Joe Bear & Paula - Competing Together!
August 4, 2008
I know it has been a while since I have given an update so it
is time to catch up. Sorry it's a novel!
September '07 - We had our first overnight adventure
at Big Bear. Unluckily enough, that night a terrible storm moved
through and poor Joe got soaked in his stall. The next day he
was very unsettled, but we somehow managed to hold it together
through the dressage. Stadium...that's a different story...Eventhough
there were huge monsters at every jump waiting to bite Joe
when he got close, we made it around. Cross-country went well
once we made it TO the first jump. Once over that, he ran clear
over the course. It was a rough weekend, but many lessons learned.
After that we took the winter off. Primarily to focus on selling
our house, but also because I hate the cold! Turned out to be a
bad idea...When we ventured out again this year, Joe had lost the
mind set of getting off the farm and it was like starting all over
Joe Bear June 6, 2008
June '08 - We participated
in a jumping clinic with Imtiaz
Anees. We did grid lines of smaller
jumps with many canter poles inbetween. Joe had no problem with
the jumps, but definitely struggled over the poles. It was difficult
for him to find his rhythm and striding. After a few tries he figured
it out and I felt the difference. Since that clinic all I have
been working on are canter poles and small jumping grids. He seems
to be significantly better at it now and a lot more confident overall.
I highly recommend this kind of work!
July 12, 2008 - We
were up at 4:15am to head to Oxer Farm. Joe Bear was much calmer
and more focused compared to the previous events and I credit this
to my then recent lesson with Karen McGoldrick. We worked on getting
Joe to bend correctly around my leg and used repetitive exercises
to get him to focus and relax. I applied what I learnt in the lesson
to my warm up and it made a huge difference! The dressage test
went very well. Stadium was next and I had flashbacks of Big Bear.
I chose to trot to the first jump to gain confidence and from there
it was smooth sailing. Joe was in a totally different frame of
mind. All our lessons and new exercises are really paying off!
July 19, 2008 - Poplar Place CT schooling show. We arrived
and I put Joe in the stall and went to get his hay and buckets.
When I got back he was calling out and sweating like I had deserted
him for hours. My first thought was, "This is going to be
a very bad day..." I took him out to look around and found
a huge flat area where he could see the competition arenas and
lunge. It worked perfectly as his tenseness immediately dissolved.
An hour before my ride time I began to get ready. I wanted a long
warm up because that does me as much good as it does him! The test
was not too bad, but I felt it was a little tense. The arena felt
There wasn't much time after that before the jumping so we warmed
up over few jumps and went in for our stadium. Again Joe jumped
happily and boldy. What a relief!
To finish the day, I went out to school cross-country. I introduced
him first to the water jump, which he loved, then we went out on
the course and jumped anything that didn't look too scary. He was
ready to try anything! What fun!
While hosing him off after we got back they announced the results
and to my amazement, Joe and I had won a blue ribbon! I found out
that they had split the class because of the number of entries
and I won out of my "group." If I took all scores into
account, we would have placed third with only 1 penalty point behind
the leader! So it turned out to be a very GOOD day.
Lessons are going to continue as much as possible and we are planning
on a show at least once a month. I cannot wait to see how Joe does
once I can have him going at shows like he goes at home!
May 4, 2008
Joe Bear at the Poker Rider for Westbrooke Farm. May 4, 2008
April 22, 2008 - Happy Birthday Joe Bear!
March 16, 2008
I planned to do some jumping with Joe a couple weekends ago, so
I went to the arena first and built a line of three jumps. There
was a bounce to a single stride combination. The goal was to get
Joe to slow down and use himself over the jumps.
Elizabeth generously spent some time with me, helping with the
jumps and taking pictures.
We started with warm up heights and Joe rushed through them a
little. Elizabeth placed some ground poles in the middle and after
the last jump and started raising the jumps. This made Joe slow
down and try harder. We then eliminated the bounce and just had
the one stride combination with both jumps as 2’6” spreads.
He worked through this very well, but in the pictures we could
see that he still wasn’t tucking his front legs up enough.
Elizabeth added a third rail to the second jump to put it at 3’.
The jump was now 3’ high and about 5’ wide.
We entered the combination as before and going over the first jump I got an “up
close” appreciate for the size of the second one. For Joe and I, this
was big. By far the widest jump we have ever jumped. I don’t know what
Joe was thinking, but I immediately grabbed some mane and as graciously as
possible stayed with him as he powered himself over it. He was very bold and
never blinked an eye!
We went over the combination again, this time knowing what to
expect and again Joe took it without any hesitation. It was a wonderful
feeling and I think he really enjoyed it. Finally I had challenged
That night I could go home and look at all the pictures, stride
by stride over the jumps and learn from them. I feel like our form
is improving, but there is still much work to do!
