Just Mucking About

Whew!  I can’t believe how time has slipped away from me, once again.  My poor, neglected blogs…  In one of my last posts I alluded to some exciting news that I had yet to reveal.  That news is one of the biggest reasons why I have been absent from the blog world recently (well, that and my job, which has been keeping me on my toes of late!) 

While I have been busy not posting  on my blogs, my news has morphed into three news-es;  two of which I’m so excited to share with you today!  The first (and arguably most exciting) news is that I am FINALLY going to be attending another App show next month!  It’s the first time in more than two years that Tiny and I will compete and I am over the moon excited!  This show is a memorial show for the late Doug Schembri, a legend in the Appaloosa world, and I am thrilled to be a part of it.  It’s going to be held in Tampa, which is super convenient, and I’m planning on running all the game classes (barrels, poles, figure 8, and keyhole) and maybe even saddle seat (if I can still fit into my pants!  I’m procrastinating on trying them on!)   There’s going to be a potluck dinner and some fun classes too, so I’m hoping I can get some company to come along and enjoy the fun with me.  Bear with me if  I’m nauseatingly horse happy over these next 4 weeks – I’ve been waiting for this opportunity for two years!

As if that excitement weren’t thrilling enough, I have even more happy horse news to share.  Several weeks ago, I decided to post an ad on Craigslist on a whim.  I could use some extra cash (especially with a horse show coming up!) and could use a few more doses of equine therapy each week, so I posted this nice little ad offering barn help.  To my surprise, within a day I had a call.  It was one of those meant to be type things, the hours are perfect, the location is perfect, and it’s just what I was looking for.  So 3 or 4 days a week, I get to end my normal workday by putting on some muck boots and heading to the barn to soak in all things horse.  It’s amazing how I always leave there at peace, no matter how stressful or tiring my day has been.  And as much as I love Tiny – to bits -  it is amazing to be surrounded by this new little barn of horses, with all their different personalities and quirks.  There are ten of them and I will be sharing more about them as time goes on.  Hopefully I get permission to take some photos to share with you here. 

So that’s my news (for now).  I’m sorry I have gotten a bit behind on visiting everyone, but I’m still trying to get used to this new schedule (which includes lots of working out to attempt to fit into above mentioned saddle suit!)   I hope everyone is well and I’ll be visiting you soon!

30 Day Challenge – Day 10

I know that my “30 Day Challenge” is becoming more like a “90 Day Challenge” at this rate, but there are a lot of exciting things going on in my world here.  I’m looking forward to sharing them soon, and thanks for bearing with me as I muddle along.  On to Day 10….

Past and Present Show Ring Attire

Like a lot of women, I like fashion.  When I was young, one of my first business ventures was to carefully draw out dozens of my own fashion designs on my dad’s legal letterhead, then sell them to him for a penny apiece.  However, as I grew older I was less likely to drop names like Guess or Bebe and more like Hobby Horse or Nancy Voeltz Originals.  I’m not going to lie – the allure of getting my own designer horse show attire was a big motivator in me overcoming my fear of competition!  I’ve come a long way since the beginning.  Check out my show clothes through the ages….

Photo courtesy of Harold Campton

This photo was taken at my very first App National show.  As you can see, my love of fashion served me well in those early days!  I had every detail perfected, down to the heart shaped belt buckle.  Do you remember the days of tuxedo shirts and bow ties?  Well one thing’s for sure, show clothes were a heck of a lot cheaper back then!  Regardless of what I might think of it now, this was my very first show outfit, picked out at Wagon Wheel Western Wear at the Railsplitter show just after we purchased Star.  I couldn’t wait to show in this and it served me for a couple of years, along with a few other off-the-rack items I picked up from Wagon Wheel.  Eventually I moved on to my first custom outfit, which I don’t have any photos of, unfortunately.  As my tastes evolved, so did my fashion choices.  I developed my own style of clothing - conservative, yet classy.  I favored black and tan and preferred a clean, tailored look, but still blinged out and flashy.  Some of my favorite outfits included the following:

