Thursday, February 21, 2013

Winter, I'm over you

This winter thing is realllllllllllllllllllllllly getting old.

I'm serious Mother Nature, I am tired of this crap. Every time I turn around it is either raining or freezing cold, and the few warm days that you've given us this month, it has been way too muddy and slippery to do anything useful at all. February is NOT going according to plan in the slightest. Immy should easily be going w-t-c by now, but without an arena or lights, I am severely restricted in what I can do when the weather gets nasty. Coupled with the fact that I have a more-than-full-time day job, an ever-growing trim business, enormous amounts of schoolwork as well as case studies and certification requirements coming up shortly, well.... it has been hard to get much done. To throw in some even more complicated twists, add in the dentist (and time off after it) as well as several days when she needed downtime to keep her mental state fresh. What's a girl to do?

Winter is a really terrible time to try and start a horse when you have no arena and no lights. (Which is why so many people start youngsters in the fall and then toss them back out for the winter to start again in the spring... give them a good base, kick them out to grow up over the winter, and then start fresh in the spring when there is less of a chance of everybody getting killed!) If I had a schooled horse, it wouldn't be so bad, and I could hack out down the road or on the trails, or trailer out to an arena to get some work done. With Immy, she is ready for neither, so I have to settle for what I can get. It hasn't been anywhere near the level of work that I want her to be at, but that's life, and there's really not much I can do about it. Nature is gonna do what nature is gonna do.

So far this week, we've squeezed in three lunge sessions with sidereins, inbetween bouts of freezing weather and serious sideways downpours. Just this morning, a squall blew in while I was feeding, and I scrambled to get the mares untied and free so they could run to their shed and wait it out. P apparently had other ideas, and decided it would be much more beneficial to lick Immy's bucket clean during the deluge, while Immy absolutely panicked and spun in circles as she was being pelted with freezing rain. The shed is 50 feet away, and is completely protected from the elements, but she just couldn't deal with the idea of leaving P's side for ONE second, even if it was to her complete and total detriment, so she whirled around in circles until she finally gave up and stood with her butt to the worst of it.

Sorry mare, you had the choice, and you made it...

Backtracking a bit.... Sunday was supposed to be a ride day, but between bunches of clients, feeding at the other barn, and the footing drying out from a previous rainstorm, she ended up having a day off instead. The same went for Monday - Future Hubs wanted to take me on a dinner date, and since we don't share a day off and hardly ever get to do anything nice like that, I of course went for it. Love is something you make time for, no exceptions... especially when you get so little time with each other as is!

Tuesday, it was back to work! It was getting dark by the time I managed to get my butt away from work and to the barn, but we squeezed in another lunge session before we completely lost daylight. I REALLY had wanted to ride, but a) two days off and a fresh hot mare aren't a great mix, and b) I had essentially no daylight left to work with. Oh well, you make due with what you have!

Not a great video.... and not to mention, as you can tell from her quick little stride, that the footing wasn't all that great. Ah well, it is what it is!

Wednesday, it hailed and sleeted on and off for essentially the entire day. I once again arrived at the barn as the sun was setting, shivering and soaked to the bone from a long day at work. I desperately wanted to get on P and pony Immy, but I didn't even have enough daylight left to haul out S's barrel saddle and bring it down to the barn before the sun was completely gone. I figured it wasn't too much of a loss, seeing as I was teetering on the verge of pneumonia anyway. The mares, on the other hand, were snug and warm under their blankies, and were perfectly happy to ride the elements out from the warmth and dryness of their shed. I couldn't complain as I got into my truck and blasted the heat the entire way home!

This morning, a horrible little squall blew in as I was feeding (see above). I figured there was no way the footing would be good enough for a workout of any sort tonight, but to my surprise it was dry enough for a lunge! There were still some wet spots here and there (definitely not safe enough for a ride on a greenbean), but it was more than adequate for another lunge with sidereins. I really don't usually lunge this often - I don't believe in making them pound on their joints round and round in a circle for long periods - but you make due with what you have! It is better than doing nothing at all, and keeps her from being too insanely fresh when I get back on. (These are short lunge sessions either way, so I don't feel quite so bad!)

