Thursday, April 17, 2008


I can't believe it but today is Rio's FIRST BIRTHDAY!! A year ago today Rio was born on a chilly April morning. She turned out not to be what I expected but what a gift I have received. She's has learned so much over the last year, as have I. As I look back over the last year some common cliches come to mind... "Good things come in small packages", "Watch what you wish for", "Good things come to those who wait", I could go on and on. It has been fun and some days challenging working with Rio and preparing her to be a well-behaved and useful mount. Even after she does something that frustrates me she looks at me with those big brown eyes as if to say "What'd I do?". Of course then I just sigh and kiss her on the nose and we move on or try again. She will never be her mama but I've come to love the things that make her unique. I'm looking forward to seeing how she matures over the next few years and to see what I will end up doing with her. Will she follow in her mother's footsteps and be an accomplished show horse or will she be a trusty trail mount? Only time will tell. But until then I plan on enjoying training her and appreciate the fact that I can even have a horse, let alone two in this day and age.

In celebration of her birthday we threw her a little party at the barn. Of course her "grandma" and "grandpa", and even her "great-grandma" were on hand for the festivities. I even tried to make her a "cake" out of carrots, oats, and molasses. She seemed to enjoy herself and her barnmates snacked on "party favors" just for them. While "guests" helped Rio celebrate a video of Rio's birth played and pictures of her mama as a newborn foal and weanling were on display.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Winter Wanes Away

For Central Pennsylvania we really had a "mild" winter with no big snowstorms but plenty of long, cold winter days and nights. Spring is upon us and while I look forward to the warmer weather it was fun to see Rio in her first snow.

Rio's star is getting bigger with each day.

Don't forget mama!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Sunday "Spa Day"

Since Old Man Winter has arrived time spent outdoors with my girls has waned. By the time I get home from work it is dark and temperatures have dipped into the teens here in Central Pennsylvania the last few weeks. So, when the weather isn't bitterly cold I spend a couple of hours at the barn on a Sunday afternoon. I call it our "Sunday Spa Day". Both mama and baby get an extra vigorous grooming session. We start with a curry comb, followed by a medium stiff brush, and finally a soft brush. Then their manes, tails, and forelocks are sprayed with a conditioner and combed until all the knots are gone. Their "piggies" are picked and removed of any caked on dirt and mud. I clip their bridle paths, under their chins, and Tia's muzzle hairs are clipped. Both of their outer ears are clipped as well. This past spa day Rio even had her mane braided. I left it in for about a week. I'm going to have a hard time shortening it for this year's halter classes. I may actually leave her mane long and braid it instead. However, I'm not sure if that will hurt our placings or not. Typically halter and pleasure horses have their manes short and banded but Rio's mane is becoming more flaxen and beautiful every day so I'd really like to keep it long. Guess I'll just have to give it a try and see how it goes. I usually go to the barn every day after work and they get a quick brushing and I work with Rio in the barn aisle on setting up square and leading. Her mama is dead broke when it comes to showmanship so I will have to remember that Rio is just learning and I'll need to be patient. Tia has me spoiled! I'm looking forward to springtime but I also enjoy these quiet moments with my girls...even if it is 40 below!!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Grow Rio Grow!

Rio a few weeks old.

My little girl is now 8 months old. I can hardly believe it! Time has just flown by. Rio is growing every day but to me she still looks like a little runt. When we attended the futurties back in September I knew she would probably be smaller than some of the other weanlings but now I worry that she is a lot smaller. Perhaps it is because I see her every day and I just don't notice the growth as much. The farrier was out this past week and he commented "My, she's growing". I suspect she will be the same height as her mother (and father). They are both around 15.3. I purposely bred Tia to an average sized stud as I didn't want her foal to be too big when it was born, especially with her being a maiden mare. So, I'm going to get what I bred for but there is a little part of me that secretly hopes she'll be taller than her mama. When Rio was born she certainly was all legs! It's funny the aspirations you have for your "children" and then when they grow and mature it's not anything you expected. At this point I want Rio to be happy and healthy so size really isn't that important in the grand scheme of things. I'm only 5' 1" so if Rio ends up being a small horse she should suit me fine!

Rio at a show in late summer.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Rio's A Big Girl Now!

It's hard to believe but Rio is already six months old and getting to be a "big girl". We moved her up to the main barn about a month after she was weaned. She is at the opposite end of the barn in regards to where her mama is stalled but they see each other daily. Tia occasionally nickers to her but for the most part it seems the mother/daughter bond has waned. We are careful not to put them out together or in adjacent pastures. Next year they'll be trailered together to horse shows so it will be interesting to see how that goes.

I've started teaching Rio how to be lunged. So far she knows "Whoa", "Walk" and "Trot". The little stinker also knows where the gate is in the ring and when she's had enough of a workout she stops or acts up when she is in line with the gate. She gets a little reminder at that point that she's not done working until I say she's done. I am careful not to lunge her for more than 15 minutes every other day since her little legs are still growing. After she is done lunging I hand walk her over some trail obstacles (bridge, water box, raised pole) to build her confidence. This way she will also be familar with these objects when she is trained for riding. When we are done in the ring I tie her in her stall for approximately 15-20 minutes. This helps her to learn patience, which she'll need plenty of to deal with long show days when she is older. I have high hopes for Rio and I am looking forward to seeing how she matures over the next 12 to 24 months.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Futurity Fun

