Touch n GO Farm

Whitesburg Georgia

Cassidy's Corner
babylegs.jpgAnyone who knows the Nutter family is well acquainted with their daughter Cassidy Anne. Gigi went straight to the barn after being released from the hospital to introduce her little filly to the rest of the herd. Cassidy has been a classic Barn Brat ever since. She greets all of Gigi's lessons at the farm and has been a fixture at horse shows since birth.

Scott and Gigi have made a conscious effort to show their daughter that there is more to life than horses. Cassidy danced for one year, did gymnastics for two, and played softball for two seasons. In the summer she grows gills and stays in the family pool for hours each day. 

Cass Gigi Barn.jpgIt is difficult to grow up on a small horse farm and not feel that horses are a part of everyday life. When Cassidy turned two she began asking if there were horses small enough for her to ride. Gigi decided that a pony was a suitable birthday gift but that riding would always remain a privilege. The wonderfully quiet and tolerant pony Jesse came to Touch 'n Go Farm in August of 1997.

The 14-hand paint proved to be a loving companion for Cassidy and the two were  inseparable. Cassidy soon learned that a lot of responsibility comes with a pony and mucking out the small stall became a daily chore. Secretly, her father was hoping the work would dissuade any long-term ambitions in the horse business.

As she got older, Cassidy became part of the Touch 'n Go routine. She met each rider at their trailer and helped them tack up. Her Christmas list began to include saddles, bridles and other equipment. With little encouragement, Cassidy continued to work as hard as necessary in order to earn a riding lesson at the end of the day. 

Jesse allowed Cassidy to bounce around on her back and develop trust in horses. Unfortunately, Jesse died from a severe bout of colic in February of 1999. She is buried at the farm. CassidyJesse.jpg

Scott and Gigi gave their daughter plenty of time to understand what had occurred. After a few months Cassidy started asking about another pony. One of Gigi's students, Melody Kirkland, had an old, school pony that needed a home. In November of 1999 Caitlin's Lyric took up residence at Touch 'n Go. The little, Shetland/Connemara cross came with her share of baggage. She had Cushing's and had to be clipped year-round. Her right ear sported the toughest sarcoid known to man. Regardless of health problems, Caitlin also came with thousands of hours experience schooling children in riding along with the patience of a saint and a heart of gold. CasCaitGigiWend.jpg

After eighteen months of riding Caitlin, Cassidy announced that she wanted to compete in a horse show. Still trying to discourage another member of the family from choosing horses as lifestyle, Scott informed Cassidy that she would have to save her $2.50/week allowance for entry fees. Three months later Cassidy handed over $50.00 and proclaimed, "I want to go to Big Bear!"

The spring dressage show in Pine Mountain seemed as good a place as any to start. So, on May 24th of 2001, Cassidy loaded Caitlin in the trailer alongside Wendel and headed south. She had signed up for USDF Introductory Level, test one on Saturday and Sunday.

Truth be told, Gigi was far more nervous than her daughter as Cassidy headed down centerline Saturday morning. Four minutes later she halted at X, saluted and heard cheers from the crowd. Many of Gigi's students who watched Cassidy grow up between lessons arrived early in the morning to offer support. When the scores were posted Cassidy took third place in a field of four.

First show 1.jpgSunday's class proved more exciting. After listening to her mother's suggestions for raising her previous score, Cassidy was determined to "ride my corners better." Well, as fate would have it Cassidy rode a better test but on the final diagonal she pushed Caitlin a bit too far in the corner. The pony lived much of her life as a jumper, so when the ring rail was too close for comfort she simply jumped over it and out of the arena! Cassidy was undeterred, brought Caitlin around, squared her up and jumped right back in! After explaining what the term "Eliminated" meant, the ride home was filled with laughter and pride.

Cassidy's interest in horseshows waned as she started elementary school and her schedule didn't permit as much time for riding. Homework, science projects and field trips became the norm.

