Gemma Goes Exploring

Y’all know how much I like ponying. Presto was ponied anywhere and everywhere I could possibly take him for basically 3 years of his life, which I think was definitely helpful. He got to see and experience all kinds of things. There are lots of benefits besides just exercising two horses at once… you can also let a young one see things for the first time with a horse friend and without the stress or perhaps lack of confidence that they might have if they’re facing it on their own with a rider. If they want to be a bit naughty or spooky it’s also a lot easier (and less risky) to keep the exuberance under wraps while you’ve got them on a lead rope, you’re near their head, and you have the advantage of leverage. And the extra selling point of OTTB’s? They already are quite experienced with ponying – they come with that skill pre-installed.

So I decided last Friday that since Gemma had settled in well at the barn and with the other horses, we may as well take her on a little tour of the whole property. At that point she’d really only seen the barn and courtyard area, but she always wants to look at things so I thought she might enjoy a change of scenery. The weather was a bit chillier and windier than I may have preferred, but she’s very polite so I figured… meh why not. I put Henry in the crossties and got him ready, then grabbed Gemma and tied her next to him (she’s still learning about crossties) while I put on my helmet and Henry’s bridle. Then I hopped on Henry, untied Gemma, and away we went. Ponying is old hat to both of them so they knew the drill, the only minor issue was Henry’s attitude.

He is NOT a gracious host

He’s pretty much all bark and no bite, but Gemma is fairly submissive, so when he would make his nasty faces she would immediately back away. Which then sent Henry on a power trip. His ego is… something. Once we left the courtyard and started exploring she stopped paying as much attention to him, because there were way better and cooler things to look at.

what dis

One of the things I really like about Gemma is how curious she is. She doesn’t have that brash bravado that Presto has, where he sees something, marches right up to it, and tries to smash it with his feet, but she definitely wants to see and understand things. She looks, then she touches it with her nose and sniffs it to figure it out. It’s a much quieter, less destructive type of curiosity, but I would definitely still classify her as a brave type of horse. She might want to pause for a second to think about it, but she always ultimately wants to go forward toward the “scary” thing. I hope that translates under saddle too.

We made a lap each way of the front field, stopping near the neighbors fence line so we could watch and listen to their rickety old metal shed flapping in the wind. Henry spooked at it pretty hard, and his spooking spooked her, but she was less upset about the noise than he was.

Then we walked around and into the dressage arena (pausing to sniff the dressage letters and the arena wall, of course) and then through the jump field. I had a couple poles set out so we walked over those too, which was no biggie. She was looking around and very interested in everything, but not upset or worried. We made another lap of the front field and then went back to the barn, completing her first successful farm exploration session. Once she’s cleared to return to under saddle work I think she’ll have a really good time hacking.

Grace thought these were the bushes of death

I was relieved that we didn’t encounter the rogue cow — omg wait I forgot to tell y’all the story of the rogue cow. Hold up. Screeching halt for one sec.

So a couple weeks ago I was up in the barn doing stalls and at one point I could have sworn I saw a cow way out in the back pasture. We don’t have cows, but the neighbors do, so I was like uh oh is the fence down? By the time I finished what I was doing and walked down there, there wasn’t a cow in sight. I walked the entire fenceline just to make sure there wasn’t a breach and couldn’t find anything at all. We have no-climb back there, so it’s not like it’s an easy fence to get past. I was like well ok I am pretty tired, maybe I just… hallucinated the cow. Maybe it was a deer. The incident became a joke about me being in such a weird headspace that I was hallucinating cows. Fast forward to a few days ago and I’m in the jump field setting jumps for Hillary when low and behold AGAIN I see a cow in the back pasture. I look at Hillary, I look at the cow, and I whisper “do you see the cow?”. She turns and looks and confirms that yes indeed she sees the cow too. Great, I’m not hallucinating. Off we go through the fields to the back pasture, come around the corner of the hacking trail and boom – BIG ASS WHITE COW just standing there alone in the back pasture like he owns the place. We got about 30′ away from him, Mina having now spotted him and started barking, and he very casually looks at us, turns around, and jumps back over the fence like it’s nothing. I was like HOLY SHIT. HOLY SHIT. Ok #1 that is a pretty scopy cow, but #2 HOLY SHIT that cow just jumped right over the fence! Upon further examination of the ground in that area he’s clearly been doing that a lot. I’m so glad Hillary was there to witness or no one ever would have believed me but yeah… we have a rogue, very scopy, tres athletic, fence-jumping neighbor cow.

