Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Catch-Up Post: Driving, Lessons, Vetwork, Kicking Addictions, and More

Let's try to break this massive thing down some, shall we? When I last left you guys, I had a very nice dressage session in the Happy Mouth,  a nice 3 mile light conditioning drive, and an uneventful lunge. That brings us to...

Sunday the 8th:
Another uneventful lunging day. I've pretty much canned the chambon at this point as it is only effective when she is super relaxed. As soon as she gets a little spiced up, she braces against it, and it just doesn't do anything except rub her chest while she zooms around with her head in the air. Kind of the opposite of effective. She was quite quiet today, in no small part thanks to the fact that she went galloping like a wild animal around her pen shortly before I got her out to work her. This usually makes a HUGE difference for her, as otherwise she gets the squealy bucks on the lunge when she canters. Lunging time is work time, not run-like-a-maniac time, so when run-like-a-maniac time happens pre-lunge, it is for the best.

Monday the 9th:
We had an AWESOME drive on Monday. She was just so *there* with her snaffle, and so very pleased by it that she was super ultra mega compliant. She is such a funny case... when she is pleased, she will do ANYTHING you ask, with ease. When something irks her, AKA a bit she doesn't like, she will fuss and fight and be a general hellion nonstop until you do something about it. We only drove for about 20 minutes, because she was just *that good* that I saw no reason to continue. Perfect 40m circles, and 20m circles, and looping serpentines and changes of direction, and lovely quiet transitions. What more can you ask for!

What are you looking at

Tuesday the 10th:
The mares had a vet appointment at 9am with Dr. H to get their Coggins, Rabies, and fecals done, and to give Pmare the pre-foaling once over. Dr. H took one look at P as she stepped off the trailer and went, "so when is she due? Tomorrow?" She is SO HUGE! We weren't even there for 15 minutes... maybe even more like 10. O got her Rabies, and I took P's home with me to administer with her pre-foaling vax. Both mares had completely clean fecals, so the plan for Pmare is to not deworm her again until the day she foals. I'm a deworming minimalist and only go based on what fecals tell me, plus hitting for tapes and encysted strongyles. O has had a clean fecal for almost 2 years now, and while P had strongyles when I got her back from the bad lessee, we eliminated those quickly and she has had clean fecals for almost a year now. 
The plan for P: give her final Prodigy shot on the 15th (which I did), give her full set of shots early to mid-March, and start watching her. 320 days is March 24th (she'll be officially full term at that point). 340 days is April 13th. She could in theory go all the way to May if she really felt like it but I highly doubt she'll make it that far! She is extremely happy at the moment - very comfortable, totally happy in her job of eating and eating some more, and looks great.

So shiny!
80 degrees.... warm, dirty, and sleepy.
Give me a cookie or the gate gets taken down!

Wednesday the 11th:
Today was another conditioning day - slowly ramping it up to 4 trotting miles today. It's easy work for her, and for Training level HDTs/CDEs we don't need to be terribly fit, but I think it is important to break up dressage-type work and be able to trot down the road on a loose rein. She was a lovely girl, and it was a super nice day, warm with a very light breeze and not much happening out on the road (always a good thing).

Thursday the 12th:
I was going to do a dressage day, but I had signed up to trailer to Denton and take a lesson on Saturday, so I decided I needed to do something lighter and then give her Friday off. We opted for another lunge, which was very short and sweet - she was quiet and amicable, which are my two favorite flavors! No need to do any more than a short lunge, if she was perfect.

I decided I like driving enough that I am actually letting the top of her tail grow out instead of pulling it! She has a horrible tail but I am pretty good as disguising it, being the Tailmasta and all.