The pleather snakeskin jacket on the left was hot as heck, but I loved the asymmetrical zippered style and the gorgeous scarf I chose to pair with it.  This jacket was my very first western pleasure attire.  The all-white showmanship ensemble in the center photo was my own creation, executed by Nancy Voeltz Originals.  I opted to make a statement during this particular year and paired my all-white horse with an all-white, sparkly showmanship jacket.   I’m not sure how well my vision translated in the ring, but it was definitely an eye catcher.  Neither this outfit nor the corresponding all white western outfit I used on Icy that year got much use in following seasons.  I realized pretty quickly that white is not very practical at horse shows!  The far right image shows my saddle seat suit, a set that I still have today.  I love the elegance and formality of this outfit and I always felt amazing when I wore it.

In my later years of competition, I discovered a designer that I absolutely loved:  J Bar J Western Store.  I got my last several custom outfits, including the three shown above, from them and I loved each and every one of them.  The quality of craftsmanship was impeccable, the fit was spot on, and these items were practical.  No more being lifted onto my horse so my seams wouldn’t rip or unwashable materials.  Everything they made for me was comfortable and durable and I wore the heck out of it!  In fact each of these outfits, plus a couple others that I didn’t show here are still in my closet, waiting for the day that I might possibly return to the show arena (and of course, in my fantasy things don’t go out of style and I don’t get fat!).  I don’t know if they are still around and I couldn’t find a website for them, but they are based out of Missouri and I highly recommend them to anyone looking for great western clothes. 

Thanks for taking this trip down memory lane with me.  I loved reminiscing about my old outfits and daydreaming about new ones.  Who knows?  Maybe my future career will be seamstress to the stars of the horse show arena!

Sunday Stills – The Birds and the Bees

Alright, Ed is killing me over at Sunday Stills with these challenges!  I can’t seem to fit these last few challenges into my self-imposed horse theme, so I’m just going to break down and go with what I have in the archives.  Enjoy….

This photo was taken on a recent camping trip to Manatee Springs, Fl. This woodpecker spent a great deal of time at our campsite.

This photo was taken at an eagle rehabilitation facility we visited during a family vacation in 2007

I really enjoyed trying to photograph this little guy - and he was quite the challenge!

30 Day Challenge – Day 9

Most challenging horse

Photo courtesy of Larry Williams

Another easy topic!  In 1998, I decided to add Zippo Par Three to my show string to take my game to the next level.  Par Three, or Spanky as I called him, had spent the previous eight years in a successful breeding program but we all felt it was time for him to get back out in the arena and have a job.  Spanky had started his training young, as a 2 year old, and had a short but illustrious show career.   His only previous rider was a trainer who was pretty much the exact opposite of me; about 6’2″ with legs that went for miles, a western pleasure guy, as opposed to my self-appointed pattern queen status.  Spanky was always quiet, never acted like a stud.  And he never indicated that he’d been entirely unridden for 7 years.  In many ways, he was a great mount.  But (there’s always a ‘but’ isn’t there?), Spanky had been trained as a western pleasure horse.  I had visions of him replacing Icy as my new western all around horse.  He was a beautiful mover, smooth as butter, and very athletic.  I just knew he’d make an amazing lead changer and he would be modern and fancy enough to excel in pattern classes.  Spanky didn’t see it that way.

Of all the horses I have ever shown, Spanky had the most distinct and assertive personality.  He had clear preferences and a will equally as strong as my own.  Spanky had a great work ethic, but only on his terms.  He was a perfectionist every bit as much as I was and he hated to be told he was wrong.  He would rage against me if I asked him to repeat a maneuver that needed to be improved.  I still remember us practicing a complicated trail course at a show in North Carolina one year.  We were trying to lope into a box and stop and we couldn’t get it right.  He was getting madder and madder at me (granted, it was probably my fault) until my little 15 h western pleasure horse was standing on his back legs in the box and pawing the air, while bystanders gasped and pointed at us. 

