did film the process of putting the headband with bells on it. Highlight didn’t do terrible, but she is still a baby and we’re still getting to know each other so I didn’t feel it was worth pushing it. Gives us another thing to work on before next year.

And here is Juniper having zero concerns about the bells.


Horse Update-Fall 2023-Part 2

The Trials and Tribulations of Being a Teenager

Now we come to our metaphorical teenager, Highlight.

Highlight’s arrival into our lives was overshadowed by Juniper’s health issues but a few things stand out for me. My very, very first though was “please don’t get hit by a car” since the shipper opted to just park and unload from the road rather than navigate our curvy driveway with his giant rig, but right on its heels was “you are much shorter than I was expecting.” Granted she’s still young and will hopefully get a little taller, but how much taller is an open question and I would be surprised if she gets as tall as I had anticipated she would. The shipper said she was a good passenger and really levelheaded for a horse her age. She seemed to be taking everything in stride (pun intended) as we walked down the driveway and through our yard to her new home. All signs were pointing in a good direction. But I also clearly remember thinking to myself “Do not analyze her conformation, wait until you fall in love with her, then take a good look.” And at first that plan was working. Highlight is a very personable horse, she almost always comes up to say hi if you approach the gate, and if I go out with a halter she comes running up to greet me. She is very curious about the world around her and about people, she pays close attention to what people are doing and she will try to mimic you, which of course can be a double-edged sword. Even when something is new and kind of scary she’s more brave than affraid. It only took a few tries before the overhead door in the arena went from a scary horse eating monster to no big deal. Though the yellow rope used to pull the door shut stayed scary for a few more days. Then two things happened the same day. Juniper and Highlight got introduced together in the same pasture and our farrier came to trim their feet.

The farrier was the first one of my horse professionals to see my new horse and with him there I finally looked at her conformation for myself. She is severely toed out in the front. Severely. And every so often she stands so that her humerus/elbow standout oddly from the rest of her body. How the hell did I miss that?! I know that there is no such thing as perfect conformation, she was going to have some flaws, and I’m not saying this would have been a deal breaker had I known about it, but how did I miss it?! And how did the vet doing the pre-purchase exam not see it and/or say anything to me about it. I’m not saying this makes her a terrible and unusable horse, and it is possible that as she grows up and fills out it may not be as severe as it is now, but after searching so hard and making such a big deal about finding the best conformation it feels anticlimactic and frustrating. All of which I could probably get over if I could just fall in love with her, but she is making that very hard by being a total jerk to Juniper every day.

Horses have hierarchies and these pecking orders are totally normal and totally healthy. This means there are dominant and submissive horses, and Juniper is unquestionably a submissive horse. She will always be the bottom of any pecking order she is ever in. Which doesn’t have to be a bad thing. A healthy herd with a good hierarchy means that the horses on top make sure everyone is okay and following the rules. By the time Leeloo was ten-ish she was the single most dominant horse of a heard of 30+ and she was good boss mare. A good boss mare is always on alert keeping an eye out for danger, deciding when it’s time to go eat, when it’s time to go drink, when it’s time to seek shelter, and when it’s time to rest. They also make sure that everyone is following the rules and behaving themselves. However, Leeloo didn’t even start moving up the hierarchy ranks until she was four or five and even then she didn’t catapult to the top, she slowly worked her way up spot by spot. She didn’t make it anywhere near the top until she was older and mature enough to handle that responsibility. Highlight is three and a half and in no sane world would she be the boss mare of any herd because she’s basically a teenager. You wouldn’t put a teenager in charge of a business or a family and expect it to go well but that’s what we have. When you only have a herd of two and one of those two is Juniper that means the other horse is going to be the most dominant horse and Highlight is not handling it well at all. Thankfully for all involved things are slowly, so slowly, improving. After the first two days I was genuinely concerned for Juniper’s life because Highlight was straight up attacking her. Resource guarding everything, trying to drive Juniper away from everything, pinning her in corners and trying to kick the crap out of her. I took a night off of work to start the process of separating them back out, but the next morning things were a tiny bit better. And the day after that was a tiny bit better. And now things are okay. Not good, but okay enough that I no longer fear for Juniper’s safety. But Highlight’s behavior towards Juniper has put a huge dent into the “fall in love with her and then her conformation flaws won’t matter” plan. It is really hard to fall in love with someone who is tormenting a creature under your care, one that is already having her own set of issues and does not need this shit right now.

