Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Opting to Adopt Part Two

As December flowed into January and January into February, the desire for Gemma never went away.  I also did a search on HoP's Facebook page to see what more I could learn of her.  What came about was support for what was in the blog post and any other postings they did about her to try and find her a home.  Although what caught my attention more so were the older pictures of her.  I could easily see the intelligence and innate friendliness in her personality.  Those are two characteristics that I love to have in a horse and Cocoa spoiled me with.

I was able to finish the last of the paintings in the third week of February which was a bit ahead of schedule and I was very pleased with that.  So the next week I went out and took pictures of the farm where I boarded Cocoa and planned on boarding my next horse.  Thankfully the barn owner (we'll call her BW) didn't mind my doing so.  With the pictures taken, I took went home and worked on them that night and the next morning to add text to them all so whoever reviewed the application would know what they were looking at.

Once the pictures were all ready I grabbed the notebook with my notes in it and then went to HoP's website and spent the next hour or so filling out the application.  By the time I finally hit the submit button I was nervous but knew this was still something I HAD to do.  Then came the hard part, waiting.  While waiting for a response I had the unexpected result of grief surfacing.  Moving forward can be so difficult even when you feel that you are ready but I was still glad that I was moving forward.

I heard a few days later that they were starting to look at the application.  Then I think it was the Friday of that same week when I got a call from HoP for my phone interview.  I was so nervous/excited.  I felt like my heart was going to pound its way out of my chest and I had a hard time keeping my voice steady because of the rush of emotion.  The interview went well and I was told that I sounded like just the person that Gemma needed.  We even set up a time for my husband and I to go and meet her even though the application hadn't been fully approved yet by the board of directors.  However, the next week it was approved and then came more waiting to meet this horse that I already was in love with even though I had never met her.

Finally St. Patrick's Day rolled around and my husband and I set off through the rain and thunderstorms for the six hour drive to go meet Gemma.  It was by far not the best weather to go meet a horse and ride her for the first time but given how things went I'm not upset over it (although my body is still recovering from car trip and riding in the cold and wet).

When we arrived at the farm where she's being fostered it didn't take long for us to be able to meet her.  I was even handed a halter and told to go get her from the pasture.  Gemma was easy to walk up to but I took too long just talking to her while I worked through and unexpected well up of emotion.  After all I had been wanting to meet this mare for a good three months and then finally there she is! So she walked off and I walked up to her again and this time I got the halter on and we walked back up to the gate.

After that we took her into the round pen so I could earn some respect from her by using my energy and body language to direct her., right.  After six hours in the Jeep I was tired and I had an extremely hard time bring up my energy to keep her moving.  Her foster lady showed me how to do an inside turn and so I worked on that some and once I got a couple of good ones and felt like I understood it, I called it good with round penning.  We weren't going to accomplish much with my low energy, especially when I knew I'd need that energy to ride.

So we took her into the barn which she is not fond of and I was handed some grooming tools so that I could groom her.  Ever tried to groom a rain soaked horse? It doesn't work well but the main object of the exercise was to actually see how comfortable she was with me touching her all over.  I'm sure letting her just roam in a stall helped with that since it allowed her to eat and helped her relax in an environment she's not comfortable with.  I also picked up all four of her feet because I wanted to see how well Gemma tolerated that.  She did well, I will work with her on it more since at the home barn I clean out the hooves before and after I ride.

Up next was using a towel to dry her off some (she did really well with this) before putting my Mustang Soft Ride Saddle on her with a cotton, quilted Dressage pad underneath (even though I think the saddle is meant to be used with out a pad but it keeps the saddle clean).  She didn't seem to mind it much and I even put it on her from her off (right) side.  The girth which was sometimes almost too short for Cocoa (being half pony he had a big barrel) was almost too long for Gemma.  I had to take it up to the very top hole on the off side and wrap the cinch strap around three time instead of the two that I normally did.  I was able to get everything secure enough though and made a note to get a shorter girth for her.

We then got her bridled and after checking the girth one more time, lead her over to the mounting block in the barn aisle.  She did not want to stand still for this so her foster got after her to show me the correction that was used.  She ended up having to do that a couple of times and then held Gemma for me while I got on and settled in the saddle.  I am wondering if I was also gathering the reins up a bit too much when I was going to mount and so the last tiem I got on her I left them looser.  All a part of learning a new horse.