You could put Spanky on the rail on a draped rein and he’d lope in slow motion all day long.  You could even put Spanky on a pattern on a draped rein and he’d do it well.  What he couldn’t tolerate was the repetition required to do patterns successfully.  His line of thought was, Do it right the first time and then we’re done.  I do my job.  Now do yours.  The thing I hated most about him?  He was right.  I am a perfectionist.  I can always find something to improve upon, and I can drill patterns for hours.  Don’t forget – my previous all around horse was Icy, the warrior that did anything you asked, as many times as you asked, the exact same way every time.  His willingness gave me the chance to perfect my riding.  With Spanky, I got one shot.  If I missed it, too bad.  Ask him to try again and that sweet, willing boy would instantly throw a snarling, ears-pinned tantrum.  He really taught me to take care and do it right the first time.  You don’t always get a second chance in life. 

When I was writing this post, I looked back at my Meet the Herd page.  As much as Spanky challenged me, he rewarded me equally as much.  I couldn’t say it any better than I did back then: 

 “… our greatest challenges are often our greatest growth points.  Spanky made me raise my game.  He demanded perfection from me, and was intolerant of anything less.  He reminded me every time I rode him that we were a partnership and that he would not carry me as a passenger, but only as a rider.” 

The time I spent with this talented horse was challenging, but also rewarding.  He made me a better rider and it was an honor to compete with him.

30 Day Challenge – Day 8

Event you want to try

I’ve tried a lot of things over my years of riding.  Most of the events I’ve never tried are because I didn’t want to.  (You jumpers scare the heck out of me!!) But there are a few things I’ve just never had the opportunity to do.  One of them is dressage.  The classical beauty and precision of this sport has always enthralled to me and I would love nothing more than to take a spotted horse and show him to the world, just like Pam Fowler Grace and Pay N Go have done.  I remember reading about them in the Appaloosa Journal years ago and thinking how much I would love to try dressage.  In recent years, I have dabbled a bit with it.  As I’ve become a more experienced rider, I have begun to apply dressage exercises into my riding sessions, and I’ve even taken a few lessons from a local trainer to give me the basics.  But I’ve never truly experienced the sport.

Another thing I would love to try (and probably would have already, if I had a trailer) is competitive trail riding.  Tiny and I have spent many hours together exploring the woods and I think we would both enjoy the added thrill of the competition.  Along these same lines, a dream I’ve had since I was young is to participate in the Appaloosa sanctioned Chief Joseph Trail Ride.  Each year this ride follows a portion of Chief Joseph’s 1600 mile trek from the Pacific Northwest toward Canada as he attempted to lead his tribe to freedom back in 1877.  This ride holds particular significance to Appaloosa lovers as the Nez Perce Indians are often credited with developing our beloved spotted breed of horse.  Maybe one day I will have the opportunity to experience a leg of this journey for myself.

30 Day Challenge – Day 7

Favorite event

Over the years, I have competed in a lot of events and tried almost everything a time or two.  My favorite events have always been the showmanship and equitation classes.  I have always been a somewhat shy and reserved person in my daily life, but something about the thrill of a horse show turns on my charisma.  The precision and accuracy required to successfully compete in pattern classes is inherent in my personality – I thrive on attention to the smallest detail.  I have almost always kept my horses with me except for a brief tune up at the trainers just before a championship show, and that constant close contact with them allowed me to forge bonds with my horses.  I knew what they were going to do before they did it, and they knew my most subtle cues and executed them perfectly.  Put me on a western pleasure horse with a draped rein and tell me to show off my lope – I’ll have an anxiety attack before I jog into the arena.  But give me the most challenging pattern you can devise and a few cones, and I’ll meet it head on.

Comments on the Cleve Wells Controversy

I was checking my analytics today and I noticed that I have recently gotten a large number of hits on search terms involving the western horse trainer Cleve Wells.  I became curious as to why he is suddenly such a hot topic and began to search around.  I was set on my heels by what I found.   This trainer, one that has been referred to as “a legend” on this very blog, was involved in a horrific horse abuse case a couple of years ago.  I was shocked and saddened to read about this.  I had absolutely no idea that any of this had taken place and I’m still a bit numb about it.  

