Saturday, May 25, 2013

Going the Distance

PHEW. I think the little red mare's nickname should be The Little Engine That Could. Or possibly, The Little Engine With No Off Switch. That mare has a motor that JUST DOES NOT QUIT.

After her conditioning ride on Saturday (which now looks pitifully wimpy compared with what we did this week) and a seriously intense lunge session on Sunday, I hopped on the redhead for a dressage ride on Monday. I thought that *maybe* she'd be slightly less uppity, but she was more on fire than ever. The fitter she gets, the easier everything becomes for her.... it's a vicious cycle! She was still in heat (although thankfully coming out), and was just not having it that day. She was locked through her left side and bargy through the bit, and all she wanted to go was GO. So, I let her go - we just cantered around in a half seat (in a dressage saddle) for about 10 minutes. The more we went, the more energy she had. After trotting and cantering until we were both totally lathered in sweat, I took a walk break and checked my watch - surprise! We had been going for AN HOUR AND A HALF. She had FINALLY chilled out a little by that point, so I decided to pick up the trot again and end on a good note - she took a contact and bounced off happily, finally settled into her work. Two hours of work, and despite being totally wringing wet from heat to tail, she didn't seem remotely tired.

No, she's not that dark... she's just soaking wet. 

And she wasn't remotely tired the next day. The following morning S and I were up at the buttcrack of dawn to set out on a VERY early morning trail ride at one of the local state parks. The forecast for the late morning and the rest of the afternoon/evening was for thunderstorms/hail/tornadoes/death, so we decided that if we wanted to ride, we better do it as early as possible. We figured that we would go until the weather turned, and then we'd head home.

"Go until the weather turned" ended up being a LOT longer than we had anticipated. The weather was actually really nice (overcast and about 80), and we were enjoying ourselves. We trotted and cantered for quite a ways, stopping here and there whenever there was water to let the horses drink and let Monster Dog go swimming. O was a VERY good girl, cruising along behind her buddy on the buckle, relaxed and interested. She only had two moments when she almost totally lost her brains, both times when we were going down an incline and her friend disappeared around a corner in front of her. She doesn't have much of a problem with leaving the other horses, but when they leave her? Just shut the state down. She exploded forward, I grabbed back my reins, and she hit the contact and had a nuclear meltdown. Her legs were going in every which direction so fast that I'm fairly certain that we were levitating, despite the fact that we were going nowhere except possibly backwards and sideways. She shook her head as hard as she could, threw herself around, pitched a general fit, and tried to smash herself into a tree in protest. When that didn't work, she quit, deciding of her own accord that she was going to walk forward like a lady, damnit. She was bug-eyed, sweaty and champing furiously on her bit, but she was going to WALK and she was going to do it because SHE decided it was time to do it. Once back within sight of her buddy, she relaxed, but obviously this is going to be a continuing piece of work. Whenever Gogo would have a mare moment, I used to always say, "Oh, Gogo...." I guess in this situation it would be, "Oh, O..."

Other than her little oopsies, she popped over the logs, marched into the river, and moved smartly along, tireless for the entire ride. Although, she DID stop halfway through the river and refused to move again, despite me pony-kicking her in the ribs as hard as I could.... S had to actually come behind us and smack her on the butt with one of her split reins. (Note to self... bring bat next time).

We ended up logging almost 5 hours worth of saddle time, and we went for 19 miles. We made it home just in time for the downpour to begin, but thankfully there were no tornadoes/hail/general death to go along with it. 

Early the next morning, S convinced me to get up again at the crack of dawn for yet ANOTHER ride! I figured I'd just take O for a gentle little walkabout, but she had other ideas - she was fresh as a daisy, and had I not known that I had ridden her for nearly 20 miles the day before, I never would have guessed that she had even been worked at all. We logged ANOTHER two hours, with some more trotting and cantering, as well as some more freakouts when her buddies left her again. 

Once our ride was over, we cooled out, had a bath, relaxed for awhile, and loaded up to head to the vet. She's a bit hit-and-miss when it comes to loading - sometimes she hops right on, and sometimes she stands there like a mule and refuses to move. I resorted to my old standby - I ran a lunge line from her through the escape door and back out to where I could stand behind her with a dressage whip. She was NOT amused by this, and ran back and forth across the ramp a few times before decided to walk on of her own accord. Sorry mare, but we have places to be, so too bad!

