Thursday, August 18, 2016

Mind Over Matter

Over the course of building a business, I have been through many phases of what time means to me, and what busy means to me. When first starting out and transitioning over from a full time job and some small time trimming, I had no time whatsoever, but I only had one horse. Eventually I had two horses, then three, then two again, and then one again, and back to two, and so on. I went from a full time job and small time trimming to a part time job and part time trimming, which inevitably opened up a large portion of free time. When I was not actively working on business building, I had tons of down time to ride and play and do whatever I wanted. I was broke then, but I did all right, and I knew I should enjoy all the time I had, because one day I would have the money instead of the time. The business grew over time, and my free time started to dwindle. I started to have to redefine what "available time and energy for pleasure horse pursuits" started to be. It used to be I would need a full day off to get some real horseytime in. Working days tired me out, and I didn't ride or work horses on those days for the most part. Then my time REALLY started to dwindle, and I realized that if I was going to have horseytime at all, I was going to have to just get over my tiredness at the end of the day and just do it. That was extremely hard for me at first, but I really put my mind to it, and now I get it done. It's not uncommon for me to go out and do 15+ horses, and then ride or lunge a few when I get home. My biggest limitations are daylight and drive time - if I have to drive all over the Metroplex, to get my quota of horses done, it takes significantly longer than if I get them all done in just one or two stops. Every day is different, which is one of the great appeals of my job. I get to see different people every day, take different routes, and have fresh things to work on and see. But I do have to spend some time planning ahead, so that I know for sure when I have time to work whoever needs to be worked. 

The babies take hardly any time at all, although they always take mental energy. The Zoodle Himself is doing extremely well, and continues to be incredibly friendly and kind. He loves people, loves scratches, and will always come over for a snuggle. I've ponied him twice off Pmare, and he continues to get even better at it - he tends to resist for a moment when we start something, then his second answer is generally always "yes" and he proceeds without issue. 

Get a pedicure lady

Dylan is the one who gets the most work, 4 days of riding a week if I can squash it in. This would not be ideal or workable if he was an event horse or a horse who needed a higher level of fitness, but for the time being it's completely achievable in my schedule. It requires me trailering out to ride, which is a rather timely affair. I also have the trouble of not being sure when I will have access to the arena lights at WD, as I tried to use them the other night and they didn't go on. Not good! I need those, and will really need them as the winter approaches. 

I think as I continue to get into more detailed things with Dylan, I'll start fleshing that out better in blogposts. I used to write so much in detail about the rides I would have with Gogo, and have done so much less of that now that I have a bunch of babies who are doing extremely rudimentary and simple things. There is only so much description you can go into when you say, "Groomed the baby. Picked her feet! She was good." But riding an upper level horse when there is SO much in the way of complicated and subtle communication going on... that deserves more fleshing out. 

I bit the bullet this week and rejoined all of the major organizations that I will need for showing - USEF, USDF, and IALHA. The 2017 season in our area starts in the fall, and we go through basically the entire year with shows on the calendar, although the majority of these are jammed up into the spring months when our weather is the best. It's a bit of a circus, trying to get all the paperwork together for this - these organizations all require notarized copies of our lease, which meant K had to go print them off, mail them to me, then I have to go get them notarized, and then send them in with fees paid. Dylan is thankfully lifetime registered with all organizations, so that's taken care of. As for working equitation, I'm a member of WE United and WEIAUSA, and intend to show, but probably my biggest goal is trying to get my silver medal with the USDF. I'll clinic this fall and possibly do some WE schooling shows - and next year, if all goes well, I have my eyes on much bigger prizes, like Pin Oak, Haras, and maybe even the Andalusian World Cup in Las Vegas, as well as the possibility of IALHA Nationals. There is a LOT between now and then, but the possibility of these looming in the imminent foreground is tremendous motivation to get my butt up and go ride, whenever I have the spare time.