December 2003 a student and professional trainer came for a lesson and brought a black, Quarterhorse-cross mare for Gigi to evaluate. She knew Cassidy was getting too tall for little Caitlin and was looking for a small horse/pony she could grow in to. The poor kid was sick with bronchitis but when she heard about the new horse Cassidy struggled out of bed and up to the ring and watch the horse being ridden.  Her parents led Cassidy to believe that they were going to lease Hannah for a few months so she'd have something different to ride.  Little did she know they had the mare vetted and sent payment a few weeks later.

cassidyholdinghannah_3x2_120dpi.jpgPurchasing Hannah was a fine example of Gigi not following her own advice. For years she's told clients, "Don't buy a green horse for a green rider. The results can turn out red!" The little mare would scoot out from under a rider if they put a leg too far back and Hannah had a clumsy streak, occasionally tripping for no apparent reason. Gigi began to question her decision.

Caitlin was a bombproof babysitter. Hannah was a project.  Cassidy had never worked with a horse that required training and didn't enjoy the uncertainty of each ride. She came to love the mare but underlying fear in the saddle caused her to be more distant with Hannah than her mom expected.  Gigi could have returned the horse for resale but something told her the mare was trainable. She decided to keep the horse and let Cassidy know she owned Hannah.

Even at eight years-old, Cassidy loved the annual Easter egg hunt on the farm. Eevery year the Easter Bunny left colored eggs filled with candy and a golden egg with a special surprise inside. This year the golden egg was hidden in Hannah's stall and contained only a note saying, "Your parents have some good news for you." A smile filled Cassidy's face as Gigi explained that Hannah was her horse, forever. She flung her arms around the mare's neck and cried tears of joy.

Cassidy kept up with her "horse owner" responsibilities. Hannah was always well groomed and her stall stayed clean. Between school and a lack of trust in the young mare, Cassidy only rode occasionally. When she did ride Hannah would get off balance and scare her. During one lesson the horse stumbled so hard Cassidy came off and Hannah crashed through the fence surrounding the arena. Events like that shattered her confidence and kept Gigi up at night.

After a summer of exciting rides Cassidy returned to school and Gigi decided that Hannah would receive her elementary education as well. The mare worked on the longe and long lines throughout the winter and early spring. By the time school let out for summer break, Cassidy was ready to ride and Gigi had a much better horse waiting for her.

First show X.jpgCaitlin was enjoying a well-earned retirement but Cassidy remembered the valuable lessons that little pony taught her. We all had a devil of a time getting Caitlin to take the right-lead canter. Even more advanced students had trouble consistently getting the correct lead to the right. Hannah had the same problem and it frustrated Cassidy. Gigi broke down each step of the fault and caught herself repeatedly saying, "Remember when Caitlin couldn't get the right lead." Finally, they had a breakthrough day when Cassidy got the right-lead canter five times in a row. Everyone thought it was a miracle. Looking back, solving Caitlin's biggest problem helped Cassidy train Hannah.

Three days later the little, bay pony went to sleep in pasture and didn't wake up. It was as if her job here was complete. Riders love to talk about flashy warmbloods and competition horses they've owned. On the other hand, Trainers talk about the average-moving schoolmasters that teach overconfident, uncoordinated people what's correct and what's not. To the untrained eye, Caitlin's Lyric was just a 12.2 hand pony with Cushing's and sarcoid scars. To Cassidy, she was a patient teacher who Gigi referred to as "priceless."

Cassidy asked if she could go to a show during summer break.  Gigi, Cassidy, Hannah and Lestera packed up and went to Poplar Place Farm in Pine Mountain. Needing a competition name, Cassidy dubbed the dark mare Black Pearl. cassidywithmom_2007show_3x2_120dpi.jpg

Since both horse and rider were green the goal was to gain experience away from home. Cassidy signed up for Introductory level tests and Gigi followed her everywhere like a worried show mom. Hannah occasionally got distracted but tried to listen to Cassidy.