I rode Gemma in the barn aisle for a while to get a good feel for her and so she could get a good feel for me too.  I even got her to go into the scary end of the barn with out any fight.  I just used a calm, assertive energy along with encouragement.  I told her that she could do it.  Any time she started to act out a bit I just calmly took a rein in shorter to bring her head around to her side.  Then I let her go in circles until all four feet stopped.  Once she stopped I released.  We did quite a few circles in our time together but she kept getting more responsive and better with doing what I asked.

Once we were done with the barn aisle her foster and I went out for a trail ride around the property.  It was fun and man does Gemma step out.  I could tell she did in the barn but it was really noticeable once we were outside.  I'm not sure how long our ride was but it was a decent length and I felt like I got a good feel for the little mare.

We also went part way back to the barn and then turned around so we could trot a ways.  I declined to canter since it was quite wet out and I wasn't sure enough for it either.  Gemma did well with the trot though even though her left side felt different from her right which is a little puzzling since the farrier didn't mention anything about her hooves not wearing evenly.  I'm thinking it could maybe be a strength issue.  So we'll see.  Either way it wasn't difficult to ride for me.

Once we got back to the barn, I decided to go ahead and see about having Gemma go on a short trail by herself since I often go trail riding alone on the on property trails at the home barn.  She got sticky on me and didn't want to move and bumping her good with my legs didn't do anything so I gave her a swat on the neck with the end of the reins.  That gave me the forward motion I was looking for and we got our little lonesome ride in.  When we turned back to the barn she wanted to do it her way so we did a circle and once she stopped I released and then she stood and waited for me.  What a good girl! We then went back to the barn and concluded our ride with untacking inside.

The one last thing that I needed to see from the little horse was how she got into a trailer.  So her foster loaded her in the trailer while I took a video.  Gemma did wonderful and this makes me very pleased since I am hoping to go to Cuivre River State Park with BW.  Once she was out of the trailer I asked my husband to take a photo of Gemma and I.  Her foster also grabbed one to for posting on HoP's Facebook page once we got the adoption agreement signed.

My husband took this one of us (it feels odd putting a picture of myself up here!)

This is the picture taken by Gemma's foster and that HoP posted on their Facebook page to announce the adoption.

We then went back into the barn.  My husband was holding the container with carrots in it and Gemma reached forward with the look of, "Here let me help you open that."  It was cute.  We did open it and give her a few, which she was all to happy to gobble up.

Then once she was back in the pasture we went into the house and got the adoption agreement filled out and signed.  So you could say that Gemma is my lucky horse since she got adopted on St. Patrick's Day.  It all still feels surreal that my dream of adopting a rescue horse came true and that God lead me to such an awesome little mare.  Even though Gemma is not the color I wanted (I didn't want another dark bay) nor the gender I wanted, I can't wait to get her home to Missouri and start building our bond and trust, unfortunately because of scheduling issues we can't go pick her up until sometime between April 3rd and April 8th.  I truly think that once again God has given me the horse that I need.

All the pictures that are used in this blog post were not taken by me.  They were either taken by my husband or Gemma's foster lady.  A huge thank you to my husband who is not a horseman but gives me his full support in my equine endeavors! Also another huge thank you to Heart of Phoenix and their volunteers for allowing me the opportunity to care for one of their precious horses!

A Little More Information on Gemma

  •  Gemma was at HoP for three years
  • She will be 13 in May
  • Her color is dark bay
  • Gemma's only white mark is the big star on her forehead
  • Her height is about 14.1 hh
  • They think she is a standardbred cross with some appaloosa and possibly arabian
  • Gemma broke her withers when she was younger so they are a little misshapen.  Since I ride in a treeless saddle and bareback I don't have to worry about the saddle causing her discomfort.


  1. Wow, this must have been so exciting for you! Gemma looks like a beautiful girl and the pictures of you with her are really cute! Reading your professional assessment of Gemma makes me realise how much of a house noob I am, haha. But it's interesting to read, and I hope you two will have a happy time ahead of you. It might be hard at times for now, but I think it will help in the end. :)

    1. It is exciting and I am very much looking forward to getting her home. :)
      I'm no where near a professional. It's nice to know I don't come off as not knowing anything though! :)
      Thank you, I think she needs me as much as I need her. I am sure we'll have many good times ahead!