And adding to that is my own guilt at not realizing this would happen. I know Juniper was going to be the bottom of their two-horse herd and I know a three-year-old has no business being the dominant horse, but I put them into this situation and now we’re all having to deal with it. This means I am frequently starting out my interactions with Highlight already annoyed at her because of how she is treating Juniper which means I have no patience for her very normal three-year-old behavior. Much as adults are often low-keyed annoyed with teenagers before they do anything so the moment they aren’t perfect the next step up is more frustration/anger than necessary. It took a few less than stellar interactions for me to realize this and as soon as I did I added another layer of guilt to the emotional turmoil I was dealing with – which we all know is super helpful.

What has actually been helpful is to pause and ask myself what I would do if this were “teenaged” Leeloo. When she was three and not listening as well as I would like, or being easily distracted, or just generally misbehaving, how did I react? Highlight deserves the same treatment. It also helps that I am trying to set aside dedicated time at night to work with Highlight and to take a moment to ground myself first. It is not her fault she is not perfect and it is not her fault she’s been put in charge when she doesn’t know how to be in charge, but she’s doing her best and I will do my best and that is all any of us can ask for.


not to be confused with the movie


A little additional context to round out the picture. On top of everything happening with Juniper and the new horse I was also working out a bunch of details to get our first ever cover crop planted this fall (there will be a post about that eventually) which involved coordinating with the county, and then another county because the first situation fell through at the last minute, and a neighbor with a tractor, and finding seed (where do you buy enough winter rye seed for 15 acres?!) etc. and I also had a doctors appointment and an MRI scheduled because my doctor and the neurologist she referred me to wanted to rule out MS as a possible cause for some things I have going on. Both of them thought it was pretty unlikely I have MS but both of them also thought it was likely enough that it should be officially checked on. I will also have a post on that, but I will not leave you in suspense on this one, I do not have MS, but at the time this was all happening I did not know that, I only knew that two doctors thought it was unlikely but still possible.

Back to the horse saga. Tuesday morning is lots of frantic phone calls to my normal vet plus my friend Sarah’s vet who has been treating Juniper, my neighbor, and my friend Hilary who was our back-up ride, trying to figure out when and where Juniper can get a dental but still be home when the new horse gets here. Luckily Sarah’s vet is able to squeeze Juniper in Wednesday morning and Hilary, who helped me bring Leeloo and Juniper home the first time, has a flexible day that day so she can go with me to pick up Juniper from Sarah’s house, bring her to the vet for her dental, hang out with us there while Juniper comes to from being sedated, and then bring Juniper back to my house.

It is at this point that I realize we will have to find a way to separate Juniper and Highlight (I still don’t love that name but I haven’t come up with anything else so Highlight she is) since Juniper will need some careful observation so we know exactly how much she is eating and drinking and to make sure her digestive system is operating correctly (i.e. she’s pooping). I also don’t want to put Juniper through the stress of meeting a new horse when she is clearly not feeling well. However, we are not at all set up for separate pastures. We have one shelter in the fenced in area, it has three bays, but it is one structure. We also only have two gates into the entire fenced in area. After some frantic brainstorming we opt to put up a temporary strand of electric fence coming out from one side of the gate and attaching to the wall of one of the shelter bays which is wood and therefore will not conduct the charge to the entire shelter. We’ll also need to block the tiny passage behind the shelter. This way I can use the gate by the shelters to get to Juniper and then I can walk up and around and use the gate by the house to get to Highlight. Except at the last minute it occurs to me to check in with the seller to see if Highlight has been on grass this summer and of course she has not been, so I can’t just let her out on the grass which is finally doing well with all the rain we got this fall. So now I need to block her off from the grass which means blocking her off from the gate. Then Sarah, who has been taking care of Juniper this summer and through her two colics, asks if I’m worried about Highlight bringing any illnesses home with her. I wasn’t, because she is coming from a very small private location and she passed a wellness exam, and every other horse in the trailer will also have passed a wellness exam, but there is still a tiny chance she could catch something and bring it home. If Juniper were healthy I wouldn’t worry at all, but Juniper is far from healthy right now and it’s just not worth the risk. So, we set up a second temporary set of electric fence on the other side of the gate so that there is a ten-foot space between them and they can’t make contact. I have now effectively created two separate paddocks with their own shelters and a 10-foot space between them. Yay. Neither of them has a gate or access point of any kind. Boo.