She is pretty much the most adorable mare out there. Note to self: ditch the Supracor pad. It makes my saddle slip forward apparently! 

She is just now starting to understand the idea of sidereins at the trot... as you can tell by the picture below, she was still a little fresh about it!

Even though she was doing a naughty and trying to turn towards me in this picture... she's still just gorgeous.

P-mare is coming into heat for the first time this year, and is acting like a total whackadoo, running around and snorting and peeing on everything:

Gross. But, she looks SO pretty when she does it.

The good news is that there is NO forcasted rain in the next week!! The bad news? It is suppose to drop into the 20's when a cold front rolls in at 5am in the morning..... aw, man......

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Back to the Grind

After a blip in catchability, one very intense dental session, and a few days of refusing to eat much of anything, Imogen is back to work and doing amazingly well. I can't believe how much better her attitude is already! 

Her little bit of time off before and after the dental work did good things for her brain. After I scared her half to death when I slapped her on the chest last week, we stepped back and did groundwork and grooming for a few days. This made a huge difference for her mentally, and I think it is a good default for when things are a little overwhelming for her. Working with an abused horse is very difficult, and maintaining trust in a relationship with a horse like Immy is a critical key. Without that, you have nothing. Obviously, there are going to be times when she needs to be disciplined for something or another (like if she runs me over again!), but she will learn with time that I am not going to whale on her in anger for no reason. It just takes time, and consistency - no surprises, and no deviations. She needs trust that I am not going to do anything scary and out of left field... it just takes time. 

This week went something like this in terms of a schedule:

Monday: Dentist
Tuesday: Off
Wednesday: Lunge in halter (and P and I went with S to her barrel race!)
Thursday: Off (Future Hubs and I were at The xx show in Dallas... you're jealous, I know!)
Friday: Groundwork
Saturday: Lunge in sidereins 

And the next few days will be as follows:

Sunday: Ride
Monday: Lunge in sidereins
Tuesday: Ride
Wednesday: Pool

Thursday we have a tentative craniosacral session scheduled, but it might actually happen on Sunday... I have to hear back from the therapist and see!

I can't believe the difference in Immy since her dental work. It just kills me that it has taken THIS long to have it done (months, literally), with all of the scheduling problems (on his end), the no-shows, the problems. I almost bailed on the guy and didn't use him, just because I was so annoyed, but I am so glad I didn't. The first few days following her dental were not so much fun, due to the fact that her extractions made her mouth pretty sore, but she managed to continue to eat the softest, fluffiest hay that I had for that time. She wasn't interested in eating her grain mush until Wednesday evening. By that time, she was back to her old self, but she had lost a few pounds in the process. She was looking amazing last week weight-wise, but looks a little less filled out this week. With her appetite back and her new set of chompers, I expect she'll put it back on quickly.
When I pulled her out for her grooming and lunging session on Wednesday, I had a huge surprise waiting for me. I have a grooming routine that I go through when grooming, and for whatever reason, I always start with my curry on the left side of her neck. From there I go up as high as she will tolerate, and then go back down her neck and onto her shoulder. Usually she raises her head and resists whenever I do this, not wanting me to go near her ears or poll, but nothing happened that time. Literally nothing! The same went for the right side of her neck. When I followed over with my medium brush, she let me groom her poll with NO head raising or reactions of any sort. NOTHING!

You have no idea how huge that is. HUGE! That is the first time she has ever, ever let me approach that area of her body without some sort of resistance. I couldn't believe it. I still can't!
As for our lunge session that day, it was short-lived. The ground had been slick and muddy for a few days following our last rainstorm, and I thought it had dried out enough for a lunge, but I was wrong. She did the slip-n'-slide for a few minutes before I called it, not wanting to cause a wipeout. 

Today was her first day back to real work. Once again, I was completely delighted with her attitude - she was calm, quiet, peaceful, and totally amenable to having her head and poll groomed. Bridling her was by far the easiest it has been, simply because she let me get near the top of her head without major issue. In fact, I'd say that was the best bridling she's ever had. (It also helps to have a clear bridlepath to work with... she hates having her mane pulled on!)
Her poos are WAY better as of this week as well... only a horseperson could be this concerned about horse crap! Granted, I did change a few things to see if I could have some improvement there, and they all seemed to happen at the same time (a round of SandClear, the dental, a few weeks on EquiShure, and a secondary probiotic that somebody gave me to try, just to see)... it is hard to say what worked, or what combo of things worked. But, something worked!