Once at the vet, we checked her mouth out for issues. She didn't have a ton going on, but she did have some sharp edges, especially on her left side (which is the side she is generally harder to bend on - which of course makes sense), and a few little nicks in her cheeks. 
I would have preferred that the dentist could have made it out to do her, but I checked her out after she was done, and they did a pretty good job. Thankfully, the issues she had were small and run of the mill, so there wasn't anything major that needed to be done.

She was still a bit drowsy after we got home, and sweaty from her sedatives. She got another rinse, some liniment and a rubdown on her legs, and some extra cookies for being a good girl (once she woke up, of course). 

She's had the past three days off, which she needed. I would have liked to work her today (and wouldn't have minded putting her on the lunge two days ago for a light workout), but it has been pouring on and off, and everything is sloppy mud. On Thursday, the day after her dentist appointment, she also had four HUGE fat legs! She was totally sound, they weren't hot or tender, and she wasn't running a fever, so the only thing I can think of was that she reacted to the liniment poorly. With a leg washing and a gram of bute, they all returned to normal within the day... interesting to see. I used a different rub following this, and while it didn't cause another reaction, she spent several minutes gnawing at her legs like it bothered her... I almost washed it off, but she quit chewing, and hasn't done it since. She also pitched a bit about the wound salve I put on one of her little cuts, and ran around rubbing herself on things and rolling until she had properly wiped it all off... clearly the girl has some sensitive skin... or she is possibly just a very demanding personality who only approves of things when she decides they are to her liking.


Sunday, May 19, 2013

Zoom Zoom!

May in Texas brings thunderstorms, humidity, and HEAT. As spring turns to summer the thunderstorms and the humidity will go away, but the temperature will only get hotter. I can deal with the heat fairly well, but when you add humidity to it I feel like I am drowning every time that I am outside. If you need a machete to cut through the air in front of you when you step out the door? It's too humid. If you need scuba gear to get your barn chores done? Too humid. 

The forecast for the weekend has been temps in the upper 90's with thick, sweltering humidity. What to do when you're working and you want to ride, but by the time you get out of work it will be almost 100 degrees? Get up at the buttcrack of dawn, of course! 

I was at the barn by 5:45AM on Saturday, and on O by 6:30AM. I think she was less amused by this than I was.

But she got over it. It was our first conditioning hack, and her first time in the jump saddle. This conditioning day will eventually turn into our once weekly 2-hour walk hack with a 25 minute trot session, but we're a long way from that. We started with 10 minutes of walk, followed by 10 minutes of trot, and ended with 10 more minutes of walk for a total of 30 minutes. Next week we'll do 45 minutes total, with 30 of walk total and 15 of trot. And up and up from there, etc. 

Trippy flowers in the early dawn light!! It was beautiful and a very pleasant 75 degrees. O broke a sweat, as she usually does, and near the end of her trotwork she was getting a little uppity - I had been working her on a loose contact, but she started giving me some attitude and kept trying to canter, so I gave her a contact and put her to work (she was not amused). She also trotted over a number of poles, and did well, but also wanted to canter. They were not set as canter poles so she knocked a few of them around, but that's all right. She worked hard, and I was very pleased with her. 

Today I figured she would be at least a little tired, but I was very wrong. She had nothing but GO in her! The fitter and stronger she gets, the easier she finds work, and the faster she rebounds. It was broiling when I got to the barn after work (alas, I awoke late and couldn't work them in the early morning), but I figured we'd just do a light lunge and be done with it. She had other ideas, and powered along at about a thousand miles an hour for a rather extended period of time. 


There's even a little video of her bounding along. You can tell the Faux-ssoa doesn't do much, it just gives her a boundary to work within. At the canter, it doesn't do much for her - she is unbalanced and likes to motorbike around the circle with her shoulder in and her head to the outside as a counterbalance. That will be fixed with under saddle work - not much I can do on the lunge, as I'm not one to crank her head in tighter than it already is. When she rushes, her walk and canter get flat and lateral, but I am seeing improvements there already... they're better than I thought they were! I think with time that canter will become much more pure and uphill.

I will have an update on Immy shortly... I haven't been writing much about her simply because I haven't hardly touched her in three weeks! She's been getting some R&R to let her chill out a little... I put her on the lunge today and she was quiet as a lamb. Here's hoping it helped!