Half pass left

Ugh he's so perfect I just love him so much

This doesn't mean I can't take a little down time to have some fun through. On Monday, I did something very different - I rode Dylan bareback and bridleless. I left a halter and lead rope on him, just to be safe in case we coudn't stop, but mostly I rode him in his neckrope. He steers beautifully, although stopping was not quite so easy. How many stallions do you know that somebody can just jump on them bareback and bridless and just go for a spin? He's a special dude, that's for sure. 

Ummm excuse me you're not paying enough attention to me

On the same day that I rode Dylan bareback, I also worked both Sriracha and Lendri. Lendri has basically been off for two months in the summer heat, and has had one lunge this past weekend. I long lined her on Monday, and then this happened...

She's hitched!

She wasn't fully hitched in this picture. The breeching is not on yet. But she is hooked via the traces and pulled the weight of the cart by herself. I approached this way differently than I did with O, who I first dragged a tire with, then put her in drag shafts, and then hooked her to Janky The Training Cart. With Lendri, her intelligence and reactions made me approach this differently. I think I'll approach it differently for every one that I break to drive. I certainly didn't just stick it on her and go - not at all. There was a lot of careful introduction, of leading her and rolling the cart next to her, and behind her, of placing her between the shafts to feel them, of pulling the cart along behind her with her in the shafts but not hooked. She did so well that by the end of everything, I had her pulling the cart by herself with full weight in the breastcollar, although not with breeching as I think that needs more desensitization - she might speed up and get fast when she feels it for the first time. As you can tell by her expression, she was not terribly bothered by the entire ordeal. 

9 months ago, she was at the kill pen and so wild that I almost couldn't wrangle her onto my trailer. I can't believe how far she has come!!

Speaking of wild, Sriracha was not terribly good this week, but here she is lunging with harness and bridle: 

We need much work with acclimating her to the bridle. It took her two seconds to figure out how to flip her tongue over it, which then pinched her tongue and made it bleed. That's not exactly the best way to teach a mule that the bit is not a bad thing. This snaffle is an eggbutt with a double jointed copper alloy mouthpiece, so it's about the nicest thing I could put in there, but I may need to look for something else. 

Despite all that, she sure is fancy isn't she? 

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Baby School

The babies are all doing well in baby school. Working babies is one of the most fun things ever.... I'm not sure which I enjoy more, working my schooled horses or playing with the blank slates. Sure, the babies do dumb baby things with regularity, but the feeling of developing them just the way I like the is super rewarding. I wish I had gotten my hands on the mules when they were newborns - the difference in their reactions and Pax's reactions to new things is 100% different. Obviously part of that is due to their mule-ness, but Pax's completely trusting nature and total relaxation about basically everything I throw at her definitely has something to do with being reared from a little tiny tot. The one thing she can be slightly weird about is the inside of her ears, which I attribute to me not working with them enough. I think I've moved pretty far beyond stripping the hair out of ears... they need that hair, even if they are showing. I'll snip off the old man hairs or put on an ear bonnet, but I don't think I'll ever clip ears again unless it's for a HUGE show somewhere. 

Pax has been wearing saddle pads with regularity since she was little (and once, a saddle and girth!), but she wore a bridle and bit for the first time the other day. She opened her mouth to pick the bit up by herself, and then was completely unphased after her preliminary baby-mouthing of it. She went and just kept on eating hay. 
She'll need to wear a bridle for the 2 year old in-hand FEH classes next year, should we choose to do them, so no time like now to start getting her used to it!

Everybody loves the sweet iron snaffle

Sriracha continues to get better and increasingly friendly. She also has developed a bit of a spicy attitude that matches her name - she's pinned her ears and snapped at me once or twice in the field, when she comes over and doesn't feel like she's getting the attention she deserves. That doesn't fly around here, which she is also learning. 
She now picks up all four feet, and I've trimmed all four as well. She wears a harness and is lunging and learning her walk-trot-whoa commands. I like being able to teach them lunging myself, as they learn to actually walk and whoa on the lunge. She has also worn a bridle once, which she'll do more of in the near future. 