She was excellent today on the lunge. She's still not 100% sure about the sidereins, but she is starting to get the concept at the walk. I'm not one to crank down a set of sidereins to force a horse into a frame... I just want her to start getting used to the idea of contact. Once she is a little further along in her schooling, I will probably never use them again. When lunging my schooled horses, I only really ever use a chambon, but obviously Immy is NOT ready for that yet. 

Tomorrow, back to work under saddle!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Tooth Fairy

FINALLY! After waiting for what feels like an eternity, the dentist FINALLY CAME!!

And... it was bad. I knew it wasn't going to be pretty, but I figured that perhaps it wouldn't be as horrible as we expected, seeing as she probably has been out eating hay and doing little else for a number of years. 

I was wrong. Very, very wrong.

I liked the dentist, and he did a good job. He was gentle, kind to her, didn't keep her head elevated for longer than he had to, and didn't keep her in the speculum for lenthy periods. She was sedated heavily, of course... definitely not sure this could have happened properly otherwise. Not everybody likes to sedate for dental work, but I honestly think it is a far better idea. Better to knock them out than to have them clamped up rigidly and fighting you the entire time... they get super sore super quickly.

 The first thing we found when we opened her mouth was her age - he estimates her to be turning approximately 8 this year. Good news! He also noted how seriously long her incisors were - not a good sign. Next we found that she still did in fact have her wolf teeth, just two little top ones, and both of them were broken - a good sign that she's likely never been floated before in her life. He extracted them both, and then gave me a good look at what exactly was going on in there. HOLY CRAP. She had two broken premolars (slab fractures, in 308 and 408), opposing issues with the teeth above them, GIANT hooks on both front top premolars, multiple SUPER sharp edges, tons of cheek lacerations... gee, I wonder why she ever got to be so headshy? (Obviously the abuse did that, but for real, I bet her teeth hurt like hell!) It was a total nightmare.

(P-mare says, wtf are you doing to my sister!? She was there for moral support.)

The float took awhile, as expected, and she started to wake up near the end, but she managed to hold it together. Bonus for me - she was still out *just* enough so that I could scissor a bridlepath off! I also pulled the top part of her mane, although she was none too pleased about it. I tried to break out the clippers, but that really woke her up, and she bolted to the end of my leadline and stood snorting in the corner of the stall. Okay, guess not today... we settled for a little muzzle shave with a hand shaver instead, which she more or less tolerated. Of course, afterwards, she associated me only with the terrifying clippers, and once again bolted off and refused to speak to me again. She also refused to eat basically anything, which did not surprise me. It must feel awfully weird in there, not to mention probably super sore from the extractions.

The next day, she felt better, and ate a little bit of her mush for breakfast. By the afternoon, she was quite willing to talk to me again, but still wasn't all that interested in eating, so I left her with her food bucket while S and I went and rode Rue and P out on the trails. It had torrentially poured the night before, so everything was sloppy soup, but we made it work. The horses had quite a scare when we stumbled upon a terrifying set of emus (seriously, who had pet emus at a construction site? They were just wandering around at one, nonchalant!) P had such a fit when she saw the first emu that she ripped clean out of one of her Italian bells... those things are tough, how do you tear them clean in HALF?

Back at the barn, Immy had not eaten one morsel (so worried about P being gone.... I've been making efforts to separate them every day no matter what, because this is ridiculous!), so I gave up and let P finish it for her. By the next morning, she ate about 90% of her grain-mush, and by yesterday evening was back to licking the bowl clean. Phew! I can't really blame her though, having seen the state of her mouth - it was horrible.