Friday, May 17, 2013

Just Call Me Sherlock

I might be completely techno-challenged at times, but you can't say I am not a super sleuth when I am hunting for information. When I want to find something, I FIND IT.

It took me a LOT of searching, but somehow I managed to track down more information on O-Ren. I literally only knew the stories I had been told about her past (and let's be honest, you never REALLY know if a seller is telling you the truth or not)... more than anything I went with her conformation, temperament, and movement over her supposed history. As it turns out, the seller was actually telling the truth for the most part, although her jumping was a little exaggerated.

Once I figured out some key components, I found a whole mess of old photos of her, information on her bloodlines, who her breeder was, and where she originally came from. She was born in Ohio and was bought by her old owner as a rising 3 y/o, and then lived in MI until she was moved down to TX with the woman I bought her from. It looks like she has always been the opinionated, goofy, redheaded mare that she is now.... not surprised there either!

Her sire is a Selle Francais named Gawan D'Amour, and she is out of a Jockey Club registered mare named Just Plain Spree (a Raise A Native granddaughter). I knew she was 1/2 Selle 1/2 TB, but I had no way of being able to track down who her parents were via DNA type unless I knew their names. As it turns out, it's a moot point anyway because Gawan D'Amour apparently contracted EPM right before his stallion testing, so he was never approved for the Selle studbook anyway. He's gorgeous, but it sounds like he never did anything performance-wise due to the EPM. The mare was a training level eventer and toted some kids around Pony Club

The Raise A Natives can be opinionated (no surprise there) and also make great eventers!

Here's O as a tiny little 3 y/o:

O free jumping as a 3 y/o:

I'm actually a little disappointed with that form. While she's a good jumper, she's not as great as I expected her to be given her conformation. She was only 3 in those photos, and she had never freejumped before, but she made less use of her shoulders than she should have. She's done A LOT of maturing since then, and that fence is tiny, so it's possible that with schooling she'll improve. (And, let's be honest... so long as you are safe with your front end it doesn't make all that much how typey you are over fences if you are an eventer... I think I was just spoiled due to Gogo's super athleticism.) 

Oh well... I guess even Rolex competitors don't always have the greatest form - so long as they aren't doing this over fences and they're keeping well clear of them, you're usually all right. Who knows, it could change over larger fences! (I can hope, right?)

That's her all right.... what a goof. She had a big swig of my beer at the barrel race and also loves to drink out of the hose!

Here's her after her bath today... she's clearly matured a bit in the past few years!

She was supposed to be ridden today, but by the time I got out of work it was approaching 100 degrees with unbearable humidity. It's time to start riding at dawn again... otherwise it is just TOO HOT during the day. It normally isn't that humid here, but the recent rains have made the air thick and miserable. I felt like I was drowning all day! (I can do the 100 degree temps without much complaining... but with humidity? Forget it!)

Tomorrow we start to do a little conditioning work... she'll be in jump tack for the first time since I have had her. Excited!

Thursday, May 16, 2013


Those of you who have been watching the news have probably seen footage of the Granbury, Millsap and Cleburne tornadoes that we had last night, and most of you know that this right where I live. Let me preface this post by saying we are all alive and unharmed, but we had a wild night and we are very lucky to have come through unscathed. 

(To give you some bearings, Granbury is smack in the middle between the horses live in and the town we were going. The town the horses live in is directly inbetween the town I live in and Cleburne. Millsap is a few miles due west of my house.)

S barrel races, and there was a race running locally yesterday evening. We almost went to the one in Cleburne on Tuesday, but decided not to. (Can you imagine if the race had been yesterday instead of on Tuesday? We'd have been Wizard of Oz'd away!) I decided to take O for the experience, since barrel races are generally total chaos and it's a great experience for youngsters to be able to deal with the experience without the additional expectation of performance. (Someday when they are showing, going to hectic new places won't be such a big deal!) We ate dinner on the porch, groomed the horses, and looked at the sky, wondering if it was going to possibly rain. We hadn't heard anything of interest, so we tossed the horses on the trailer and headed out. We decided to stop and grab some beer for when we got there, and as we were pulling in to the local HEB I started to give the clouds north of us the leery eye. Huge, angry clouds were piling up enormously high, developing rapidly into something that looked like it was going to be serious. It was at least 20 miles north of where we were, so I didn't expect it to come our way, but my house was up there - what was going on? I pulled up the radar on my phone, and immediately was given a Tornado Warning for Mineral Wells and Weatherford. What?? It wasn't even supposed to rain much! I called Future Hubs and left a message - "it's coming your way, please be careful!" - and jumped back into the truck with S. "He'll be all right," she said. As we pulled out, I turned towards the west, wondering if any of the innocuous clouds in front of us were also going to turn deadly without any warning at all.