Doesn’t matter because I have no other choice as it is now 9 pm on Tuesday night and everyone’s coming home tomorrow!

Wednesday morning – arrival day!

Hilary and I drive separately in case the shipper makes better time than expected and/or the vet runs late. For once things go as planned and the vet sees us right on time. Juniper receives one of the quickest floats I’ve ever seen a horse get and he extracts two molars (photos if you’re curious) but we still need to wait for her to wake-up so she can safely handle the trailer ride. Once we feel she’s coherent enough to hold herself up we head for home, Highlight is scheduled to arrive in 45 minutes!

We settle Juniper into her new arrangement and wait for Highlight’s arrival. It is a little delayed but she is there within an hour and a half. It is in getting the two girls into their respective areas that I realize how much of an issue our gateless set-up will be. We set up the fence so there were plastic “grips” on the ends of the hot lines so we could unhook them from the shelter wall to go in and out, the problem is there is no other support structure for the lines so the moment we pull them off the wall they go slack for the entire length of the run and touch the ground, plus there is no place to actually put them so I have to somehow hold the lines in one hand while trying to get myself and various things (water, feed, hay, medicine, pitch-fork) from one side to the other. And of course the moment the lines go slack both girls try to go through to meet each other. This is not a feasible option for doing daily chores. That means I get to very gingerly climb through the fence every time I need to get to the other side and despite my very careful climbing I manage to shock myself at least once every time I do chores. Let me tell you the hot lines hurt, particularly when it’s your inner thigh that makes contact as you attempt to step over it, but the ground line, which under normal circumstances has no charge running through it so you can grab it like normal to hold it out of your way, you know with your entire hand gripping it, that fucking HURTS when you are touching it and then accidently hit a hot line with whatever random other body part you aren’t paying enough attention to (I have been trying to keep the language pg-13 on this blog for reasons I am not clear on, but this situation is without question an F-word situation, but I digress…). So at least once a day, if not multiple times a day, I manage to shock myself while doing chores. “Why don’t you just unplug the fence?” you ask. Well Highlight is a very personable, very sweet, and very smart horse, and she watches you. She watches me climb through the fence every day to feed her and give her hay and pick up poop, and then she tries to do the same thing even with the fence hot. So turning it off seems like a recipe for disaster. And it turns out I’m right, because even with the lines hot Highlight managed to pull one of the hot lines (the one I gingerly step over) off the permanent fence and right across the entrance to her shelter on the night it’s pouring rain. And the way the line fell it is in contact with another hot line so it still has a charge running through it so when I get home from my 12 hour work day and go to give Juniper her PM meds I find a soaking wet, unhappy, and scared Highlight. So I’m standing in the rain on the soaking wet ground pulling a still electrified line of fence out of her paddock muttering expletives with every grab because everything is super conductive in that moment. Then I have to convince Highlight that the shelter will not in fact attack her and she can go in it, and please go in your shelter and get out of the rain. And then, I have to fix it so she doesn’t try that stunt again and get in a worse situation. Did I mention I worked a 12-hour day and it was pouring rain. Good times.

After that I stop going through Highlights fence to feed her and just throw hay over the fence, and push her feed under the bottom line and use a rake to grab it back out. No picking up poop on her side until we work out another option, which is definitely having them together sooner than planned, but this set-up is not sustainable.

And that was our first week.

Imminent Arrival

the joys of logistic planning

Be warned, this post is long and contains a lot of run-on-sentences that I can’t seem to edit, but never-ending run-on-sentences has been my mental state for the last few weeks so it feels appropriate in its own way. Now on to the post!