I had an amazing surprise yesterday, when I went to brush and lunge her for her first day back to work post-dental - she let me brush the top of her poll with NO issues, NO head raising, no nothing! She usually permits me to do that, somewhat unwillingly and with a raised head - she's not very keen on it, but it gets done. Yesterday, on both sides, she let me do it and get that close to her ears without even thinking about raising her head!! That is the FIRST time that has ever happened. Either in her drugged stupor she just accepted things being up there, or she feels that much better after the dental. AWESOME! (She's obviously not cured of her headshy issues, of course - but this is a huge step in the right direction!!) It was too sloppy still to lunge very much, but we did a little work, and then called it a night. S came down and decided that she was going to a barrel race that evening, and for kicks we decided that I would go too and bring P - not to race, of course, but just to ride around. What fun that was - P took the whole thing in stride while wearing nothing but a rope halter while I was riding around, goats/steers/bulls/calves/swinging ropes/screaming cowboys/millions of horses and all! Next time, we are going to bring Immy along to pony off of P - what better way to expose her to a WHOLE bunch of things while still having her calm and confident buddy right there? It's perfect!

Happy Valentine's Day!!!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Swimmy Immy

One of my February goals has been to start taking Immy to the AquaTread once a week. It is great conditioning, helps counter work we do on the dirt, and it super for desensitization. Plus, we get to practice trailer loading as well as leaving Big Sister behind (which is very traumatic). I picked Wednesday for this, so I could ride on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and have a break in the middle.
Tuesday's ride did not happen due to a well-needed date night, so Immy spent the day galloping like a maniac out in the big field instead. 

Wednesday morning came bright and early, and I fed the girls, hooked up my trailer, and recruited S to come help get her on. Immy wasn't particularly keen, and ignored both of us for a moment while she called for P, who was making a right fool of herself with her mad galloping and screaming. (How old are you again, mare?) Finally, S got tired of it, and gave her a decent whap on the hiney with a dressage whip. Immy walked straight on after that - sometimes, you just have to law down a little law.

At the other facility, I unloaded her and settled her into a paddock with her hay net. She did some trotting around and calling for all of her old friends, then quieted and ate her hay for awhile. When I went to go catch her, she took one look at me like "forget it, lady" and walked off. She didn't go far, but I was not particularly amused.

She redeemed herself in the pool barn by standing like a sweet little angel, totally immobile and silent. Atta girl! 
Getting into the pool itself? She was not particularly amused with the idea. Last time - which was her first time - she went plowing right in, completely surprised at how she had ended up there. I've seen loads of them do exactly the same thing, and banked on her doing exactly what those kinds of horses all do the second time they get in - BALK. She spent about 5 minutes going "no, no way, oh hell no, nope, no..." until she finally told us to go screw ourselves and went backwards. We train all our horses to go into the AquaTread in the same way: stop and let them think, ask for one step at a time, reward each attempt at forward movement lavishly, and sharply correct backwards movement. All the horses learn that there is only one way to go (forwards), but they are never beaten, dragged in with ropes, or drugged. I've seen literally hundreds go in, and trained god knows how many of them, and this method really works. I don't have one horse that I see that doesn't just walk right in, once they learn how. When Immy went backwards, she got a swift spank in the butt from M, and she promptly changed her mind. Much like with the trailer that morning, she just walked her little self right in, carefully and methodically. 

If you notice, she's trying REALLY hard to turn her head all the way around to look at the other horses in the barn - hence why she is tied to the other side. P did the same thing at first, and I had to tie her over there to straighten her out just the same. She'll figure it out shortly, they all do!

We took a stab at breed guessing while she was working out, and settled at a probable Quarab. I mean, have you SEEN that butt lately? 


She rounded out the day by completely 100% surprising me - she walked on the trailer with no hesitations whatsoever. She just followed me right in! That was the first time I have solo-loaded her with absolutely no issues at all. Granted, we WERE going home instead of leaving home, but still. I was super impressed with her, and can't wait to see what she does next time!

As for Thursday, well... that was more or less a bit failure. She's been teetering on the edge of hard to catch again, probably because life is hard when you are hopelessly attached to your pasture mate, and your person like to take you away from your best friend and your food. It was all peachy keen when we were just hanging out in the pasture eating snacks together and being friends, but it is a very different situation with her now being in training. More than anything, I want to remain her friend, but there are certain lines I have to draw, and certain rules to follow. Thursday was pedicure day for the girls, and I pulled both of them out, starting work on Immy first. Having seen the hoof stand about a million times, she spooked at it hard for whatever reason, and basically went leaping forward away from it when I brought it over. She was tied, and half ran me over in the process. Instinctively, to get her off of me, I raised a hand and popped her in the chest. I didn't strike her in anger, I didn't beat her senseless, and I didn't hurt her in any way, but in her mind I may as well have, because she shot backwards to the end of her rope and acted like I was the scariest person on earth. She wanted absolutely nothing to do with me after that, though she tolerated her trim - I had proved to her that I was a terrifying monster, and she wanted no part in my company. 

