Cupcake, Smudge, ABF Spartanian

First of all, I have a fancy name..Smudge is a nickname…….actually come to think of it I have a lot of names and frankly I’m still a bit confused by all my names. My race track days seemed so long ago that I can’t even remember what they called me then.. Undoubtedly it was something tough and studly , as I was still a colt.

When I foung my way to Pat Dale’s farm in 2010; she named me Cupcake…I was very sweet,so I was aptly named. I lived at her farm for a year and a half and learned to jump in her round pen. It was really fun. I was loose with no one on my back so I learned to jump whenever I was ready and then I would really arch my back …people watching kept saying something like “mazool or barooz ” anyway they got all excited when I would arch my back and tuck my knees and lower my head and neck..Oh yeah , it was bascule !! Must be good….very excited humans…and then pats and treats.

Speaking of treats….I really, really like my treats. In fact I like any and all food. We are fed well but when my bucket is empty I think the humans don’t know , and so I help them out. I told the other horses in the barn that I would take responsibility for letting the humans know when we were out of food. So I grabbed my feed bucket in my teeth and lifted it up as high as I could and then I let it drop and wow !!! What a noise it made. Pat’s house is quite a ways up the driveway , so I needed to be sure that she could hear this. Sometimes I would lift and drop and lift and drop and lift and drop over and over again. The quiet (i.e. boring ) horse next to me would get mad sometimes at the racquet, but he wasn’t helping out so I just ignored him and went on with my bucket song. Sometimes it worked right away; hay would arrive or grain; but it was almost guaranteed to bring a person to my door. Sometimes they seemed mad; but you never know with humans; so many things to do all day long I think they can just get grumpy. I decided to keep helping out; because clearly they had too much on their minds to also keep track of the moment when I had had my last bite of hay and needed more. :)

Pretty soon a lady named Tara would come and ride me. She was great and taught me alot. I was put in a trailer a few times and went to new places with lots of other horses. They must have been special places because I had to have a bath first and everything was really clean and Tara wore a fancy jacket and shiny boots. I had to go into a little ring by myself and do the things we had been doing at home; but what I really wanted to do was look around at this new place with all these things I had not seen before. The I jumped some jumps in a field and more jumps in a ring that I had never jumped before. But I’m brave and don’t really care what jumps look like. I just tried to do the thing that makes the people say “bascule” because I know that must be correct because they get so excited. There was a loud voice when I was there and every time I went into the ring or was jumping my jumps they kept saying Tara’s name and “Prato Rio” I think that was my name as well, although everyone at the farm still called me Cupcake, because I am sweet and did I mention? no longer a colt :(

One day two ladies came into the barn and looked into my stall and then one of them came in to pet me. She seemed nice and gave a really nice face rub around my eyes, which I really like. She was calm and moved slowly; some people are wild and fling things around and are loud. I was a little dissapointed that she wasn’t bringing food, but I actually still had some hay so it was OK. They took me out and brushed me and put my saddle and bridle on and we went out to the arena. I liked the way she rode me and patted me . She didn’t pull too much or kick too much and she stayed balanced on my back so I did the things that Tara taught me and I jumped and it was fun. The next day I went in a trailer to another place with lots of other horses and the same two ladies were there and now the other one rode me over some natural jumps and took me into water and over a ditch….so easy..they make a big deal that I can do all these things; but I am brave and I like to work. I caught their names…Mikki and Bridgette.

They came back to Pat’s farm later that day and gave Pat some paper and Pat gave them some papers and I got in a different trailer with two horses I had never met and we stayed on the trailer for 5 hours. I was tired but enjoyed getting to know Calle..a big black horse who knows a lot about shows and jumping really big jumps; not sure if it’s all true though, cuz some of the jumps he described would be impossible for a horse to jump with a person on their back. He described wagons and wooden frogs and giant brush fences with enormous ditches in front of them…anyway it didn’t bother me because I’m very brave and I can jump anything I’m asked to jump; but I think he might have been exagerating a bit. The other horse was Markus..he was also very nice and told me all about the farm we were going to and that he also jumped big jumps but not quite what Calle was jumping. He was ridden by Bridgette and really liked her.

Finally we arrived in the dark. But quess what was waiting for me on my stall door ?… some silly big red ribbon and a whole bag of carrots..I love carrots..and cookies, and apples and grain and hay and grass and making noise with my bucket. They had it all here at my new home. All the above including a large red corner bucket that makes the most wonderful noise when lifted and dropped.. Calle hates that noise. Once Mikki came and took the whole thing right out of my stall…so I started to pull all the halters off the hook, knocked some blankets off the rack and managed to reach the grooming box and tipped it over… much fun right from my own stall. Maybe they don’t know what it means but I think I can train them to feed me on command. :)

Not all fun and games. Everyday I work a little and learn new things. Mikki started teaching me to bend my body…even when I’m still going straight ahead; kind of hard at first; luckily mikki put boots on my legs because sometimes I would lose track of where my legs were and one would bump into the other leg. After a while it became easier and really easy on a circle…we do loads of circles..all different sized ones. I like to play with my bit and sometimes I move my head up and down or forward and backwards and the bit bounces around in my mouth. Mikki would squeeze with her legs and then I would go forward and steady on the bit….I guess she liked that better because I got lots of pats on my neck. I like to work and I really concentrate hard on what Mikki is asking me to do. She always asks the same way so it’s easy to remember what she wants; walk, trot , canter, turn, reach into the bridle, go faster, go slower and the best of all jump.