I don’t know enough about what happened with this case to form an educated opinion.  I am finding out about it now, more than two years after everything happened.  What I do know is that there are some very nasty photos depicting the alleged abuse that can be found online.  I do know that the Professional Horsemen’s Council saw evidence to justify removing Cleve from the Association.  I also know that the AQHA saw fit to suspend him for one year, instate indefinite probation, and fine him $10,000.  Collectively, this seems like a lot of smoke, and where there’s smoke there’s usually fire. 

The flip side of this story is that I have to reconcile the photos and articles I’ve seen regarding this matter with the man I knew.  Anyone that knows me or my family knows we love our horses.  We would never intentionally put any of them at a training facility where they would be mistreated in any way.  Cleve Wells trained and showed our stallion back in 1990 and 1991, and I can say with the utmost confidence that this horse was not mistreated while he was in that training program.  The horse we got back was never spur shy or bit shy, had no scars or evidence of trauma, and he still had a heck of a lot of fight left in him.  He did not have the personality of a horse that had been forced to submit, either mentally or physically.  The praises I’ve sung for Cleve Wells have been based upon those experiences – the genuinely nice guy with a boatload of talent that took our little Appaloosa and nurtured his abilities.  It makes me sick to think that a man this gifted with horses sold out for a paycheck, which is certainly how it appears on the surface. 

There are two sides to every story, as there clearly must be in this case.  The NSBA chose not to suspend Cleve’s membership and I could find no evidence that the animal cruelty case that was pending had a criminal outcome.  Cleve has opted not to speak on the matter, as far as I can tell.  His training business seems to be thriving and his website announces that he has several horses for sale in the $25K to $125K range.  This seems to indicate that he still has supporters out there, at least to some degree.

I have opted to remove the posts in which I promoted his training techniques and called him a legend.  He may have been a legend at one time, maybe even still is, but I do not feel qualified to pass judgement enough to defend or recommend him to anyone at this point.  It certainly sounds like the Cleve that I knew is not the same person that has created this brand that we see today. 

If you would like to read more about this situation, please see the following links, or those in the text above.

Professional Horsemen’s Council response

AQHA response

30 Day Challenge – Day 6

Most accomplished horse

My 1996 show string: Chiped Ice (Icy), Prince Tyler (Tyler), and Some Kind of Gin (Floyd)

This is an easy pick.  Of all the horses I have ever had the pleasure of loving, Chiped Ice was in a league of his own.  He was a rare combination of talent, personality, and try that comes along once in a lifetime.  I feel fortunate to have had the honor of riding him.  When we got Icy in 1992, it was primarily because of my sister Kim.  She is a challenged rider and had been showing in the leadline classes because she was unable to ride unassisted.  At the National show in 1992, the ApHC presented her with an award for her riding, and she was to be lead into a darkened colisium to accept her recognition.  At the time, we did not have a horse we felt would be bombproof enough to enter a dark arena and have the spotlight upon them, while applause and flashbulbs were going off around them.  Our trainer at the time suggested the perfect horse for us to borrow for the ceremony.  It was none other than Icy. 

The ceremony went beautifully and Kim fell in love with the 16.2 hand gelding with a galaxy of white spots.  One thing led to another and he became my all around show horse that Kimmy used in her Challenged Rider classes.  He was about 14 when we got him and had been around the block since he was 2.  He’d had many owners and had taken numerous kids to their Superior Achievement Awards.   He did it all – from showmanship to hunt seat eq to western eq.  He was definitely a better (and happier) western horse as he was naturally quite slow footed, but he excelled in the Saddle Seat classes too.  In spite of all the various talents he had, his legacy was the western riding event.  That horse could change a lead like nobody’s business.  It still gives me chills to watch the videos of him.  He was so steady and consistent that if you weren’t watching his legs, you’d miss the change. 

My very first win photo; back to back wins in Non Pro Western Riding and Senior Western Riding at the 1997 National Appaloosa Show. Photo courtesy of Larry Williams Photography.