Look at this creamy ear.... what a funky color! 

He might be smokey black... his mother was a buckskin and his father was a zebra, so who knows really? 

Fun fact about donkeys and a lot of hybrids: they don't have rear chestnuts! Some of them do, but many don't. Out of my four, only Sriracha has tiny rear chestnuts - the rest do not, and their front chestnuts are wide and fat like a donkey. 

He's so easy for a zebroid! He definitely has some zebra moments, but he's more like a horse than anything for the most part. He's even easier than the mules - he takes corrections really well, and figures things out ridiculously fast. I know he has been lunged in a roundpen, and worked in long lines, but I do things a little differently in that I don't turn my horses when lunging - I stop them, manually turn them, and then send them off again. He tried several times on the lunge to hit the brakes and turn himself around, but it only took a few corrections until he got the point, stay on the circle! He is completely fine with the harness, and has worn a bridle three times now. 

What is this crap in my mouth

I still can't get over how friendly he is. Here and there, he'll show a little zebra, but for the most part he always comes right over for scratches and kisses. He likes people and he wants attention, which is so rare for these guys. I intend to keep fostering that in him, because I don't want to lose it! 

Alas Pax is still the boss.... nobody can oust her as top boss B. 

The Zu won't do much lunging, as he's just a babe, but wearing a bridle is important as he'll also be learning more about long lining and steering with a bridle. And look who got back to work yesterday - Lendri! She's been off for two months, seeing as it's just been way too hot and I've had too many others to work. She picked up right where we left off with no problems whatsoever. She's about ready to start dragging a weight!

Friday, August 12, 2016

Saddle Fitting and Pilates

It's been a very busy week over here. Dylan is back in work and doing great, I'm up to my armpits in clients this week, and I also have the babies to all work! Oh, and did I mention it's been nearly 110 degrees every day this week? 

Last Saturday, I finally (after months) managed to wrangle down the closest Schleese saddle fitters, who thankfully were already coming to WD for the weekend to do fittings. The Schleese is not mine, it belongs to K and was custom fitted for Dylan many years ago, so it came with him when he came to Texas. It took me 6 months until I could ride in it without feeling like my legs were going to break off at the hip (I need a SUPER narrow twist to accommodate my issues), but have grown fond of the saddle over time. Dylan has changed a ton since he has been here, so I wanted to make sure everything was suitable for him still.

The fitter herself is actually an alum from my college! She graduated a year before I started and we knew the same horses and professors... how about that. They took a million measurements of Dylan, watched me ride in the saddle, and then took it to change the tree and reflock some bits of it. The technology of Schleese has changed a lot in the past 10 years, so they of course wanted to sell me a new $5000 saddle... I politely declined. 

That said, after we put the saddle back on and went back in the ring, there was a HUGE difference in both the way I was sitting and the was Dylan was going. He felt so much freer in his shoulders in the canter - and he has tons of freedom up there already - and I was sitting in a better spot. Everything felt so much better! It was amazing how just these little adjustments changed everything so much. 

I'm pretty sure that guy knew I was creeping a picture

Also, I think it's safe to say that Dylan is a very good boy, because people continue to do things like lead their horses right up to him or next to him, despite every saying "that's a breeding stallion please don't do that!" He of course talks to them and wiggles around but does not flip out or go for the other horse, thankfully. Good boy. 

He feels really, really good. His leg is staying down, he is sound, and he is getting his fitness back. 

My plan is to take him out at 4th this winter. I am extremely anxious about this, as it's my own 4th level debut and I also haven't shown in a rated USDF in nearly 10 years. I don't really have any interest in doing schooling shows - if I'm going to spend my money on showing, I'm going to make it count by god. 