As we drove through Granbury, the clouds started to build, and the skies darkened. The system running parallel to the road we were on (it was going west to east, and we were going the opposite way) was starting to look incredibly scary, and I sat staring out the window, feeling increasingly excited and alarmed. I have a very healthy fear of tornadoes, and get simultaneously over-stimulated and slightly excited/panicked at the same time. The storm was starting to rotate, and people were pulling off the road to take pictures of it. I grabbed a pic from the window of the car:

And at that point basically said, "S, that's trying to form a tornado.... let's get the hell out of here!"

We left the storm in our dust, made it to the barrel race, unloaded the horses, and watched the weather to the north and south of us. It didn't appear that anything else was headed our way at that moment, so we tacked up, hopped on, and off we went!

(She was not convinced that this was a good idea. Notice giant tornadic storm behind us.)

O is is FLAMING heat right now, so she screamed essentially nonstop the entire ride. I have no idea who she was screaming for half of the time - her friends were right there with her! - but she hollered until she hardly had a voice left. Other than that, she was REALLY well-behaved, all things considered! She was very consistent with the way she is at home when she is in heat - a little tight through her back, a little unsteady in the contact, and a little behind the leg. She seems to be stopping her habit of grabbing at the contact and rushing forward, so perhaps that is soon to be a thing of the past! Still no word from our dentist, so that is up in the air... sigh. With a few clucks, she moved smartly forward, and while she was a little up and down with the contact, she was obedient and more or less attentive to my directions. After a very, very long trot session, she relaxed, and gave me some nice work. Not bad for working in a tiny, crammed, crooked arena with way too many horses running in every direction!

This is obviously not a good angle for us... I swear I'm not that chunky or slumpy! (Also, I better tighten up the neck strecher a little... it obviously hangs pretty loose when it isn't engaged!)

We  started getting worried texts partway through the evening, and calls from panicked people who didn't know where we were or if we were ok. We heard reports of a mile wide tornado on the ground in Cleburne, and something about Granbury, but we weren't sure about what was going on. We also got a call from S's husband, who told us (to our horror) that a tornado had flown right over the house, missed everything, touched down IN THE PASTURE, and then had picked up and gone off west. He said the hail had been horrific, but he had checked all the windows and the horses, and everybody was ok. P and Immy were undoubtedly frightened, but they came through without a scratch, to my amazement. The rehab barn where I worked for these past few years was also lucky, and even though they took a hit, they only lost some extensive fencing and a few barn doors. None of the animals or people were hurt.

Back at the barrel race, S had her run and did well. O was behaving herself and standing quietly with the other horses, and I was very happy with the way she was behaving. (And only one person had rolled their eyes at me for being in English tack! Hooray!) I pulled up my weather app and checked out the radar, did a double take, and turned to S. "Um, we better get out of here, it's coming," I said to her, and she nodded. We dismounted, walked the horses back to the trailer, untacked, loaded up, and bolted. The lightning at this point was so bright and constant that it illuminated the way for us, and I started in disbelief as we approached another rotating supercell on our way out. We made it only a few miles before all hell broke loose, and sideways hail pelted the vehicle. There wasn't anywhere to pull off or over at that point, so we struggled onward, not sure what was going to happen. I even reached over and cracked another beer, hanging white-knuckled onto the bottle as if it might keep me securely on the ground if a tornado picked up the vehicle. (Obviously I wasn't driving.) We plowed on through the storm, approaching Granbury, wondering what we were going to find.

It was chaos. Ambulances and emergency vehicles, news crews, people staggering around confused, stuff everywhere. We're lucky we got through Granbury on the way out before the storm hit, because it turned out to be the deadliest tornados in years in the state of Texas. They ranked it today as an EF-4... 6 are dead, hundreds are injured, and people are still missing. Hundreds of homes are just gone, nothing but concrete slabs left. Boats from the lake were hurtled into the atmosphere and still haven't been located. Rumor has it that the beautiful courthouse was also struck, but nobody has confirmed that yet. We passed on through, totally dumbstruck and silent as we passed. 