Warming up for the first test, Gigi didn't take her eye off of Cassidy other than check the order of go.  She called her over for a last sip of water and quick boot wiping.  That was when Gigi noticed blood on Cassidy's glove and, looking up, a little spot on her face.  After asking Cassidy, "What happened?" she could only manage a quiet "I don't know". 

She left for the ring with a nervous Mother trailing behind. It's not easy to call a test for your daughter when you know how fast things can go wrong on a green horse. The test went well and everyone let out a sigh of relief. Back at the hotel Cassidy asked if her parents would be mad if she told them something. She explained that the blood Gigi saw was the result of a horse in the warm-up ring that came too close and flashed a whip in Hannah's face. The little mare half-reared and hit Cassidy in the face with the back of her neck and mane. Cassidy was afraid to tell her mother because she thought she wouldn't be allowed to ride the test.  Gigi had a flashback to her childhood and the worries her parents had about showing. 

At the same show Cassidy learned that anything can be used as a visual reference in the show ring. We all watched the video of her rides and noticed that she was consistently drifting off centerline after entering the ring. Gigi decided to address the flaw and saw a muck tub at the end of the arena. Gigi kept reminding Cassidy, "Ride straight to the muck tub." The earlier marks of "4" on the centerline improved to a "7" on Sunday. Exiting the ring after the test Cassidy announced said, "I just looked at the judge and saw a muck bucket."

bff_cassidymom_3x2_120dpi.jpgSchool started in August and Cassidy returned to Whitesburg Elementary as a fifth grader. Riding became irregular as schoolwork, Beta Club and extracurricular activities filled her time. She clearly loved Hannah who stayed groomed and spoiled.

Cassidy maintained an "A" average and won a trip to Savannah for the Georgia state Beta competition with the giant, paper-Mache fish project. She came home with a fifth place ribbon and one of only two prizes earned by Carroll Country school students of all ages.

cassidy_softball_3x2_120dpi.jpg2006 was the first year Cassidy played softball at the local recreation center. Dad has always been a proponent of team sports and the life lessons learned while participating. As an outfielder for the Carroll County Heat, Cassidy contributed to a solid season with her strong arm and consistent hitting. Scott enjoyed his new video camera during every game and produced a highlight film for the kids and their families.

In May, Cassidy "graduated" from elementary school and received several academic and achievement awards. The highlight of the ceremony was the "Most Outstanding Male and Female Student" presentation. The winners were chosen by the faculty and the award was based on personal character as well as scholastic achievement. Cassidy burst into tears when her name was called. Scott and Gigi hugged their overwhelmed daughter with heartfelt pride.

Gigi conducted two summer camps for adult riders at Merichase Farm. Cassidy was allowed to participate and she rode Hannah with the other campers.  The temperamental mare acted up with Cassidy in front of the group and Gigi worried it might damage her daughter's fragile confidence. After mom offered to work the horse Cassidy replied, "Please Mom, let me do it." The ride improved and Gigi began to realize that Cassidy was facing her fears and riding with determination. By the end of the lesson Hannah was going around the arena like clockwork and the campers cheered in approval.

hannahjump_3x2_120dpi.jpgFor the remainder of the summer Cassidy rode regularly. Gigi could see the change in her daughter's attitude, cautious but ready for a challenge.  Hannah improved and became more of a partner than adversary. August signaled the end of summer vacation and entry into Middle School.

Orientation led Scott and Gigi to believe that the school was organized, prepared and staffed with dedicated professionals. Throughout the first semester one negative event followed another. Cassidy had always been a strong academic performer but she was struggling with the workload and lack of effective instruction. As the semester ended she asked her parents of she could return to homeschooling. Scott and Gigi agreed. It proved to be a wise decision and everyone is happier.

Gigi took a hiatus from competition in 2006. When Cassidy came home in October the two slipped back into the homeschooling groove and rode horses nearly every day. As Gigi's students participated in the Region 3 Dressage Championships, Cassidy announced that she wanted to qualify for the finals the following year. That was a lofty goal for an eleven year-old that just started to trust her horse and had very little show experience.