I won my first National title on Icy – Non Pro Western Riding at the 1997 National Show.  That was followed up with numerous wins in Non Pro and Open Western Riding at National and World shows over the years.  We competed against trainers on horses more than half his age and he was still a force to be reckoned with.  I’ve never seen a horse with such a following – I think more people knew me as Icy’s rider, than Michelle!  All in all, I won titles in Bareback Equitation, Western Equitation, Saddle Seat Equitation, and Western Riding with Icy.  I received my Bronze, Silver, and Platinum medals with him, and we were ranked first in the nation for many years in various events.  I never received my Youth Superior Achievement Award, but I did reach the Non Pro Supreme Championship in large part due to the points I garnered with Icy. 

I finally decided to retire Icy around 2002 or so.  There was no particular reason to do so; he still loved to show and was sound and healthy.  He was still competitive to some degree, but the newer and  fancier western horses were starting to dominate the arena and he just wasn’t flashy enough to really stand out anymore.  We felt that maybe it was time he learned how to be a horse, at the age of 24.  That lasted for about a year, until we finally gave him back to his previous owners.  He hated retirement and was bored just hanging around, plus Florida’s 12 month summers drove him nuts.  He went back to Ohio and became a kid’s horse and pet and remained there until his death last year.  He lived a long, full, and happy life and I am so proud to have been able to call him mine for awhile.  They just don’t come along like that too often.

30 Day Challenge – Day 5

Worst horse related injury

I’ve been pretty lucky in this department.  In spite of my propensity for falls (See Day 4′s post), I have been relatively injury free.  I like to think it’s because I’m so good at falling off!  I better touch wood here….=)

My worst injury was the one to my shoulder that resulted from my intimate introduction to a fencepost described in Day 4.  I’ve never been to a doctor for it, and there’s not much that can be done now.  I think that I stretched out some ligaments or something in there when I fell and it’s a bit loose now.  The only time it really bothers me is if I sleep wrong on it or if it pops out.  Then it’s pretty sore for a few days.  Generally, the worst of it is a little popping and clicking when I rotate my shoulder.  I was pretty lucky that’s all I ended up with after that major fall!

The other major injury I sustained wasn’t actually due to a fall.  I was practicing showmanship with my all-around horse at the time, Spanky.  He HATED showmanship.  He told me over and over again, I am a Western Pleasure horse.  I jog around very slowly with my nose dragging in the dirt.  I DO NOT run!  My coaches didn’t see it that way.  Mary Meneely really liked a big, smart trot in showmanship and it was a constant struggle for me to keep Spanky awake and snappy.  We had to keep showmanship sessions brief because he’d end up very grouchy pretty fast.  One day we were preparing for our National show and were drilling patterns after our ride.  He was increasingly grumpy and didn’t want to play nicely at all.  He was dragging his feet and he wouldn’t trot off when I asked him to.  Since we couldn’t do it right, we had to keep doing it.  He was furious with me and as I turned around to ask him to back up, he reached over and grabbed me right on the chest with his bared teeth!  He ripped about 4 inches of skin off and for a moment I thought I was going to black out from the pain.  I didn’t have to go to the doctor for that one either – just time and a lot of TLC healed it up eventually, but I had a scar for years to show for that one!  For the record, he ended up winning that battle.  Eventually, he was passed on to my sister who hated showmanship just as much as he did.  They were much happier together!

Sunday Stills – Potluck

Keeping it simple this week… all photos taken at my nephew’s 3rd birthday on Saturday.

Please visit Sunday Stills to check out all of this week’s contributions!

 
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  • Calm, Forward, Straight: Glad to hear from you again! Congrats on the barn job, and enjoy the upcoming show. Take...
  • Grey Horse Matters: Hi Michelle, We haven’t heard from you in a long time how things are going. Hope all is...
  • Calm, Forward, Straight: Looking forward to hearing all about both those news-es, and the one you’re holding...
  • Arlene-travelcloseup: Brings back some memories. Lots of little ones there to enjoy.
  • Arlene-travelcloseup: Wow, so are you training? I know you have been chomping at the bit (pun intended) to compete....