Friday the 13th:
O had her day off, which was perfect seeing as I worked all day long and didn't get to the barn to feed until dark. I hadn't even cleaned my harness yet for my lesson in the morning! The evening took a turn for the weird when I tried to leave and go home (to have a nice dinner date with Future Hubs for Valentine's Day) and realized my keys were gone. My phone was dead, it was pitch black out, and my keys were not in their usual place - the spot I always put them so that they don't fall out of my pocket and get lost around the barn. A really frantic and fruitless search led me nowhere for two hours - the keys were just NOWHERE to be found. I was almost out of ideas when suddenly it occurred to me that the neighbor's puppy had stolen my driving cones last week and had hidden them in the neighbor's garage. Could it be possible that the puppy had stolen my keys? Turns out, yep.... the puppy had taken my keys, gone all the way back to her house, and hid them in her garage.
Friday the 13th certainly lived up to its reputation.

Saturday the 14th:
Valentine's Day went awfully well if you ask me! I was up early to clean my harness (finally), let the horses eat breakfast and their alf, loaded up the beast, and headed out. O is silent on the trailer and well behaved, but she never touches so much as a mouthful of food when underway, so I try to stuff her full of hay before and after trailer rides, as well as give Ulcergard and Pro CMC if we're going to be away for any period of time. She'd be eaten from mouth to butthole with ulcers if I didn't stay on top of it, I can tell you that much.... so I tend to be pretty overboard with it. Better safe than sorry I figure.
I've spent an awful lot of time trying to make O a solid citizen, as everyone here has seen, but I sometimes still worry that she'll act like a fool whenever we go somewhere new and do something totally different. I've only ever driven her in *her* cart, and at home, aside from the times we went to WD for those fall shows - and she had been to WD a billion times before. This time, we were going to a brand new indoor, using someone else's cart. Would she be a total idiot? Freak out and spook? Kill us all?
Turns out, I didn't need to be worried at all. She walked in like she owned the place, stood placidly in the crossties for tacking, and waited for us while we chatted. G decided to long line her first, just to see where she was (I told him to treat us like rank beginners!). We started with some softening exercises, getting her to yield and drop her head. She picked it up pretty immediately, and would drop her nose right to the ground and stay there, as you can see:

I long lined her for a few minutes, and G has me shorten and lengthen her stride at the walk, as well as place her in several different spots (lengthened out, at the vertical, behind the vertical, bent left, bent right, etc) to help her learn that she is to go out wherever the bit is and stay there. After this, we took her back in the barn, hooked her up, and took her back into the arena. We both took turns driving her, and worked on moving laterally in both directions, spiraling in and out on circles, trying to achieve parking one wheel and getting her to move the cart around it on a pivot. You guys have actually seen me do this a lot, if you've watched any of our videos over the past few months - it was something I guess I was intuitively doing already. I use it almost every drive, especially to the right - she likes to lock up and be stiffer to the right, so I always make sure to spend time parking my right wheel and pivoting around it. I had to laugh when I realized what we were going to be doing to help her be more supple, and told him I already do it a lot, and that it really does help! As it always does, it suppled her up considerably, and before long she was doing lovely little circles in both directions. He had me stop and back her up, which is something I have worked on in the past but stopped doing recently because she was starting to halt and then automatically back up (do not want!!). I had her go back a few steps, and then gave the reins to him so that he could show me how he wanted it to go more efficiently. That was when O decided to show a little more of her um, personality... which I had warned him about when explaining her quirks. She didn't understand his cues (I just taught them differently, so she knows my cues), and he clucked at her a few times. She is CRAZY sensitive to clucks, and then are a go forward cue to her, so when she felt his backwards pressure on the reins but a forward going cluck, she checked out, did the violent headshake, and tries to bull forward away from the pressure. After that, she would not give him one step backwards to save her life - he could have pulled on her til he tore her mouth off and she would not have given him one step.
G looked at me and went "wow, somebody really did a number on her!" You're telling me G... you're telling me.
We moved back off to do some more circles, and O was decidedly more agitated and a bit jiggy. I told him about how this is kind of the way she is - you push her a little bit, then back off and do something simple, and push her a little bit, and back off and do something simple. If she gets too frazzled or upset, which she does sometimes, I always go back to something she understands and chill her out, otherwise you'll just never get anywhere with her. Escalate and de-escalate. He clapped me on the shoulder and told me I was a good smart horsewoman, and that I had the right idea. We finished on a good note, and I definitely have some homework to work on!