Free ponies are never free. Not that Juniper was free, but her original purchase price was pretty cheap and it feels like she has been endlessly trying to make up for that. You may be thinking, but Sara, didn’t you just get a new horse, why are we talking about Juniper? Because that little shit has decided to make our lives difficult. Again.

Let us back up a few weeks.

New horse has been located! YAY! New horse is in another state and the logistics of that need to get worked out – less yay. Things to do: find a vet clinic in another state that can do a prepurchase exam for us, figure out how to get a horse from Massachusetts to Minnesota, figure out how and when to bring Juniper back home, figure out how to pay a person a large sum of money for a horse when you are not actually there to collect the horse but the person, for obvious reasons, wants to get paid before putting the horse on a trailer to go to another state, and then actually do all those horse-farm related things we’ve been putting off all summer because at first I was too sad and then it just fell of my radar until suddenly now everything is very much on the radar. The radar is full!

We worked with the seller to find a vet clinic in MA to do the prepurchase exam. Because (A) I hadn’t met the horse in person, (B) my long-term plan is to breed, and (C) I got seriously burned by Leeloo’s many health issues, I am extra paranoid and asked for a more thorough exam than I would have in the past. What I didn’t do was ask for a quote on how much that would cost because I didn’t feel like I had time to find another option because I had managed to find a horse shipping person who already had a scheduled trip from the Minnesota to the East coast and back with one open spot for the ride back and they would be coming back to Minnesota the same week as my school’s fall break which would work perfectly for us in terms of having some time to spend with the new horse (ha!). So, we moved forward with the only vet I had and luckily the seller was able to get the horse into the vet the same week and she passed the vet check. They were very thorough and called me while they were in the midst of the prepurchase exam to talk about everything and answer any questions I had and then also sent me detailed notes afterwards. I was not, however, expecting the bill to be as high as it was, and it wound up cutting into the overall horse budget forcing some renegotiating. That left finalizing shipping details, getting a signed contract, and figuring out how to pay in a way we were both okay with. After a lot of scrambling and freaking out about dates and worries about the US mail (how quickly can they get a check from MN to MA?) by Friday October 13 most everything appeared to be in order: the mare had passed the prepurchase exam and the wellness check, we had agreed on a price and got a signed contract, I had gotten a certified check and mailed it and it got there on time, the shipper and the seller had coordinated a pickup date and time, and we had a tentative window for the new horse’s arrival at our house for Wednesday October 18. The last thing to figure out was who would be able to help us bring Juniper home and when, exactly, should we bring her home.

We didn’t want the new horse or Juniper to be here by themselves for very long, but the shipping company could only be so exact in their estimate. We had a tentative plan with our neighbor to bring Juniper home either Tuesday or Wednesday and we had a back-up with another friend if that fell through, just needed a more exact window from the shipper.

There were also all those at home projects we needed to do to get ready for horses again, I’ll have another post (or several) about some of those projects, but the salient point was we were swamped with things that needed to get done NOW because it is Saturday and horses are returning to our house on Wednesday, when my friend who has been taking care of Juniper calls me. Not texts me, she calls me. This is not good.

Juniper is showing mild signs of colic. Great. For those of you unfamiliar there are several types of colic, but they all basically boil down to an issue with the horse’s digestive system that if not dealt with can kill them. We decided to have the vet out even though it is a Saturday so it will cost more (it sometimes feels like horses can tell time and know when it will be the most expensive to have a medical emergency) and the diagnosis is an impaction colic. Aptly named because it means there is some blockage in her intestines which is causing pain and preventing food from doing its thing. Lots of things can trigger colic but one typical cause is horses not drinking enough water when the weather is bad and without enough water, food doesn’t move through the system and can cause an impaction and of course we just had a string of cold wet stupid days and who wants to leave their shelter to get water in that kind of weather? My friend caught it early so the vet was hopeful the impaction was still soft enough to pass on its own with only minor intervention (water, oil, pain meds, and a medication to increase gut mobility) instead of a full-on surgery. But part of the process was not allowing Juniper to eat any hay until the impaction had resolved itself so we needed to put her into my friend’s separate sandy pasture that is mostly weeds at this point in the season with some water and wait for the impaction to pass. 