Working with an abused, reactive horse is very, very hard. They are very big, very strong animals who could potentially hurt you very seriously, if either a) you frighten them with your disciplines, or b) you cater too much to their pasts, don't lay down enough rules, and let them run all over you because you are too worried about scaring them with disciplines. It's a seriously fine line. What do you let slide, and what isn't acceptable, at the risk of scaring them? There isn't really a proper answer, especially with a horse like Imogen. Honestly, I did what I needed to do in the situation - I don't allow my horses to trample me, just because something they've seen a million times is scary today for whatever reason - but now I have the task of proving to her that I am not scary, she can still trust me, and that there are still some rules that need to be followed, even if things are scary... and if you don't follow the rules, there is a consequence to it.

Easier said than done, of course. Yesterday, I had a mare who took off in the other direction away from me at breakfast time. Her desire to eat grainfoods overcame her concerns, and she let me walk up to her and catch her. Undaunted, I came back at lunchtime to just hang out with the ladies, and spent a good long while sitting next to their shed, basking in the sun. P-mare came over and hung out with me for a long time, while Immy stood peering out at me from behind the shed, not brave enough to come over.

I got up on P for a little bareback ride in our new hackamore, which was wonderful. It really is nice to get on an old steady-Eddie type horse when you've been working with a greenie. She looks lovely in this getup, don't you think?

After our lunchtime ride, Immy still didn't want to be caught, so I let P out with the boys into the big field for a few hours while I went back to the main farm to feed. Immy was NOT happy about this arrangement, but she wouldn't be caught, so... sorry mare! I can't help you if you won't come to me!

We went for another bareback jaunt around the big field that evening, which was just as nice, and at this point Immy was ready for some attention. She came right to the gate for catching, and let me rub on her without jumping or scooting away from me. She was the same today - she was easy to catch, and more than happy to be petted and loved on for the most part. It was crappy and misty out, so I left them alone, wanting to leave Immy on a positive note.

We've done this several times before. Sometimes, something is just a little too much for Immy, and we need to back off for a few days or a week before continuing on. It just takes time... lots and lots of time. Looking at my list of yearly goals, I think they may be too lofty for what is realistically achievable this year. I don't see any need to push her or go faster than I feel like she is capable of mentally handling, so everything comes one day at a time. She should be further along in her saddle training than she is, but honestly I am not getting on this mare unless she is relaxed and trusting me. It's a recipe for disaster, and a good way to sour her off saddle work quickly. We'll continue training when we re-establish some relaxation and trust on her part, but not until then.

The most important thing is to keep being consistent and quiet with her, showing her that I am not going to surprise her out of nowhere by doing something seriously unexpected or mean. And, if she DOES do something completely unacceptable (like run me over), that the counter-response on my part will be a quick correction and not a full-out abusive assault. 

Time, time, patience, and more time is what this mare needs. Did I mention time?

Sunday, February 3, 2013

January Goals Recap, and February Goals!

It is high time for a recap of our January goals, and for our February goals to be mapped out! My hematoma is so big at this point that it is actually going to be the one typing this thing out. Seriously, it is creeping me out... no part of me should ever be able to wobble like this thing does. It is like the gobbler on a turkey, only on my leg. If it gets any bigger, it will need its own zip code.

January Goals:

1) Be going W-T (and maybe try a little C?) by the end of the month, in the roundpen (maybe try a little in the arena, depending on how she does)
Success! Although, after being lawn darted, I am not willing to say she is 100% ready to go riding in just any old arena anywhere. I'd say she is definitely solid w-t, in our riding area. But she isn't ready for bigger things yet.