December 21, 2007
Merry Christmas and Happy
New Year from Joe Bear and Paula!
August 18, 2007 - Joe Bear's first 3-Phase
Foxbury Farm - Dallas GA
Joe Bear's debut into “full scale” 3-phase eventing
was on August 18th 2007. It was an amazing experience! Friday night
I headed out to get him ready and braid his mane. While this was
optional, I didn’t want to risk being the only one not braided.
Thankfully they turned out alright because I haven’t braided
since I was 13 years old!
Saturday morning was a very early one as we got up at 4am. There
were 70 entries for the show and they were scheduled to start
We were one of the first to arrive and all competitors
had to park in the pasture under the trees. We unloaded Joe and
let him eat hay tied to the trailer. Trucks, trailers, people and
horses buzzed around us and Joe just casually watched them as
Dressage was at 8:10am. The judges tent was literally AT “C” and
every other letter had a big white flower box. Thankfully the judge
let us bring the horses in to see everything before the test as
there was no room to ride around the outside perimeter. This opportunity
really helped since Joe was concerned about all the new things.
The test was a little tense at times, but overall it went well.
Our score put us in the middle of the field.
Joe Bear ate up the course like he had been doing it for
years, getting faster and bolder as he went.
On the cross-country I had intended to take my time around the
course, but the ex-racehorse under me had a different idea. He
ate up the course like he had been doing it for years, getting
faster and bolder as he went. I now know why I see people riding
in strong bits for this phase!
As we approached jump #5, the rider in front of me had fallen
off and the whistle blew. Not knowing what to do, I pulled
up to stop. I was told to continue, but by this time we had
lost momentum and the next jump was right on top of us. We
ended up having to circle and approach again. We had one more
stop after that. An unexpected one due to inexperience again,
but after that we sailed through the rest of the course perfectly.
Even with the slow down and two stops, we still finished under
time with no penalties. We may need to watch our speed in the
The show jumping was the most difficult. The arena was tight with
10 jumps. There were many tight turns that we struggled with. We
didn't finish clean, but we did finish. I was thrilled that we
got through all three phases on our first time out. What a great
experience and I cannot wait for the next show!
I forgot to tell you that I even braided Joe Bear for his dressage.
All by myself on Friday night and he was so good. Never moved a
(PS the braids looked better when they were just done then in the
morning after he had RUBBED THEM! They stayed in though :) )
August 4, 2007 - Schooling at Big Bear
June 28, 2007
For the last two weekends, we have successfully taken Joe Bear
to a show by himself. Saturday, June16th was our first adventure
when we took Joe to Wills Park for a little Hunter/Jumper schooling
show. The day started extremely early for David and I as we got
up at 4:30am to head to the barn and get Joe ready.
He loaded into his trailer like a pro, getting us on the road
15 minutes earlier than planned. Warm up was a little hectic with
20 or more horses and riders in the arena at once, but Joe wasn’t
worried or upset by it in the least.
Joe Bear is proving that ex-racers CAN compete in dressage and
do very well.
The turn out of competitors was much higher than I expected, having
13 or more horses in each class. This made for long waits, but
good competition. Joe was a star and jumped everything clear without
any hesitation. We made it to the jump offs in both our classes
and finished with competitive times. In our second class, our time
earned us the 5th place ribbon!
Joe Bear is proving that ex-racers CAN compete
in dressage and do very well.
On June 24th we took him three miles down the road to Sonora Creek
Farm for a little dressage show. It turned out to be a great experience
all around and I am very happy with Joe’s performance. Our
scores were nothing to write home about, but our personal goals
Joe Bear was a little nervous when I started warming up and when
we first started circling the dressage arena, but as soon as he
entered at A, all his tension dissolved and he went beautifully
for the judge. He was so laid back actually, that she told me he
needed to work harder next time!
These were, my husband, David’s first shows too, as usually
he is just a spectator. It works out perfectly because he takes
care of the trailer while I take care of Joe. During the shows
he is either helping with Joe Bear or taking pictures and videos
of us. It is an enormous help having him there. Thank you!
June 2, 2007 - Joe Gets a New Trailer!
They say that buying the horse is just the beginning...It’s
true. BUT what is more fun than buying horse stuff!?
My husband David
now knows all about it and has the fever too. Ever since he took
the plunge in buying Joe Bear he has become actively involved
with everything horses. So much so, he is not satisfied watching
Joe laze around the barn. He is ready to see us compete. No
We began our search for a trailer a couple of months ago and
soon realized how hard it is to find what I wanted. Joe is a
big boy, and there are certain specifics that are a must. Straight-load,
walk-thrus with a ramp are hard to come by. One day I came across
a website with Hawk trailers. I fell in love with them. I did
continue to look around, but always came back to the Hawk.