The winter was a time of great progress for Cassidy and her mom. With regular work, Hannah became a reliable horse and make steady progress.  Gigi worked her young Dutch Warmblood Vincere and many days all four of them could be found in the ring together. 

hannah_2007show_trot1_3x2_120dpi.jpgCassidy asked to play softball again so Mom and Dad went to the spring tryouts looking forward to another year of cheering from the sidelines. At the recreation center the program manager said they were short of coaches and asked for volunteers. Scott and Gigi signed up as Coach and Coachess of the Bandits. The team was made up of a great bunch of girls and everyone had fun. Between softball, riding and school, the Nutters remained a very busy family.

By the time softball season ended in late April, Cassidy was already signed up for her first dressage show in two years. Gigi didn't ride in the Greater Atlanta Dressage Southern. Instead, she played the role of horseshow mom grooming, schooling and coaching. Her voice quivered as she called tests for Cassidy. Hannah proved that Gigi made the right decision keeping the mare when the pair earned a 67.8% at Training Level. Competitors and friends complemented Cassidy on her mature approach to competition.

cassidy_haltsmile_2x3_100dpi.jpgBased on the success of the first competition, Cassidy and her mom went to the June show at Poplar Place. Cassidy only needed one more score to earn a trip to the regional championships. A 63.6% ride on Saturday was enough to qualify Cassidy and Hannah for the finals. Through hard work and determination Cassidy has reached the goal she stated nine months earlier. Gigi was proud beyond words and told her that her efforts merited a trip to the championships.

Everyone worked hard through the summer. Merichase Farm hosted Gigi for another Adult Camp and Cassidy participated again. By the time the Fall Good Horseman's show rolled around in September, Cassidy and Hannah were working well as a team. It was a large show with big classes but the twelve year-old girl on the black, grade mare held their own. They made their debut at First Level scoring 63% and 66%.

In mid October Mom, Dad and Cassidy headed to Florida with Vinny and Hannah in tow. When Cassidy saw the size of the show and quality of horses a bad case of butterflies set in her stomach. The First Level warm-up test didn't go as well as planned. When Saturday's championship class started Cassidy commented about the age of the riders and the warmbloods they rode. The Junior/Young Rider division includes rider up to age twenty-one. hannah_2007reg3_3x2_120dpi.jpg

Cassidy went down centerline with as much confidence as she could muster.  Hannah was not on her best behavior and refused to trot in one corner resulting in an error of course. Cassidy composed herself and finished the test as if nothing happened. Leaving the ring her eyes welled up and Gigi told her to wait until she got back to the stable. In the tack stall the tears streamed as pent up emotions released. The test still earned a 60.4% resulting in a middle-of-the-pack finish.

Heading home Cassidy's parents reminded her of how far she had come in a relatively short time. Anyone who wants to continue to compete has to understand that not every show will be a great success.

Cassidy continued to ride Hannah but reached a point where Gigi felt she could handle a larger horse. Legacy in Gold is a Palomino Thoroughbred that has been a "back burner," project horse all his life. In 2008 Cassidy began riding Legacy and has fallen in love with the good-natured stallion. Hannah taught her how to be firm but fair with a temperamental horse. Those skills have proven useful in the work with Legacy. Some of Gigi's students are so impressed with her daughter's riding that they let her work their horses on occasion. Peggy Miles' gelding Lucky is given Cassidy the chance to feel upper-level movements like shoulder-in, haunches-in and half pass. With Lucky she has also ridden a more cadenced trot and even learned how to perform tempi changes. cassidylegacycanter_3x2_120dpi.jpg

School remains the priority but Cassidy's consistently earns A's in her seventh grade studies. Gigi loves homeschooling her daughter as well as teaching her the art of riding. The Nutter's barn brat is growing into a fine, young lady.