We do these things and Juniper seems to be feeling better and Sunday goes really well so she gets some hay time with her friends, as does Monday morning so she gets more hay time. Everything seems to still be on track; Juniper will get picked up Tuesday night by my neighbor, spend the night at the neighbor’s house, and then come home Wednesday around the same time the new horse arrives.

Then I get another call from my friend Monday night. Juniper is showing signs of colic, again. We have the vet back out and this time it appears to be a sand colic. This vet also looks at her teeth and sees that they are in pretty bad shape. Whether she was accidently eating sand while trying to graze the tiny amounts of grass or if she was purposely eating sand because she was hungry and/or her mouth hurt we don’t know.  I did know that Juniper’s teeth were terrible and I had already scheduled a dental with our normal vet for November once the new horse had a chance to settle in. The issue is that in order to resolve the sand colic Juniper needs to eat a product called SandClear, however Juniper has been unwilling to eat anything other than hay for a while now so there is no way she’s going to eat the SandClear. We hadn’t been overly worried about her not wanting to eat supplemental food because everything else seemed to be fine, and to be honest I was waiting until we had her back home to deal with it, I just hadn’t anticipated it taking this long to find another horse and therefore to get Juniper back home to deal with it. So where does this leave us? Juniper is now dealing with a sand colic and in order to resolve the sand colic I need her to eat the SandClear and in order for her to eat the SandClear she needs to have a dental, and I need to get this figured out NOW because it is Monday night and new horse is coming on Wednesday but it is after hours so every vets office is closed. AAAAAAAAAAAA!!!

Not my original work – can’t find source on the internet – thank you person who made this image!

I hate to leave you hanging, but this post has gotten ridiculously long so we’re going to stop here. Check in next time for the shocking conclusion, I promise to have it posted in a few days.



Placeholder Update

we are all here

The last two weeks have been just ridiculous for lots of reasons, all of which will eventually make their way into various blog posts, but for now here is a very quick update.

The new horse (her previous owner called her Highlight which I don’t love but I haven’t found a different name I like better) arrived safely on Wednesday, October 18.

Juniper had two back-to-back medical emergencies right before Highlight got here. Saturday October 14 she had an impaction colic which then led to a sand colic on Monday night which led to an emergency dental and two pulled molars on Wednesday. Yes, the same Wednesday Highlight arrived.

Many things we needed to do in preparation for the re-arrival of horses on the property with incorporation of the (mostly finished phase 1) barn needed to wait until the famer harvested the soybeans and that of course timed out that same weekend so we have been frantically trying to do a million things at once plus a bunch of totally unplanned things because of Juniper’s colic and teeth issues. 

Everyone is currently alive but both Juniper and Highlight are testing my patience in their own unique ways; as is the electric fence.

Full updates on everything coming soon.


She Has Been Found

Future Baby Maker 

I have found my next mare! After looking at hundreds of mares online, doing deep-dives into conformation analysis on a ton of them, and visiting many in-person including several trips to WI and a trip to ND, I have found my next mare. Soul Ridge Xpression Highlight is a 3 ½ year old Canadian mare currently residing in Massachusetts. 

She is quite a bit younger than I was originally hoping for, and shorter, but in the grand scheme of my wish list the most important things – best conformation I could find, good personality, maiden mare, started under saddle correctly or not started yet, and within my budget – all outweighed the age and height thing. Being only 3.5 there is also a strong chance she’ll get a little taller and end up closer to my ideal height.

I was unable to see her in person so though I am very excited the anxious worrier part of me is still feeling unsettled about the whole thing and it has taken a bit of the shine off of the anticipation. We got a few good photos and videos of her and I sent those to Liz Graves for an additional set of eyes to review her conformation and she was happy with what she saw and gave her the green light. We also did an extensive pre-purchase exam, far more than I would have done for a horse I had met myself, but my inner worrier needed as many reassurances as I could give it. I am sure once she is here in person I will fall in love with her, but it is still feeling all a little unreal yet.