One of the tornados in the area went to Cleburne where it turned into an EF-3 a mile wide, the other went right up the highway we were on, overturning vehicles and ripping up trees by the roots. We were shocked, horrified, and totally amazed that it skipped entirely over the barn and their home and away. Once at home, we turned the horses out, and I made my way home in shock, passing overturned semis, enormous pieces of scrap metal from buildings, and huge uprooted trees. It was just unreal. It really was like something out of a dream.

(Some of the damage. That's a downed tree in the foreground. I managed to snap a quick pic on the way to the barn! Check out the completely unharmed donkey!)

I feel so, so lucky and grateful. We were spared, but so many others have lost everything, including their family members and friends. It was like something out of a nightmare.

Today, I hugged and kissed all of my girls and told them how grateful I was to have them in my life. Mother Nature is powerful, beautiful, and terrifying, but yesterday she was merciful as well. My heart goes out to everyone affected, and I am so thankful to be here right now writing this. It could just as easily have been us, but it wasn't. We're alive and well today, and honestly it's nothing short of a miracle. 

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Keep your panties on, we're working!

Zoom zoom!!

 Spring is springing and the hormones are raging here in Texas, a fact that is not lost on O-Ren. She is all but crawling over the fence to get to S's boys, both of which must look like Prince Charming with their palomino good looks and flowing golden locks. (I have no idea how she ended up with two palominos at the same time... I suppose in the same way that I said I would never own a bay and am now on Bay #4.) P-mare and Imogen are more appropriate in their girlishness - Immy ignores them like the dignified queen that she is, and P-mare, though very distracted whenever they come around, is far more interested in food than anything else.   O manages to keep herself together for the most part, but there is an awful lot of screaming going on whenever she is out of sight of the others, and under saddle she is a totally distractable wet noodle. (Can noodles be distracted? I'm not sure but that's what riding her feels like right now.) She did the same thing last month when she was in heat, although there was much more in the way of flailing and rebellion last time. She's been excellent under saddle (for her) up until this week, but she's been a bit of a twit ever since she came back into heat. Not that she has been BAD, per se... just not as good. I suppose being a hormonally challenged tween will do that to you. 

Ignoring the obvious wardrobe malfunction happening in this picture (the saddle pad without billets about to fly away in the breeze), she can sure sit down and power on, can't she?

Under saddle, we've been working on much of the same - walk/trot work, with some canter tossed in here and there, just keeping the same rhythm and speed. Val mentioned dental work and I agree that this might be part of the issue - I'm still trying to match up with my dentist for an appointment but I'm partly convinced the man is a phantom. If I can't get ahold of him soon, she'll just have to go to the vet instead. I don't *think* she has much in the way of dental problems, given how much she has improved with the contact both on the lunge and under saddle, but it certainly doesn't hurt having it checked out. She was supposedly done recently, but she also supposedly had her feet done 6 weeks before I got her.... right, sure she did:

First photo is when I got her (pre-trim), second photo is after her second trim, which was last weekend. I'd say there's a slight improvement, wouldn't you?

Despite being in flaming, violent heat, she's still adorable. I broke out the clippers for the first time and took care of her bridlepath (which I had done with scissors before) and whiskers - I have no idea if she had ever been clipped before but she thought it was great fun and tried to eat the clippers. She cleans up nice, don't you think?

Yes, yes... warmbloods DO look funny in rope halters. For whatever reason, I have transitioned totally away from leather/nylon halters and only use rope now, mostly because they don't break if your horse pulls back or does something goofy. Once upon a time I always made sure my horses wore a breakable halter, because I thought it was dangerous to not have something release-able on the horse should they pull back. Unfortunately, when your halters break and you have a smart horse like Gogo, you run the risk of them figuring out HOW to break the halters and get away, and because I worried that she would hurt herself whenever she set back (which was often), she always wore breakable halters. (I have about 20 broken halters in my trailer, just an an FYI.) When I got to Texas and was suddenly surrounded by horses who all tied like perfect little angels to anything anywhere, I realized how helpful it is to have a horse that understands and responds appropriately to pressure. I decided at that point that I wanted MY horses to tie too, and taught them all how. All of them tie like rocks, and if anything DOES spook them and cause them to set back (VERY rare), they always hit the end of the line and bounce back to where there is slack in the rope. You have NO idea how helpful this has been! WHY didn't I teach this to Gogo!