Every day when I walk into the work arena I just focus on what Mikki wants me to do. I think to myself..” a squeeze with the inside leg? what does that mean again? and I remember that means to bend around her leg..and then I get a pat and then my ears flop down a little to the sides. They’re usually always straight forward ( my ears that is) but when I listen to Mikki’s aids I turn then back towards her for a moment to think about what I’m supposed to do.

I went to my first show with Mikki and it was fun. So that announcer guy was talking again but this time when he said Mikki’s name he said this other name I had never heard. ABF Spartanian.? Now what is that all about? Because at home now even though some of the girls who feed me still call me Cupcake; Mikki always calls me SMUDGE. So what is a smudge? Well I do have this little mark on the side of my face. in fact it is the only coloring on my whole beautiful bay maybe that’s it. she has named me after this little distinguishing mark? I then heard some explanation about the other long name. It turns out there was this really brave Greek Gladiator named Spartacus, who led an uprising of the oppressed. ( like an old fashioned bucket banger…making certain that all the horses get what they deserve; a continuous supply of food !!)  Then there was this very chivalrous Musketeer named D’Artagnan. He was brave ( sooo am I !), dashing ( absolutely; especially with my distinguishing smudge on my left cheek !), and commited to his friends ( need I say more). It’s a perfect name for me after all ! So I am named after these awesome men; because I too am destined for greatness….of some sort ?!? So I am Aiken Bach Farm’s (that’s my home) Spartanian !! Put a Spartacus and a D’Artagnan together and you get SPARTANIAN… I tell you the names alone could just wear you out; then there is all the work to be done at the shows.

I went into the same little ring as with Tara and I wanted to look at everything around the outside; but I walked and trotted and cantered and turned when I was supposed to. then we jumped and once Mikki thought we should leave from a long way out, but I couldn’t so I put in one more stride and hit the top rail. I really hate hitting rails. Usually when I hit a rail I gallop off and buck because I’m mad….I don’t think I’m supposed to do that though because Mikki pulled hard on the reins when I bucked;…mental note..” no bucking when mikki is on my back”. Then we did cross country and it was pretty hard. the jumps wern’t different than I had jumped but there were 3 pretty close together. I had to jump off this bank ( I don’t know how to do that very well ..I jump up high and then way out away from it), but then right away was another jump on a turn; but I jumped it when Mikki asked me to; but just when I was thinking..” wow, I’m amazing that I just jumped off a bank , (which I don’t like) and then I did this great jump over this bench on  a turn..” and I’m recovering and breathing and suddenly right in front of me is another obstacle.. So who put this here???? Another bank; I hate these least this one is up not down; so up I go. After that we just cantered along for a while and I had time to think about what I had just wasn’t that hard after all. We then had a ditch which is fine and we cantered through some water which I enjoy….Lot’s of pats and horse cookies..Yeah !!

Back home for some well deserved bucket banging and grass. The new work we are doing is to stay focused in the ring. I tend to look down at the little white fence when we go to shows and now Mikki doesn’t want me to do that. We also went in the trailer to a place with jumps out in fields and guess what we did there?? They had several of those bank things and we did them over and over again. First at a walk up and down on a really small one. Mikki sits still and gives me a long rein so I can look down to the ground to see where I need to put my feet; so I started putting my feet closer to the bank, rather than jumping way out away from the bank. Then we went on to bigger banks and trotted and cantered up and down. Then you wouldn’t believe it. We jumped up a really big bank ( I’m sure Calle hasn’t even jumped a bank that big ! was almost up to my chest) cantered a couple strides and jumped down the other side. I am sooo brave. It doesn’t even hurt my feet to land now when I land close to the bank. Wait till the boys back at the barn hear about this !!

We went to another show and this time when I went in the dressage ring I didn’t look at anything outside the ring; I just stayed focused and steady and listened to everything Mikki said and I must have done it right, cuz she was sooo happy. Then we jumped stadium and the jumps seemed small and then right away went out to cross country. They had houses and banks and ditches…no water :(    I did it all !  Mikki came back to the trailer later and showed me this pretty blue ribbon and a shiny silver bowl. I was sure it was going to be full of grain; but no such luck…and no handy bucket for me to bang in frustration. Off to bed..I’m tired.


To be continued………………………