They were awesome enough to take me out to lunch, and we had a great time. Back at the barn, G had me jump in the cart to work with him on a really nice Morgan, on a lot of the same principles - lateral work, suppleness, parking the wheel, lengthening and shortening. The Morgan was like driving a little hot rod - SO forward and strong but so fun. We also took him out into the field behind the property, where there were a number of roundbales set up like a cones course. They looked so narrow to me - how in the heck could we even fit through those?? You had to be accurate and you had to get it right. G taught me about driving the water hook of the saddle, which is the part where the overcheck hooks to, if you were to use an overcheck. That is pretty close to the area where your legs would be if they were on either side of your saddle, so he had me think of that as my legs and to steer that part of the horse instead of just the head and neck. (Oh wait duh, you do that in riding too...) If you steer the horse and you put that water hook right in the center of the two cones/roundbales, you'll clear them every time, even on super tight turns where it seems impossible. And he was right... we were flying around that field whipping between the roundbales, clean on every one. I had my go, and even though I brushed a few whisps of hay on a few bales, I was totally surprised to find that I was dead on almost all of the time, even at speed. It was awesome!

The golden loopy swirly hook in the center of the saddle.... yea, drive that part.
It was a great time, and I have another lesson set up in the near future. And have my homework to work on too!

The temps dropped and the rain came in. O had a few well-deserved days off while I worked and froze my tush off. I got off my habit of trying to do one driving-related thing every day, so I am back on that as of today! P got her final Prodigy shot on Sunday.... now the countdown to her full set of shots begins, and then THE BABY COMES!

Pmare, shedding... and sagging. Big time. That's her entire winter coat right there... that's all she ever grows!

Wednesday the 18th:
O got back to work today with a very nice lunge. We did our suppling exercises pre-work like we did with G on Saturday, and I was pleased to find that she retained all of that and immediately complied. I also went ahead and roached her mane again today - this will give her two months to grow a nice new roach in. It was getting sort of out of control, and a roach only really stays nice for about half a year (with regular trimming of course) before it starts to flop around and look stupid. O's was definitely at that point, so off it went. Poor thing looks like a funny looking orange mule, but it will grow back... hopefully sooner than later.

Meet my new mule!

As a bonus, somewhere mid-week last week:
Sometime last week - can't remember which day it was - I was poking my belly and feeling really irritated with the weight I have gained since I moved to TX. I'm not *fat*, not by any means, but I'm not the tiny little stick that I was when I moved here. I realized some time ago that I was drinking a HUGE amount of soda, every day. Like, a ridiculous amount. I was highly addicted and didn't want to stop, because that's how addiction works. Soda isn't exactly heroin or anything, but you get pretty hooked on it and then make up excuses as to why you don't need to quit it. I don't even know what the last straw was, or if there was a last straw, but I decided I just needed to *stop.* So... I did. I just quit soda, cold turkey. I'm not going to lie, I wanted to just flat out die the first day. I think I must have been living in a state of constant dehydration from all the soda though, because I plowed through almost 2 gallons of water the first day, and the second day as well. My body seems to have leveled off a bit, but I probably looked ridiculous as I stood there chugging my 5L giant bottle of water like a camel at an oasis. I was really goddamn thirsty.
Future Hubs says I look thinner already. I don't know about that, but I feel a little bit better. I'm past the hump of craving soda, and have just been drinking water instead. I'm not going to 100% say no to soda forever - like if I go to the movies, I'm getting a giant bucket of popcorn and a big soda, because MOVIES - but I'm not going to slip back into old habits, because I just don't want to. It really is as simple as that, it's just a mind game. I just decided that I don't drink soda anymore, and voila... I don't drink it anymore.