2) More desensitization with the clippers!
We didn't work on this at all, and we should have. It got put on the backburner simply because I had bigger and more important things to deal with... but we'll be working on it when we have the time!

3) Have dentistry done
FAIL. We were SUPPOSED to have dentistry done last week, after struggling to get the dentist out for weeks, but the guy never showed up. This is a seriously frustrating matter... we'll see how this continues to unfold.

4) Pull entire mane
Success! Save for the little tiny bit right near her poll that will eventually become a bridlepath, we managed to pull the entire mane. Of course, it now sticks up everywhere in all directions... sigh! At least it is the proper length!

5) Continue with the theme of relaxation - in everything we do!
Success, mostly! I wouldn't say this was so much a goal as a way of life... I try my hardest in everything I do to make sure she is comfortable and and relaxed. She of course is not always relaxed, and will not always be, but even when she is being pushed a bit, I always make sure to end things on uncomplicated notes, things she already understands and is comfortable with.

February Goals:
1) Take her to the AquaTread once a week
2) Trailer out to other places once a week, whenever possible (even if just ponying, lunging, groundwork, etc.)
3) Ride 3 times a week (or 4!) and alternate with lower-key things
4) Be going comfortably w-t-c on a loose contact by the end of the month
5) Continue desensitization to bridling
6) Continue desensitization to clippers
7) First trail ride (while being ponied)
8) Standing quietly tied out

More goals than usual, but we have lots to work on!

Yesterday we had another ride, and it was a relative success considering it came on the heels of such a bad ride right before it. She was fussy and fidgety when I saddled her, but we did a whole mess of lunge work and groundwork before I ever got on, and she was in a very good mood by the time I was ready to get on. She fidgeted at first, not wanting to stand still at the mounting block, but I put a quick stop to that with some more groundwork and backing up. (Sorry mare, no excuses... holding still at the mounting block is paramount.) After that, she held quite still, and I got on without further issue. She was actually quite a lot quieter than I expected, not jigging or breaking gait even though she very much so wanted to - good girl! She was also not keen on holding still, so we did a fair bit of transition work from walk to whoa and back again. She diffused some of her energy by bobbing her head up and down while standing still... that is also not going to fly. She was doing it while tied as well... she was obviously feeling a bit anxious after the last riding session we had. Thankfully, she settled into her work, and directed her energies into what I was asking her to do instead of what she'd rather be doing (which was "let's trot, is it time to trot yet, I really want to trot!")

When S and the crew came down to ride, I had S pony us off of her big yellow horse for a lap around the field. Immy was not very keen on that, as she wanted to barge ahead of the yellow horse, and the yellow horse wanted to barge ahead of her. She managed to hold it together for her lap around the field, and it technically was her first ponied trail ride, but I think next time I will just go mashed into a group instead of be ponied... there was a lot of barging, head-shaking, and snarky behavior on both of their parts! (And we're definitely not ready to just head out into the big field yet, even with a bunch of other horses... she needs a LOT more work before we get to that point!)

After our lap, I had them leave me back at the barn for a little more alone time, and we did some more walk-trot-whoa work. She ended on a very positive note, walking quietly with her head low, very relaxed and content in her work. Good girl!

I crosstied her in the barn when I was grooming her, and she stood nicely, resting a hind foot and yawning while waiting for me to finish. We all stood back to admire how much weight and muscle she has put on in the past month, and were laughing that with all her extra energy, maybe I've been feeding her a little TOO well. She used to be lethargic, mopey, and constantly wearing her hind toes off from dragging her back feet miserably around all the time... now she is a red-hot, muscular, perpetual motion machine! I expected her to wake up a bit with a change in diet and the addition of a new job, but man, she is a hot head! She'll never have trouble making time anywhere, that's for sure!

The mares had today off, and spent it doing this:

Sorry about the camera lens smudge... it happens!
It is super fun to let them out of their usual turnout and into the big giant one to run around. This is what they do EVERY time... Immy leads P on a 10 minute nonstop gallop every single time!

When Crazy Ideas Become Bad Ideas

Well, riding in a rope halter a good idea, until it wasn't anymore.

It really was a good idea, in theory. Let her relax about bridling, give her some time to sort through her issues, do something she understands... right? I thought so too, and I was almost right. She, on the other hand, absolutely did not agree whatsoever, and it didn't take very long to find that out.