The wildflowers are unreal... thanks in part to the rain! It has been storming for about 3 days here, with today finally being sunny enough to dry things out. I'm not complaining, as it softens up the rock hard ground and makes the grass grow, but the mud is a little bit annoying. (Thankfully it is also short-lived... the girls were standing in ankle-deep mud this morning, and by this afternoon it has firmed up enough to ride. Awesome!)

Spring is AWESOME

Saturday, May 4, 2013


It will probably come as no surprise to anyone that redheaded mares are a total trip.

Seriously though, I am really enjoying my little firecracker. She shares some similarities with Gogo, which I of course love, but has her own flair for the dramatic. She requires a very tactical ride, but she is showing so much promise in a very short time. I've only had her a month, after all! 

I'm definitely glad I decided to give the neck stretcher a try. I'm not really a gadget person, but there are some situations where certain things can be very useful. O's evasions under saddle include pretty much everything she can think of (that isn't overtly naughty) to avoid going straight and forward in a decent rhythm - tosses her head, grabs the bit and roots outwards, blasts forward, slows way down and gets way behind the leg, turns her head one way, turns her head the other way, and goes sideways. None of it is outrageously naughty, and none of it is nearly as dramatic as it sounds - if she's doing all of that at a trot, she's still just trotting along, not bucking and leaping and plunging or doing anything dangerous. I don't think she has ever learned to balance herself anywhere outside of an arena, and she motorbikes on turns as well as snowballs like crazy when going down hills. As she was a jumper in her past life, she may not really have ever been ridden that extensively outside of an arena, so it isn't really surprising. She can turn on a dime, I will say that much - I found that out when testing out a one-rein stop on her when she tried grabbing the bit and park-trotting off. She did a literal reining spin at the blink of an eye! She is only 15.1hh after all - she looks, feels, moves and rides like a MUCH bigger horse but she is so coupled that she can really sit down and get things done. (I SWORE she was a solid 16hh, until I finally got around to sticking her... yep, she's a shrimp!)

To help give her some stability, and to allow her a little more freedom at the same time, I set her up with the neck stretcher. This particular one is actually a neck stretcher modified with some chambon pieces from one of the ones Gogo broke a few years ago, and can be assembled as a chambon as well - just run the bungees up through the crownpiece and down to the bit as opposed to running them from the bit to the crownpiece, and voila! In this case, I needed something to keep her from tossing her head around in every which direction, so I went with the neck stretcher. 
It does not restrict her normal head carriage in any way, hold her head down, crank her in, make her break over too far back, or any of those things that neck stretchers can occasionally do. Since it is elastic, she can still definitely raise her head PLENTY high if she wants to. You can see that she is still in front of the vertical and comfortable:

It looks taut but it isn't. It's near the end range of its length but it isn't engaged. She is more than happy to plop along on the end of the lunge line wearing this, quiet and calm. 

Since she has such difficulty maintaining balance on turns and on inclines/declines, I decided to move our work today up to the top of the pasture, where it is totally flat and where S's husband has mowed a path all along the fenceline (so we can see the freaking SNAKES if they are out). Flat, straight lines can work magic for a horse like this, so I expect we'll be up there for awhile! This was the first time I had ridden her away from the barn area - we don't have an arena, and she was totally nutty when you took her away from her mares (or vice versa) at first... thankfully, she has gotten over that. This is also the first time I have ridden her alone, which is a big step - you have to be able to deal with being alone when you are an eventer, and even if you aren't an eventer, you have to deal with being alone when you are MY horse, period! She stepped up to the plate, walking along with interest, looking at things but not acting spooky or concerned. When she did spook (only once), she jumped a little, but kept walking on. Very promising!