Speaking of worry and anxiety, figuring out how to get her from MA to MN has also been an area of concern. After seeking out the advice of many people who have hauled horses long distances, we opted to have her hauled by a professional horse shipper rather than finding a friend with a trailer and some free time. Between coordinating schedules, having to drive through unfamiliar large cities and east coast traffic with a horse trailer, paying tolls and gas, and figuring out when and where to stop and how to give her a break without unloading her, it felt far less stressful to just hire a professional. We opted to go with Brent Daak Equine Transport after getting a really glowing personal recommendation and seeing great feedback online. They have a 3-horse box-stall trailer with cameras in the trailer. One of the things I heard repeatedly from people who have done a lot of long-distance hauling was to use a horse van or a trailer with box stalls so the horses have the ability to position themselves in the best way for them and so you can stop for the night and give them a chance to sleep comfortably without having to actually unload them and find a barn to sleep at. Because they only do three horses at a time the trip is a little more expensive but it is also more efficient and the horses aren’t traveling for much longer than needed. They drive from about 7 AM – 11 PM and then stop for the night and sleep with the trailer and the horses so they are never unattended. They checked all the boxes for the advice I was given and it is one less thing for me to worry about, so instead I can worry about all the other things.

There are still a few more scheduling details to be finalized but right now the plan is for her to arrive around October 17.

We’re getting another horse!

Status Update


Finding the time, energy, and motivation to write blog updates has become more challenging recently. For years fall was my favorite season, and from a weather perspective it still is, but from a mental health perspective it is not. As the years have gone by, I find my mental health more and more impacted by the shortening days and that I start noticing the days getting shorter sooner and sooner in the season. I also find myself liking my job less and less and these two things are now fully coinciding. This begs the question, is it really seasonal depression or does my job just make me miserable? Before last year I always assumed it was just the lack of daylight but recently I’ve come to think my dissatisfaction with my work situation is a bigger part of my mental health issues than I had realized. It also doesn’t help that this is the first year in over ten years that I am teaching a full load. Since about 2010 I have taken on various non-teaching roles on campus for which I was “released” from one or more classes to fulfill and the last few years before my sabbatical I was often filling multiple non-teaching roles meaning I was teaching even fewer classes. Not only am I coming back this fall from a year long sabbatical of not teaching, but I’m coming back to a full load with full classes, and I am exhausted! Teaching, well good teaching, is a performance art. To capture and maintain your student’s attention requires a significant level of physical, mental, and emotional energy that I just don’t really have enough of any more. I am giving literally all my energy to my classes and they are leaving me utterly drained and unable to attend to other things, like writing blog posts. My hope is that my stamina for teaching will return, at least a little bit, as the semester wears on and I will have more energy for other endeavors and can get back to writing at least weekly updates if not twice weekly updates.

Piling on to all of this is a new round of grieving for Leeloo. Round one of the barn is almost done, the next blog post will be an update on that, but having it so close to done has totally stirred up all my grief over losing Leeloo. She should be here. She should be the first horse to use the barn with me, to explore it and run around like a crazy and kick up her heels and she’s not and that has just been way harder than I had been anticipating. The few times I’ve started drafting the next barn related update it in my head I immediately get sad and then I switch over to some other task to distract myself. But avoidance is not a healthy coping mechanism so eventually I need to deal with it. Writing those few blog posts this spring was really helpful with that first phase of grieving so I’m hoping setting aside some time to write the next barn update will help me work through this most recent round of grieving.

Just have to keep on keeping on.

The Mare Search Continues – Part 2

New Focus

Last time, on Lantern Farm, disappointed with my search for a mare thus far and inspired by the work of the Livestock Conservancy organization I have decided to align my goals of breeding, raising, and training horses with my goals of conserving at risk native and heirloom breeds and species by switching to a horse breed that doesn’t number in the millions worldwide and instead is at risk of going extinct. There were three such horse breeds under consideration: Akhal-tekes, Canadians, and Cleveland Bays.

Step one was to talk over the new plan with Nate and get his opinion, and yes, his opinion does matter. He was not a big fan of the Akhal-tekes and to be fair they have a very distinct and unique look which doesn’t appeal to everyone. He also pointed out that they were literally born and bred for life in the desert and Minnesota ≠ desert. And if we’re being totally honest, I’m vain enough to want to look good while riding a horse and words that I would use to describe Akhal-tekes include ones like “delicate” and “refined” and those two words have never, in my life, been used to describe me.