Joe Bear gets a new Hawk horse trailer
from his dad David.
Eventually we decided it was the way to go and I found a
dealer in Greenville, South Carolina.
I was thrilled when the time FINALLY came to go pick it
up. Neither David nor I had driven with a horse trailer before
and our first experience was traveling 2 hours home on the
highway. Thankfully the trip went smoothly and we proudly
honked the horn to announce our arrival when we got back
to the barn.
I brought Joe Bear out to show him and he was very interested
in everything. He looked it over inside and out, and I believe
we have his approval. I am very excited to start getting around
and doing different events. It is going to be a fun year and
this success story page is about to get longer!
Paula & JB
Elizabeth's Note: OK
gentleman. David Gunnels has now raised the bar even higher! First
his wife a horse for Valentine's Day and now a horse trailer.
And, to top it all off, he is joining her a long romantic rides
in the forest. He
is a hero to every woman out there. Take a cue from David if you
want to add a little spice to your life!
April 23, 2007
Joe Bear's mom, Paula, wants to wish a Happy
Birthday to Joe
April 7, 2007
Happy Easter from Joe Bear, Paula and David.
Hey Elizabeth and Barry,
I just wanted to tell you about my Easter ride on Sunday.
Since David came to visit Joe that day, I didn’t want to
bore him with just “riding around in circles” (what
he calls dressage work) so I tacked Joe up in his jumping gear
and set out to do some jumping. I was glad to see some new jumps
set up for Easter. The different decorations and colors are great
experience for him.
While we were jumping, I noticed such an improvement to his confidence
level as he approaches the fence. He doesn’t feel like he
has to rush at it to get over. He just trots or canters up and
takes it in stride. Speaking of strides, we have not mastered that
yet. I plan to do more work approaching smaller fences, learning
to see the stride…when to lengthen and when to shorten.
It is definitely something you need to learn how to do. When we
do find the right spot it is wonderful.
Last night, when I came out to ride, even after all that jumping,
Joe didn’t have any stiffness. I am very excited! That chiropractic
maintenance work has really paid off for him. Thanks Dr. Cleveland!
When are we going to have another grid lesson?
JB and PJ THE Perfect Pair. BUMS OFF!!!
Joe Bear and Paula - Jumping for JOY!
March 4, 2007
Joe Bear and his mom Paula Gunnels. March
February 14, 2007 -
Click here to read more about the Valentine's Day surprise.
YES! Joe Bear is finally mine!!!! I have been waiting and praying
for this for the last 3 years. It was a long time to love something
so much and know that you can lose it at any time. Now, thanks
to the support and patience of Elizabeth and Barry, and of course
the love of my husband, my dream has finally come true!
Usually, buying the horse is the beginning of the adventure, but for Joe and me, our story has already begun. I came to Bits and Bytes Farm in June 2003. I had years of riding experience, but nothing of the type of experience I have gained here. The lessons I have learned are priceless. Of course riding young horses straight off the track was something totally new, but going beyond the riding, I have learned so much about how these horses change and mature over time. The secret with them is a one on one relationship, and a consistent training program. This makes such a difference. They literally become happier, quieter and more confident. Thoroughbreds are incredibly personal and when they love you, you will know.
When I was new to the barn, I would go in and walk straight past Joe's stall without even noticing him. He was quiet and reserved and stood in the shadows of his stall. I knew about him of course, and had seen Elizabeth riding him, but he never really caught my eye. Elizabeth loved him and always encouraged me to give him a try. Finally, one night I did. I immediately knew he was the type of horse I would like to ride because he responded to pressure from my legs and was soft in my hands. I felt he was a very “trainable” horse.
I had been working with Irish at this point and a few weeks later he was sold and moved to California. Elizabeth asked me who I would like to work with and Joe Bear was my choice. I didn’t realize at that point just how far that decision would take me. We began working together in December 2003 and we've been inseparable ever since!
Joe Bear and Paula - December 28, 2003
It did take us about 3 months to really "get along." He is a more sensitive horse and at first I struggled to learn how to ride him. Sometimes I even felt like he didn't like me very much. Slowly things improved. He taught me how to ride with softer hands and smaller aids and he learned to relax and accept the contact. It is amazing to me to remember back to how he used to go and compare it to now. When you are living it, it is easy to lose track of how much progress they actually make.
Joe Bear and Paula - March 14, 2004
As the months past, I became more and more attached and started worrying about people coming out to look at horses. Joe Bear, after all, was for sale. A few times I had to witness people trying him, with my heart in my throat. Thankfully none of them liked him enough to pursue it further.