I normally don't bother to lunge her before I get on, simply because lunging her seemed to heat her up rather than cool her down - kind of like shaking up a fizzy soda drink before opening it. She had been very hot the ride immediately before this one when I first mounted, so I went ahead and lunged her for awhile before I went to get on her. She looked so cute bopping along in her halter... awww, precious, this is going to go so well, I can feel it!

After she was ready, I hopped up on her. She was very good for the mount, and stood quietly until I asked her to move on. She realized suddenly that there was no bit in her mouth, and that the steering actions were very different (even though I had just put her through the motions of flexing and steering from her halter right before I got on), and stiffened up. Uh oh, I thought. Well, let's turn right.... she sped up. Okay, small circles... we're okay sweetie, we're fine... slow down honey, let's just halt for a second... we don't need to rush. I asked for a whoa, and gave her a very slight rein aid for it. Something about that absolutely short-circuited her brain, and she exploded. Barring somebody sticking a cattle prod directly up her nose, I don't think she could have reacted harder - she blasted a snort as she flung her head into my lap, launching into some sort of ninja Mortal Combat capriole, going from 0 to about 9000 miles per hour in less than the blink of an eye. Or, at least, that is what I assume happened - literally from one second to the next, she completely vanished out from underneath me, and was on the other side of the pen before my butt ever even hit the ground. It happened so fast that really don't even know what she did - one second she was there, the next she was GONE from underneath me!

I NEVER fall off. I count myself as a sort of Miss Stickability, someone who can tough it out no matter what... my skill is not quite to the Andrew level, but many years of riding out Gogo's antics gave me a very good seat and the ability to ride out most anything a horse can throw at me. But when she turned on the afterburners and flung her head in the air, man... I guess I was just bested at my own game! Lucky for me, she was just as surprised as I was, and stopped to face me with a big giant question mark on her face. Undoubtedly it scared her, but she allowed me to walk right up and catch her, and I got right back on and tried again.

But that rope halter... oh man. I couldn't touch her face without panic, I couldn't steer, and I couldn't stop. Once I was back on board, it was all I could do to just sort of hold on and wish that I hadn't had the nerve to try again. I had thought that the lighbulb would go off and she would get it, but she was having absolutely none of it, at ALL. Somehow, I managed to get her into a corner of the pen long enough for her to stop moving, and I got off. I felt a bit like I was risking my neck, and I didn't want to get launched for a second time. Instead, I went and pulled out my backup, a simple bridle that T (S's husband) had rigged up for me. The simple bridle involved nothing more than just a headstall and a rubber bit with a slobber strap, and that was it. She loves my mullen mouth Happy Mouth, so we figured we'd give this a shot - there wasn't any guarantee she'd accept this headstall any better than she had the other one, but it was worth a shot.

Lo and behold, getting that thing on worked great! All I had to do was unbuckle it, put it over her neck, shimmy it up behind her ears, and put the bit in and buckle. Voila! No fuss, no panic, no nightmare. Unfortunately, she did NOT agree with that bit in the slightest, and I did not have much in the way of steering or brakes. I walked around for a little while, did some circles in both directions, and called it a success. Back on the ground, she was as cheerful as ever, the cheeky monkey. (Which I am thankful for... she could be terrified of me as an alternative!)

As for my poor, poor butt, it did not come out of this ordeal unscathed. I have the world's most magnificent bruise, and a HUGE, hot, squishy goose egg from where I probably landed on a rock. Thankfully, it doesn't seem to be clotting or getting hard... gross. Hematoma FTW!

And that is from yesterday. You should see it TODAY.

S was feeling bad for me that evening when I came back to feed, so she gave me several glasses of wine in order to ease my limp, and somehow convinced me that what I needed most was to get on P and ride some more, "to loosen it up." Several glasses of wine of course made that sound like a great idea, and we rode for two hours, me with Immy in tow the entire time. We'd take a lap around the field, have a glass of wine, take a lap around the field, have a glass of wine...

I didn't feel all that awesome the next day, but it was great at the time!

Up next: January goal recap, February goals, and Immy gets ponied under saddle for the first time!