I'm also working heavily on my bad calf, and I think I have some answers. I first thought it was Achilles tendon, but with more experimentation and stretching, I actually think it is more muscle related instead (which is a relief). I think I just limped on this leg for so long that everything in the calf shortened in response. A LOT of stretching has been helpful, but I have to do it every single day, or else I feel it shorten right back up and lose flexibility. Massage and theraplate has helped as well, but not as much as the stretching. I have some KT tape on it today, and I actually think it has alleviated a fair amount of the pain, although it seems to limit my movement a bit. Next up to try: foam rolling, although I feel like that is going to be hella painful.

Damnit though, I want to ride. I want this to be better. So therefore, I'm going to fix it, because I decided so.

Note angry red interior. And Toy Story PJs.

Phew!! I think I am finally caught up!


  1. Good luck with the soda thing. I've been addicted for over 40 years (at my high point I could drink a 12-pack in a day) and I keep telling myself I can have just one with a meal out or at the movies, and then a month later I am drinking three a day again. The longest I've gone is two years, and then I have one and it's a battle all over again. And the little voice telling me how good they taste never shuts up.

    Like I said, Good Luck!

    1. Sigh I know. I've quit cold turkey before and somehow I got back to this spot. I'm hoping to not let it get there again!

  2. Whew! Damn! That's an update! :) So glad you guys got out for a lesson, and it must have felt awesome to realize you were on the right track. Good trainer for listening to you when O was being a nutter.

    Soda will totally do you in. Good luck fighting the good fight. Addiction is all about mind over matter, you got this.

    Omg. Foam roll that calf. I have to do mine religiously, and it hurts so bad. In fact, I like to do it after a few glasses of wine so I don't care about the pain so much. But it helps immensely. If you think it's muscle related, definitely do that. It won't hurt if it's not muscle related either. But if it hurts like hell, it's probably helping!!

  3. wow so many good things happening here!! it must be hugely reaffirming to go to your first lesson and find out that you've been solidly on the right track all along. cool that he let you drive a different horse too. glad you like G :)

    also - P looks fab and i'm super excited about that baby foal, and good job with the soda! i quit after dealing with chronic heart burn and have never looked back. and it's amazing - once youve been without it for a while, you start to lose some of the sweet tooth that comes along with drinking sugar all day every day. again - good luck!

  4. Foam rolling is brutal, but worth it! While you're at it, foam roll everything, you'll be amazed how many vertebrae will pop back into place...

  5. My addiction is diet soda but I also stopped cold turkey about a month ago. I have started drinking it again here and there but I haven't had more than one in a day so far.

    So cool to hear about your lesson and I can't wait to learn more about driving!

  6. scraping or foam rolling will definitely help! it hurts like a mofo but it's worth it!

  7. I could look at pictures of O lunging all day...

  8. I have been diet coke free for 79 days. It sucked at first... but now, I feel my taste buds changing, things are much too sweet. I still will have gingerale here and there in my vodak, but I try to stick to tonic. I use the Quit for Health app, it tracks how long I have stopped drinking soda and all the bad stuff that I am NOT putting into my body. You got this girl!

  9. I quit soda cold turkey... gosh, 10 years ago maybe? These days I'll have a sip now and again, but even after just one sip I'm like "this stuff is DISGUSTING." It also upsets my stomach something awful, so I just don't even go there any more. If I want carbonation, I go for a sparkling water instead.

  10. Sounds like the lesson was super productive!!

  11. Have you ever tried a Tiger Tail? It's the same idea as a foam roller, but it's kinda like a rolling pin. They work really well for leg soreness, I personally think even better than regular foam rollers. The website is here

  12. I love your attitude about everything like the soda, etc. I stopped drinking soda when I was twelve I think. Water is so much healthier! I still don't drink enough water though. I'm working on that. :-)

    I'm glad you had a great lesson! That sounds like so much fun!!!! It sounds like your trainer really listens and appreciate your horse for who she is.

    Good luck with the foam roller (not sure what that is). I hope you can get your leg healed once and for all!

    Cute mule! ;-)