ANYWAY – luckily we didn’t encounter the cow that day I was ponying Gemma. I don’t know what she would have made of that.

13 thoughts on “Gemma Goes Exploring

  1. That cow sounds terrifying. Or at least I’m sure my boys would think so.

    I also think you’re some sort of magician that can pony and take pictures at the same time. I always feel like ponying feels like a circus and I don’t add in a phone.


  2. I love ponying! I pony my yearling everywhere and once my new OTTB is settled in I’m looking forward to ponying her as well. I very briefly had a cow, I’ve had goats for a long time and people were always telling me that I would enjoy cows much better. The escape artistry ended up being the end of me and I found her a great home with a 4Her… who 6 years later still tells me stories about chasing her around the neighborhood after her escapes. I’ll stick to goats and horses


  3. I am sooo jealous that you are having such great luck with Gemma. You must have made many prayers to the OTTB gods over the years to acquire such a LOVELY red mare. I own and have owned many, many OTTBs and they are always bat shit from beginning to end. I love them all dearly, but put my life on the line often to get thru a jump course with them. God love the OTTBs. I love, love, love Gemma! You are so, so lucky that she came to you with such a great brain. You are also very talented in nurturing the OTTB brain power. I have cows on two sides of my property, but no jumping ones…


    1. Most of my TB purchases are based off pedigree. 😉 But I do think OTTB’s require some understanding of what their lifestyle was like and how they were raised, and the adjustment period to off-track life is pretty important. There are a lot of things they know really well and a lot of other things they need to be taught, and it might not be obvious which is which unless you understand what their previous life was like and how they’re wired.


      1. You are so right! My father raced Thoroughbreds my entire life and I passed on them and showed Quarter horses almost my entire life. It was not until I found a OTTB that really needed me to save him from starvation that I realized my responsibility to saving as many OTTBs as I could in my adult life. I have already bought/rescued 13 OTTBs and counting. You have been so lucky to find really inexpensive OTTBs that turned out to be great prospects. I now have a Lucky Pulpit mare that I paid a lot for because she is grey and gorgeous! Lucky Pulpit’s are highly sought after here on the West Coast for having a good temperament. She is a Hunter Derby prospect. She is a bit of a maniac when I take her off property, but I am hopeful…. Always love your posts!


  4. Whew! I read the title and thought – oh no, Gemma got out! So glad to hear that she had a chaperone for her explorations!
    (Unlike the cow…)


  5. The jumping cow! That’s crazy! Ha, I love the “Do you see it too?” Lol!
    Glad Gemma enjoyed her tour. Shiny is much like her. She always marches herself right up to whatever she’s afraid of. I like that feature a lot.
    Can’t wait until you can finally swing a leg over! I think she’s going to be so fun for you!


  6. I love that Gemma was such a good girl and so curious without spooking. We had 2 cows down the road from the farm get loose one day and we got a call to help catch them it was rather fun at first one was just walking down the middle of the road like it was nothing till we stopped the truck and got out and it was like OH MAN the jig is up lol they really messed up the yard of the farm owner the cows belong to their neighbor lol I love cows they are So cute! I love that someone else saw that rogue cow as well that day so now you know it’s was really there lol


  7. Cows are crazy scopey even though they’re built like wheelbarrows! We raised Holsteins for a while, and one of those little buggers could pop over a 1.20m fence from a dead standstill. Another one did try to go over the front of the crush, which was over 2m high. She didn’t succeed, but she did get her front feet over it and cause quite a kerfuffle.


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