We only did walk-trot work today, which is quite enough for this stage. She started off a little cranky and balky for a few strides (making somewhat disgruntled ears), but moved forward smartly with a cluck and didn't give me any attitude again. She like to compress herself, get behind the leg, and hold all her tightness in her back, so getting her to release her back and move forward into a contact takes some convincing. In a lot of ways, it is similar to how Gogo would hold herself until she warmed up and released herself, so I am well-versed in feeling the subtleties of back tension. O, like Gogo, is not one that you can knock around until they  give in - she requires a lot of subtlety and a lot of constant redirection ("No, this length of rein. No, this speed. No, this speed. No, we're going straight. No, at this speed. At this speed. This length of rein. Straight. This speed. This speed. Straight."). When everything comes together, she takes a contact, releases her back, stretches out, and moves freely along. She gave me some very nice moments... some VERY nice moments. Every ride gets a little bit better and a little better.

The ladies all need a trim tomorrow... I love pedicure day! 

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

End of April Analysis; May Goals

Well, I've had a very interesting day! After gushing to you all on how well Immy has been doing, today she had a wild hair and totally threw me for a loop. (I mean that in the most literal sense.) When I set her out on the lunge before our ride, she took off in a panic, bucking and twisting like she had never worn a saddle before in her life. I thought she was going to drag me off of my feet! After she settled, I got on and rode around for a good while at the walk and trot with no problems, and then asked her to canter. It started off okay, and then we rounded a corner... and all hell broke loose. She took off like a bottle rocket, careered around the corner, lost all steering, and exploded into a series of rodeo bronc bucks. I was a total goner... she popped me right off before I even had a chance to try and re-balance. I dunno WHAT it is about this mare... I haven't been bucked off in YEARS despite all the wild critters I've been on that have tried their hardest to lawn dart me, and I pride myself on my Superglue-like stickability... this mare has had me off twice now since I've started her, and she pitched me like I was a total novice noob. I have no idea what got into her today! I'm going to treat her for a few days with Omeprazole, just because that is the only thing I can think of that would make her that titchy out of nowhere... we'll see if that makes a difference. She's something else, that's for sure! (I got back on and had a perfectly normal ride after that... who know!)

O, on the other hand, was a lovely little angel today.... or well, for her she was! I rigged up a completely eventer-ghetto style neck stretcher for our ride today:

Yes, that is a broken chambon-turned-neck-stretcher, held up with sidereins-turned-breastcollar, attached with a curb-strap-turned-girth-loop, and finished with a rope and rawhide halter and a single strap bridle. A few people said she looks embarrassed, which is probably true! But mostly, she's tired from her ride ;) 
(Don't worry, I DO own several breastcollars, martingales, halters, proper bridles, and girth loops... I was just too lazy to dig through my trailer, so I improvised with what I had and it worked really well!)
She did very well with this getup. For having yesterday off (I was very ill with a killer migraine), she was surprisingly quiet today, and was perfectly happy to bop around on the lunge to start without getting too hot. She was very quiet walking, which is not how she usually is, and was somewhat quieter than usual when trotting. She gave me a little bit of 'tude, and sucked back a little, but it wasn't much. The neck stretcher was not enough to inhibit her movement in any way, but it seemed to make her think she was under more of lock-and-key than she was used to, and she responded by not being as belligerent - she stayed more or less where she was supposed to, and I didn't have to get after her about barging forward or sucking back. She was still fairly locked through her back, but she gave me some nice moments, and it was nice to be able to allow her a length of rein. I was going to try a running martingale with her (she loves to toss her head, grab the bit and barge forward, etc), but I think this might work better, so I'll try it again a few more times and see how I like it. She seems to like the magic baby blue bit, so we'll stick with that too!

Boy is she ever starting to look NICE:

3 weeks of work! Not too shabby!

As for our goals.....


Immy April Goals:

1) Trailer out to a new place (arena, trail) to ride for the first time off-property!
Success! She did GREAT going to an arena for the first time, quietly walking and trotting in an arena full of horses going in every which direction! She's surprisingly not spooky, and is very curious about her surroundings - she really does seem to enjoy exploring new things.

2) Ride 3-4 times a week
Well, it was SORT of a success... I was injured for a large part of the month! But aside from when I was stuck on crutches, we did pretty well with this! 

3) Continue with w-t-c work under saddle, & start to walk and trot over poles!
More or less a success - we didn't do work over poles, but we did the rest! I didn't ride nearly as much as I want to, and I never do... if I push her too much mentally, she shuts down, so I always take it VERY slowly with her. If she needs a few days off, she gets a few days off... there is no need to fry her. 

4) TRAIL RIDES! Go out with P, go out with Rue, and start to go out ALONE!
Success! We didn't do as much as I wanted, given my injury, but she is starting to ride out alone in the big field and she LOVES it!