Rio went to the Pennsylvania Quarter Horse Association's Futurity over Labor Day weekend. Because Tia's breeding was purchased through PQHA's QIP program we're automatically eligible for the QIP Futurities for Rio's first three years. I really didn't expect to win any classes as Rio is not halter bred. I really just wanted to show off my baby! She wasn't the biggest or most beautiful filly at the show but she was certainly the best behaved! If it was a beauty contest she would have won for "Miss Congeniality". I could hear many passer-bys say such comments as "That little filly is better behaved than my dog" and "Do you show her in showmanship? I can tell you've worked with her a lot". Showmanship...LOL...she's JUST a weanling I thought. We arrived a few days before her classes so she could get acclimated to the surroundings and so I could get a good parking spot for our little weekender goose neck trailer. She settled in very well. I took her for frequent walks around the showgrounds so by show day it would all look familiar. After the sun went down and it was darker she was a bit more alert and became a little jittery a few times. It really was the first time I walked her any length of distance in the dark and I think the large outdoor lights created some spooky shadows. But overall she handled the weekend very well and I was so proud of her. We ended up winning a respectable 3rd, 4th, and 5th placing.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Rio's First Show

A few weeks before Rio was to show in the PQHA Futurities as part of an AQHA show I wanted to take her out for a "test drive". There's a local riding club that has a Wednesday night open show series so we decided that would be a good place to expose her to the sights and sounds of a horse show. Turns out I was probably more nervous than she was! She looked around just a bit, whinnied a few times, but kept all four hooves squarely on the ground. Nothing seemed to phase her. However, it was sweltering that evening so that probably helped. I entered her in the Open Grooming and Showmanship and the Halter class. I knew from years past that they didn't typically call for a pattern in the showmanship (SMS) class and the gal in the show office said there wasn't one. So lo and behold they called for a pattern! Rio is just a baby and I still have to square her up by physically moving her feet...a definite no-no in a SMS class. So we did our best and he gave us 2nd place! We then placed 2nd in the halter class. I could hear people in the stands saying "Wow, look how well-behaved that little baby is." I know we've done our homework but Rio really does have a very sweet disposition. One that I hope sticks around for when it's time to ride her!

Rio Goes To Town

When Rio was a few months old I decided it was time for her to take a ride with mama in our trusty stock trailer. I tried loading Tia first but she was too concerned where Rio was so we ended up loading baby first and then mama. We took a short ride over to Shelly Mix's new barn and I had my mom follow in her car in case Rio and Tia got in to any trouble. I tied mama and left Rio loose. She was still small enough that she could walk around mama in the trailer and nurse. We had no problems at all. In fact, Rio seemed to enjoy herself. I took her for one more trailer ride prior to weaning her and then trailered her by herself in the stock trailer and then in our larger gooseneck trailer. Rio needed to be coaxed a little bit but eventually she started jumping right in. Coming off the trailer was a little more of a challenge for her but now she's an old pro!

"You want me to jump?!?"

Monday, August 13, 2007

Looking Back...

Tia 7 months pregnant.

Foaling Day - April 17, 2007


First Days of Discovery

What a good mama!

Mama's lookin good.

Gotta get that itch.

Rio's getting bigger every day.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Bye Bye Mama!

Just a little over a week ago I had what I thought would be a daunting task of weaning. I had fretted for weeks prior to my intended "weaning weekend" and hoped that all would go well for both mama and baby. Rio is scheduled to compete Labor Day weekend in the Pennsylvania Quarter Horse Association's (PQHA) Classic Show in the futurities. Since her breeding was purchased through PQHA's QIP program ( she is eligible for the futurities for the next three years. I wanted to wean her far enough in advance of the show but not too soon.

Tia and Rio their last day together.

I began preparing her for this inevitable day when she was just a few weeks old by taking her mama away for 30-40 minutes to ride. At approximately one month old she started eating small amounts of grain, and had already been nibbling hay and grass. She also drank water as well. I then began taking Rio from her mother for short amounts of time so each of them would be familiar with being apart. I consulted an article that ran in Horse & Rider's July 2007 issue entitled "4 Ways to Wean (Which is Best for Your Foal?)". I used a combination of "gradual weaning" and "proximity weaning". Since I board I also had to check what would work with the owner's schedule. I will not be selling either of my horses so they will always be at the same location. This presented a small challenge when it came time to weaning. Fortunately where I board there is a smaller, two-stall barn perfect for foaling and weaning. Another boarder graciously offered to let me use Tucker, her aged Appaloosa gelding as Rio's "babysitter". Two to three weeks prior to weaning we put the three of them out together in pasture. I wondered how Tia would react to another horse being around her baby since Tia had not been pastured with other horses since she was a yearling. This was always my choice since she's a show horse and I never wanted to run the risk of her being injured by a pasture mate. To my surprise and relief there were no problems!

When the weaning weekend arrived I took Friday off of work so I could be present and I separated Tia and Rio into adjoining stalls that morning. This way Rio would still have mama's comfort but wouldn't be able to nurse. Tia took this very well! Rio was a little agitated at first but calmed down after a short while. I got just a bit teary-eyed since it was the end of one stage of her life and the beginning of a new stage. By Sunday we moved Tia back up into her old stall in the upper barn and brought Tucker down next to Rio. I really expected her to holler and scream but it went much smoother than I expected. I could breathe easy, I hadn't ruined Rio for life by weaning her too soon!

A little over a week later Tia and Rio appear to be fine. My little girl does seem a bit quieter than usual but she is eating and drinking well. I'm thinking she maybe misses her mama just a bit and we have been having hot and humid weather. I'm hoping after a little more time she is back to her perky self. But for the time being I will just enjoy the time I get to spend with both of my girls!
Rio and her new best friend Tucker.