That got it narrowed down to Canadians and Cleveland Bays.

Step two was talking with an acquaintance of mine who has spent her entire life working in a wide variety of horse related fields and endeavors with a wide variety of breeds. She has a breadth and depth of knowledge regarding horses that few people have. She said the Cleveland Bays she’s worked with have been very athletic horses who were beautiful movers, but she never liked the personality of a single one and would never choose to work with them if given the choice. She has also had the opportunity to work with Canadian horses and had a friend who raised Canadian horses back in the day and they were also athletic horses and good movers, but had the extra bonus of being likeable. She said she liked every Canadian horse she ever worked with. Therefore, her recommendation was to search for a Canadian mare.

She and I also had a long talk about conformation and breeding. After all my research on horse conformation I have gotten pretty good at identifying faults and flaws with a horse but I don’t necessary know how to rank those faults in terms of importance. I liken it to grading. Students make all sorts of mistakes, but some mistakes are minor, and the student has clearly done A or B work, but other mistakes are worse and indicate C or D level work, then of course there are the “you have literally no clue what you are doing, here is your F” mistakes. I felt confident in my ability to distinguish “A” or “F” horses, but not as confident in my ability to distinguish between the vast majority that fall somewhere in the middle. The reality is that finding a horse with “perfect” conformation was always rare but has become even rarer now that society no longer literally runs on horse power and people have lost touch with what makes a horse not just good looking but also healthy and sound for the long haul. The “A” horses are now rarer than ever and the ones that are out there are totally out of my budget. This means I need to instead be focusing my efforts on identifying the “B’s” (which is still a really good grade) from the “C’s” and “D’s.” I’m optimistic that now, after having spent some time working with her, I can do that. Hopefully.

Thus my search for a mare worth breeding has begun again but with the new focus on finding a solid, but not perfect, Canadian mare. As of right I have found four possibilities and two of them have a great deal of potential. I’m just waiting on more pictures, videos, and information. Fingers crossed I find this mare soon!

The Mare Search Continues – Part 1


The search for my next mare, the one that will be the cornerstone of my breeding efforts, has been ongoing and frustrating. I have “known” for as long as I can remember that there are a lot of problems within the horse industry, particularly with starting horses too hard, too fast, and too young and breeding horses for the wrong reasons, usually for fancy names on a piece of paper or for fancy color. Sure that stud has terrible conformation and went lame at four and is utterly unrideable, “but he’s a blue roan!” That is literally what one lady said to me when I expressed concern about her choice of stallion.

At first, I thought that this utter dearth of sound horses with good conformation could work in my favor. Purposely and intentionally seeking out healthy, sane, sound, horses with good conformation to breed would inherently improve my odds of having foals that were healthy, sane, sound horses themselves and that would help me stand out in a very crowded market; it would make my horses something special and worth having. The longer I searched though, the more I realized that a large proportion of riders and horse people don’t have a clue what good conformation is and why it matters. They have simply accepted the current reality where horses are lame by twelve and need corrective shoeing, yearly injections, and all sorts of other maintenance just to stay rideable. This has become the new normal and very few people seem to be questioning it.

I put that word “known” in quotes in the first paragraph because in today’s current world lots of people “know” things that are in fact total bullshit and when I first started this search my “knowing” was based on very hazy remembrance of 4-H horse judging practice sessions, various presentations attended at horse expos and clinics, and my own personal experiences. But that knowledge wasn’t based on any source I could point to and as mare after mare fell short of my expectations I started to wonder if my “knowing” was in fact bullshit and if maybe I was the one out of touch with reality. I have thus spent much of the summer seeking out verifiable references and knowledgeable people with true study and experience behind them to ground my knowing in reality. These sources did confirm my knowledge and I am far more confident and comfortable in declaring that I do actually know what good conformation looks like and that it is in fact important! They also confirmed that  yes, the horse world today is filled with crappy conformation; and yes, horses are in fact started way too hard, way too fast, and way too young; and that yes, the combination of these two things is behind many of the lameness issues horses and their people have to contend with. Below is a list of the references I have been consulting.