Speaking of fitness, on the same day as the saddle fitting I tried something new - a pilates class geared specifically towards the dressage rider. I've done a lot of yoga, but never pilates and I wasn't sure if my body could handle it. To my surprise, I did better than I expected I would! I have more strength than I realize. The class's main objective was to bring awareness to the core, and how to specifically isolate and use the lower abs. I REALLY learned a lot in terms of engaging those lower abs and lengthening my lower back. My seat sometimes alternates back and forth between sitting well in my truck but then rounding my shoulders and slumping up top, to sitting ramrod straight up top but then getting a bit swaybacked and off my seatbones. Getting both of those things together at the same time is hard ya'll. But applying this new knowledge to my saddle time is going to be super helpful. 

I have a lot more to catch up on with the babies... but that will take another blog entry for sure! In the meantime, here is the one and only looking completely perfect and excellent and beautiful: 

I miss working her, but she's enjoying her downtime for sure. 

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Hybrid Fascination

My newest little kiddo is here!! As usual, there is quite a long story behind why and how he ended up in my herd. 

Handsome child with a fresh haircut

You're probably thinking, "you're kidding, she brought home yet another critter?"

You're right. I totally did. But this was an opportunity that I just could not pass up, so let me explain.

You all know my love of hybrids is VERY strong. I could almost see myself never getting another horse again, just continuing on with hybrids - that's how into them I am. I love my horses of course, more than anything - but the hybrids are just incredible. I LOVE them. 

My interest in hybrids is of course not just limited to mules. I'm equally as interested in zebroids, but with more skepticism. I love donkeys and if I had lots of land would certainly have a few. I think zebras are pretty cool but I never, ever in my life would want one. Many zebra hybrids inherit the nastiness of their zebra parent - they can be aggressive, bite, kick, strike, and be generally disagreeable. Zuul was not any of those things, but he was completely unfriendly unless it was on his own terms, and the less handling he got the less friendly he was. Again, if I had many acres I would have kept him, but I have limited space and if they are here then they need to have some kind of redeeming quality or usefulness. Sounds kind of mean when I write it down like that, but I just don't have the space for useless hayburners unless they've earned their uselessness, like Darby. Zuul was also not social and I did not have room to fairly keep him housed alone, so it was a good thing to rehome him to someone experienced with his stripey kind. 

But that did not dampen my interest in zebroids. In finding Zuul, I also got dropped right into the middle of the fairly small zebra/zebroid community, and became acquainted with many good people. One of these is a breeder in Michigan, not too far from where I grew up, and not long after I got Zuul I mentioned to her that I might be interested in one of hers one day, since I didn't think Zuul was really going to be capable of what I was wanting to do with him (drive). I happened to notice that one of her clients was selling a little zony, one that she had bred and raised, and I commented that he would be a really nice little driving prospect. 

And that started the ball rolling.

I had special specific criteria I was looking for in a zebroid. I was not out to just get any old one, not by a long shot, and I was prepared to casually peruse for as long as it took to get everything I wanted. I wanted something I could specifically break to drive and show. As it so happened, Zazu had all of the things I was looking for.

1) I wanted a small size - something pony size, small pony if possible. I did not want a big riding size zorse. 
2) I wanted something built suitably enough to withstand sport, not just be a cute pasture pet.
3) I wanted something specifically temperament bred - something that was bred on purpose to be friendly. Friendliness is not common in zebroids so it takes a special zebra to pass that on. 
4) I wanted something that had been raised carefully and started the right way. 
5) I didn't want outrageous, outlandish stripes. I wanted something subtle but still eye catching, just not totally shocking. I have a feeling that outlandish striping might be a negative when it comes to conservative judges - if they're biased, it won't help anything. You hope it doesn't matter, but you know that sometimes it does. 

He had all of those criteria. He was bred specifically from good friendly stock, and raised carefully and correctly. He is little - a bit over 11 hands. It's impossible to say what color he really is - zebras pass on their own funky genes, after all - but he's very dark and shiny, and up close you can see those stripes really popping. It's very hard to capture the stripes on camera. In many of my pictures, he looks just pitch black - but you can see them in person really well, or if they're highlighted with a photo filter. 

The original plan was to have Pax sold first and foremost before I made any commitments to anything. I told them I couldn't make a decision about anything until that happened, so I understood if he sold to somebody else in the meantime. 