Joe Bear and Paula - May 23, 2004
It was Barry who described him best when he said that Joe is "Cool and confident in who he is." He is a real gentleman with such a sweet nature. He has impeccable ground manners and is the same horse every time I ride him - whether I ride every day or only once a week. We joke and call him “THE Joe Bear” because he is so good at everything he does and always looks so elegant doing it. He is a real ladies man. Everyone at the barn loves him; people and horses alike. He no longer stands hiding in the corner of his stall. His head is out and looking around and waiting for attention. If I don't go and visit him first, I hear about it!
Joe Bear and Paula - January 1, 2005
Things began to get serious:
By the end of 2004, I had no doubt in my mind that this was the horse I wanted. There was nothing I could do about it though because my new husband and I were still trying to get ourselves financially stable.
Joe Bear and Paula at the Olympic Horse Park in Conyers, GA. - September 2004
Paula and Joe Bear compete in a horse show at Wills Park in Alpharetta, GA. April 2005
Joe Bear and Paula - May 29, 2005
In February 2005, I wanted to move a step closer to buying him so I asked Elizabeth if I could lease him, with the intent to purchase. I wanted her to know that I was serious...and I wanted to have him to myself. I loved every minute of leasing him, but there was always that fear that someone would come and want to buy him. I knew there were people interested and asking about him.
Joe Bear and Paula at Oxer Farm -October 2005.
For Halloween Joe Bear was dressed as Huge Heffner and Paula was his bunny. October 2005
Joe Bear and Paula - November 6, 2005
Often I felt I would never be able to afford him and I was heartbroken at the thought of having to give him up. But I kept hoping month after month and towards the end of last year things started to look up.
Joe Bear and Paula - September 6, 2006
My husband David and I began talking more seriously about buying him, and I was thinking at least a few more months from now. I never for a second thought that David would buy him for me so soon and surprise me with him like he did.
Joe Bear and Paula - September 6, 2006
The whole experience on Valentines Day was so surreal and I have re-lived it over in my head time and time again. It began the Wednesday night before Valentines when Elizabeth and I were riding. She suggested that we have a Valentines Party from the horses to all their favorite girls. She told me most of the friends of the barn had recently broken up with their boyfriends and this was something we could do to make them feel better. Of course I was on board. I love fun festivities with the horses. The idea was that everyone would dress nicely and take coupled pictures with their horses. It would be Prom all over again...only with better dates this time. When I told David that I wanted us to go to the barn for Valentines, he acted like he didn't like the idea. He did a good job pretending.
Allison and Brewster.
The day of Valentines I went to Party City at lunch and bought decorations. I knew we were having a "stage" for the photo shoot and we needed to decorate it. Nothing like unknowingly planning your own surprise party! I was one of the last to arrive at the barn that night and everyone was ready for the photos. They were going one by one to get their pictures taken. It wasn't hard pulling the wool over my eyes, even when Elizabeth told me to bring Joe last in case he broke something. I remember thinking it was weird, but it was only a fleeting thought…
David surprised Paula with the best ever Valentine's Day gift!
By the time it was Joe and my turn, everyone was standing around watching. Only some of my friends knew what was coming. Joe was a little nervous about the lights and activity and wouldn't put his ears forward for his pictures, so I asked David to get a peppermint to rustle the paper. Elizabeth went into the feed room to get "a treat" and came out with the infamous Red Ribbon and passed it to David. I saw it and froze. I knew what it meant, but I couldn't believe it. My mouth dropped open and I just stood there. I looked at Elizabeth for confirmation and she was teary eyed and grinning. I asked her, "Really?" She nodded. Then I turned to David and he was holding the ribbon out to me smiling ear to ear. I couldn't believe it was finally my moment. All I could do was hug him very hard and tell him thank you. When I put the ribbon over Joe's head and around his neck he never moved a muscle. It was like he was thinking..."It’s about time I got one of these!" He wore it proudly while everyone laughed and cheered and took pictures. It was an amazing moment. Joe was finally mine.
There is nothing like the love of a Thoroughbred.
Paula and Joe Bear.
Barry had prepared food for the occasion and we opened a bottle of champagne. It was a time to celebrate and I love the opportunity to share it with everyone. I cannot wait to see where the future goes from here. I know it is going to be so much fun!
Click here to read more about the Valentine's Day surprise.
~JB and PJ THE Perfect Pair. BUMS OFF!!!~
Joe Bear and Paula - January 15, 2006 Roll over the image to see Joe Bear's secret passion.
Photography by Elizabeth - creativity added by Marie vanRoekel. April 27, 2006
Joe Bear and Paula on a trail ride in January 2006