Horse Conformation References

Where does that leave me, other than being frustrated and still horseless?

Upon completion of The Modern Racehorse, I returned the book to the library by actually walking into the library and handing it to an actual librarian, as a book that age is due. Once in the library I couldn’t just leave without taking a turn through the stacks and while perusing I found The Small-Scale Poultry Flock by Harvey Ussery. Another truly amazing book which I will talk more about in a future post, but relevant here was a reference to The Livestock Conservancy, an organization dedicated to the conservation of endangered livestock breeds. While checking out their website I noticed there was a horse category, and within the horse category were a number of breeds I had heard of but several I had not and then it hit me. Why waste my time, effort, energy, and money on trying to fix a breed that numbers literally in the millions and that has drifted so far from the breed standard and good conformation that any good I did in my breeding efforts would be but a single drop of rain in the ocean when there are really nice horse breeds out there whose populations are genuinely in jeopardy and for whom my efforts would make a tangible and lasting difference? Most of the horse breeds listed are not suitable for my personal goals being either too small (there are many pony and small horse breeds on the list) or draft horses who are meant to pull things and are not well suited to riding. That left three breeds that are riding horses capable of doing a variety of disciplines and that naturally get up to at least 16 hands tall or taller:



I found this photo on Wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Dagat-Geli.jpg



I found this photo on the Breyer Horse website as this was the horse they used as their model for the Canadian Breyer horse – https://www.breyerhorses.com/products/cherry-creek-fonzie-merit-canadian-horse 

Cleveland Bay


I found this photo on the Livestock Conservancy website – https://livestockconservancy.org/heritage-breeds/heritage-breeds-list/cleveland-bay-horse/ 

Next step – a new mare search with a new focus, but which breed should we pursue?

It Begins

We’re Building a Barn!

We’re building a barn y’all! They officially started to build our barn this week. It was a little anticlimactic since we aren’t actually digging anything so there was no official “breaking ground” moment, instead we had a dump truck full of dirt show up very early in the morning; while I was still in the bathroom downstairs, the one without a curtain because we never got around to getting curtains because who’s going to see anything, the corn?  The dump trucks kept on coming for several days with load after load of dirt and then rock.

We have three main workers on the crew who have been spending the week marking out the corners of the barn and getting that dirt and gravel laid out and compacted down, layer after layer.

Not only has it been a bit anticlimactic but it has also been very bittersweet. I have always wanted a barn and more specifically an indoor riding arena because I am an indoor cat with an outdoor hobby. I prefer riding inside even when it’s not dark and snowing because the sun hates me and I hate the bugs. Case in point – Nate and I were out doing some yardwork today for about two hours. We went out at the same time, were working in the same area, and both had sun shirts and jeans on. I also sprayed myself with some bug spray and had my ridiculous “bug jacket” on. When we were done Nate had no bug bites, I had four. wtf? This is why I like being inside. But there are lots of great boarding barns with indoor arenas, and the reality is this whole having our own farm and our own barn thing has been one challenge after another since it all started in 2014. Had I had a different horse, one who did well in a boarding facility, (and there are lots of horses who do great in boarding facilities) I’m not sure I would have kept on fighting for this dream. It would have been much easier to spend the money on a truck and trailer and focus on showing and go on vacations and not work four jobs. But I kept at this dream because Leeloo was not doing well in a boarding facility and I truly felt my only chance of getting her healthy and sound was by bringing her home and having full control of her care, knowing that even then it might not be enough, but knowing that I had to try. So here we are. We’re building our barn, but Leeloo isn’t here to see it and that has made this week very emotional. I am both so very, VERY excited but also so very, very sad. Particularly when some new thing happens and Nate and I find ourselves stopping whatever we’re doing to go look and I have this moment of “I’m sure Leeloo is in her full on watch-horse/nosy-horse mode” and then remember that she’s not here to be nosy with us. But I know she’s being nosy with us wherever she is and because of her I am achieving this lifelong dream.

We’re building a barn!