Several people made offers. Some of them even looked up shippers and committed to buying him, then vanished. The breeder mentioned more than once that she thought it surely was destiny that he end up with me, because time and time again the buyers would fall through. 

Then my buyer fell through too. I told the breeder that there just wasn't any way it would happen, because the whole thing was contingent on that sale. But the breeder and owner wanted this to happen, so they made me an offer that was more than generous, in order to make it work. 

And now, he is here. My cup runneth over. 

The haybelly is strong with Uma. Don't worry she's had 592059593 clean fecals and dewormings... she just gets to get older so she can go into work and lose the gut.

Hybrids, hybrids everywhere!

She deserved it

Future tiny dressage prospect!

Could she be sassier. What a moole!

He is beyond what I could have hoped for. He is super friendly, quiet, and social. He is easy to catch, ties, leads, and does quite a lot of other things to boot - all the basics any 2 year old should do. He comes over for scratches and petting already, which is so much more than any of my mooles did when I first got them. He's a complete cakewalk in comparison to them. 

And he loves to drink out of the hose. How cute is that!

Inevitably, when I start talking about my beloved little hybrids, I usually get a small assortment of "why?"s. People tell me they don't get it, they don't really understand the point and they don't know why I do it. Really, I only have one answer to the whys: Why the hell not?

I don't really care what people think of my interests. I'm pretty stone now when it comes to defending the things I choose to spend my money on - they bring me enormous joy and they are useful to what I want to do, so what is even the question here? It used to upset me when people would be negative about it, but not anymore. I don't get hunters, gaited horses, or western pleasure, but people do it and enjoy it, and it isn't my money paying their bills, so why should I feel like I have a say in their joy? (Well, except maybe western pleasure. I'm pretty sure there is no joy in that discipline.)

So if you're sitting there going, why? That's basically the only answer I have for you. Because they're great, because I can afford it, and because I love them. And life is too short to not enjoy yourself, so get out there and just do you. Just do you people! Do whatever makes you happy, because in the end that's all that matters anyway. 

Monday, August 1, 2016

August Goals!

I've been a bit bad about setting and keeping my goals on paper. I've been doing plenty of that around the barn by myself, but writing them down is what keeps me accountable and on track. I haven't written any goals down since May! Long gone are the days when I used to obsess over every little goal I set for Gogo, although I think I'm a bit mentally more healthy for it now, if not a bit less organized.

As before, I'm still trying out this new method of writing down just a couple big monthly goals for each horse instead of having 5 or 6 goals for each. Not every horse is working, and the horses that are working are often all going at the same time, so this keeps me a bit more focused.


O-Ren August:
1) Go on ponying hacks with Dylan 1x a week (if Dylan is going well)
2) Continue to be a big fat relaxing preggo momma horse!

Dylan August:
1) Carefully ease back into work - and keep a VERY close eye on the leg, making sure to cold hose and poultice after workouts
2) As we ease back into work, start putting together 4th level and Intermediate (WE) level dressage tests
3) Construct some WE obstacles - a gate, a bell, etc, to practice with in addition to the others!

Lendri May:
1) Ponying off Pmare! Lendri is a fat little snausage who is currently off working duty, so she still needs her exercise!

Pangea August:
1) Continue using her as a pony horse for the babies - and go on some trail rides as she gets fitter!

Pax August:
1) Be ponied from her mother regularly! Go on some trail rides - perhaps even trail rides off property!

Uma August:
1) Continue general handling and "baby school" - getting her better about dealing with being brushed which she is not very fond of!

Sriracha May:
1) Continue to learn about lunging (walk, trot, whoa) in the roundpen
2) Go on little neighborhood walks for desensitization
3) Learn more about wearing a bridle, harness, and leg boots
4) Trim all 4 feet


So basically it boils down to this: they ALL have a job, and they're ALL getting something done with them at least weekly. Some of them are getting worked a lot, some only once a week, and some of them have the job of growing a babe or even just growing up. But they all have a projected path, and a job of some sort.