5) Continue relaxation and desensitization, as always!
As always, a work in progress.... as always, it is hit and miss! She is SO hypersensitive to touch despite all the desensitization, calming supplements, belly supplements, and hyper-boost of magnesium that she gets... she's a tricky one for sure! 


O-Ren April Goals:

1) Work on the lunge and on the ground - in equipment, work on obedience, correctness of work
Success! She did REALLY well with this - she started off barging off at her own speed and giving me attitude about moving up into the canter (trotting faster with her ears back), but after some serious mannering and hard work, she now walks-trot-canters-whoas without issue, and stays out on a circle where she is supposed to be without dragging me outwards or falling inwards. She works mostly in the Faux-ssoa on the lunge, as I've found she likes to hide behind sidereins to some extent (but doesn't do this in the Faux-ssoa), and she has done exceptionally well with this. I'm really, really happy with this goal. 

2) Start to just work quietly under saddle on a long rein, going out on the trail with friends, light saddle work - walk and trot, RELAXATION and OBEDIENCE
It's a work in progress, but I would definitely call it a success in terms of 'working on'. She's going under saddle and is walk-trot-canter, which I did NOT expect seeing as the entire reason I got her was because she wouldn't go faster than a walk! I thought for sure she'd be quiet and lazy... as it turns out, she is hotter than hellfire and has a red mare attitude to boot! She is all sorts of messed up under saddle, and wants to grab the bit and barge forward, suck back and slow down, go sideways one way, go sideways the other way, duck behind the bit, toss her head... basically do everything except what her rider is asking her to do! But she's such a sweetheart on the ground, and has some SO far with her attitude on the lunge, that I don't think it won't be too long before she starts to chill out under saddle.  

3) Clean her all up - bang tail, pull mane, clippers, etc! Makeover!
Success! She's had all sorts of makeover-type things to her and she looks like a new horse, complete with slick and shiny new coat!

4) Fix up her toes - they are a mess!
Success! But, it is time for another trim - her toes are already getting long. She'll need to be kept on a 3 or 4-week schedule for some time in order to keep her toes under control and her cracks from worsening. The cracks will grow out without issue, I'm sure of that... it just takes time and treatment. 

5) Trail rides!
Success! She's been getting worked the same whether or not she is on the trail or in the arena, but I'd like to start doing just walk work on the trails as well... she's just so stinking hot that it takes some riding down to get her to chill out enough to be able to walk quietly, period!


P-Mare April Goals:
1) Trails twice a week! :) I've been riding P-mare pretty regularly on the trail, the other two ladies just tend to overshadow her in her semi-retirement... but I've had some requests to update on her more often, so I will definitely make sure she gets her fair share of the limelight!
Success :) She's been getting ridden a few times a week on the trail, with some trot and canter tossed in for good measure when she is sound enough... but mostly, she is excellent for ponying the little girls off of, or grabbing a beer, hopping on and just going for a relaxing ride at the end of the day!


In terms of goals, I am going to buck tradition and not set May goals for Immy. I think there is too big of a gap between what I want her to be doing by now and what she is mentally capable of doing at this point, and I don't want to set either of us up for failure or disappointment. We'll continue to do what we've been doing, but keep things low-key... she is still a long way from quiet and broke, despite how far she has come.  
As for O, she definitely needs structure, goals, and wet saddle pads, so she gets some goals for sure! And P-mare? Trails twice a week, same thing! :)


O-Ren May Goals:
1) Continue work on the lunge in Faux-ssoa - try chambon/neck stretcher? Lunge over poles
2) Continue consistent work under saddle - w/t/c, relaxation, OBEDIENCE, steering/brakes/adjustability!
3) Free-jump in the chute - see what she's got! 
4) Start taking a peek at late summer schooling shows - possibilities? 
5) Continue to work on her feet - they have a ways to go!


I've already taken a few peeks at the North Texas Eventing calendar. If she continues to do well with w/t/c work this month, we'll start to do some little jump work next week. She's one tough cookie, so it's impossible to say where she'll be at the end of the month, but considering how well she has done, I think she will be ready for some small stuff in a few months. 

It's going to be back in the 30's tomorrow... yes, I said 30's.... in Texas... in MAY... WHAT IS GOING ON?