Also... remember when I said there was a surprise 2 year old coming to my house soon? He's on his way now...!

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Dylan Leg Update

Dilly is almost 3 weeks out now from his check ligament injury. I had the swelling knocked out in a week, completely ditched all wrapping about a week and a half into it, and have been cold hosing and poulticing ever since. I've started putting his fly booties back on during the day (since he is a princess and needs protection from those nasty wasty bugs), and poulticing at night without bandages. This seems to have worked well, as the leg has stayed down and tight and cool. 

I took him in for an ultrasound yesterday between clients, and nervously watched him jog even though I knew he was sound. And, he was sound, and moving even better than he had been when Dr. H looked at him last time. Dylan has a bit of that Spanish paddle when he moves, but in Dr. H's opinion, he was now bringing that foot back underneath him better and more solidly, whereas before he was landing on it slightly less underneath himself. I can't fault the man's eye, even I didn't see that. 

Just hangin' out, gettin' fat

The ultrasound looked great. It was a clearer picture now that all the swelling had gone, and the check ligament looks great. However, there are a couple of small adhesions there which Dr. H thinks probably have been a chronic thing that developed over many years of hard work - not all that uncommon in a 15 year old upper level horse who has been working his entire life. What probably happened given his very shortlived little lameness and swelling was he tore an adhesion loose, had soreness and swelling, and then it resolved and off he goes. 

Despite that, I'm going to keep an EXTREMELY close eye on that leg as we ease back into work. Hopefully tomorrow (if it isn't 958530959684302 degrees by the time I am done working) I will get back on and see how he feels with just some walk and trot work. Cross your fingers!

Friday, July 29, 2016

Oink Oink

JenJ just posted about the weird thing that wandered onto her property recently. I too have had a weird thing wander onto our property recently... and it's still here!


There is this fat pig that has been wandering around our neighborhood for some months now. I keep seeing her here and there, and I was starting to wonder if she was a potbelly pig that got dumped when she got too large. (That "teacup" pig fad where people buy little piglets and assume they're going to stay tiny forever... they don't stay tiny!)

One day, she wandered up my driveway. Much to my surprise too - I was outside doing chores, and all of a sudden there was this pig wandering towards me. I was completely surprised by this - what pig wanders if it is taken care of? There isn't another driveway close to ours, not really. She had to wander a fair way to get up to our driveway. But once here, she made it quite clear that she had no intention of leaving again.

I gave her a little mud hole, some fresh water to drink, and some veggies. Her back was sunburned and the skin cracking, so I put some lotion on her and let her go wallow in her mud for awhile. Apparently, to a pig this means "welcome to the spa, make yourself at home." And she stayed. 

I left the gate open, so she could go home. But she did not go home. She stayed. For days.

I finally managed through a series of complicated events to track down her owner. She lives several houses down from me, quite a long ways from where my driveway entrance is. She was just as surprised as anyone when she realized where she was and how far she had wandered. They took her home, and I thought that was that, although I really like pigs and had enjoyed her time with me so much that I considered adopting one of my own. Like I need any more animals...!

And then, last week, she came back.


She couldn't get in through my no climb, so she sat in my neighbor's yard (we share a fenceline) all day and complained. She finally actually broke through my no climb - no, seriously! - and let herself back onto my property. That's a determined pig!

I texted the owner, and she is out of town right now. The pig was supposed to be home with her husband, but apparently the pig doesn't like the husband, so she ran away from home to come back to our house. And I use the term "ran" pretty loosely... more like, shuffled her morbidly obese self over to our house. The husband had no idea she was even missing, even though she had been gone for a full day. 

The owner won't be back for at least another week, so I guess we're pig sitting? 

Oh yea... did I mention they're super destructive? We're graveling the carport and she has decided that the carport is her home, and this landscaping fabric was in her way. 

Although I don't know why they've even bother to pick her up at this point... she's just going to run away again and come back to our house and break down our fence again!