Friday, June 28, 2013

How To Get Your Horse Really, Really Broke

Before I moved to Texas and was surrounded by western folks all the time, the concept of "getting a horse broke" sounded a bit like something only those heathen cowboy-types did. Having spent a lot of time down here around "English" horses versus "Western" horses, I have firmly decided that there is clearly something to  "getting a horse real broke." (Bad grammar included.) At the rehab farm, I HATED the English horses (eventers, dressage horses, jumpers, etc) - they couldn't hard tie, some couldn't even crosstie, they didn't stand still, they didn't lead well, they dragged their handlers around, they were a general nightmare. (The racehorses were no better... they sort of fell into the "English" category.) Cutting horses, reiners, barrel horses... they all varied a bit. But rope horses? Man, rope horses were BROKE. 
I LOVED the rope and ranch horses whenever they'd come in. They'd seen it all and never, ever complained about anything. Nothing surprised them. They stood like rocks. They tied to anything. They were quiet. They were interested but not concerned about ANYTHING. They ALL were like that. They were SO BROKE. Some folks are very nice to their rope horses, and some are very mean, so I'm not condoning rope training... it varies by the individual. What rope and ranch horses consistently have in common is that they've all been there done that and seen it all, and you can throw everything and the kitchen sink at them and won't phase them if they've been properly exposed. 

THAT is what I want in my own horses. I want them to be able to go anywhere and do anything with the same quiet attitude that they have at home. I want them to step up to new challenges with cool confidence, and let them figure out how to navigate the world with relaxation and the ability to calmly reason with new obstacles. If they come across something, I want them to learn about it, figure it out, and move on. I want them to be able to stand quietly tied or crosstied anywhere, and let me do anything I like to them (clippers, grooming, trimming, etc) with relaxation. I want them to be able to see things they've never dealt with before and think these new challenges through without losing their cool. I want them well-adjusted and exposed to EVERYTHING that I can think of, so that when we get to a show somewhere and there is something scary and new, they're not concerned about it. To sum it up, in the Texas sense: I want them "broker'n hell." 

(Where I deviate from the western sense of broke is that I don't really apply it to actual training - there's hardly such a thing as a "broke" dressage horse, because there is always more to learn and refine and finesse with the dressage horse. A broke rope horse knows his job and runs out there and does it exactly the same, every time. It's not quite the same with a dressage horse!)

O, as far as I can tell, didn't have a ton of 'worldly' exposure when I got her. Our first few rides on the trail were a bit terrifying - she bounced along with springs in her feet, jumping and starting at everything that moved, moments away from total explosion the entire time. The first time we trailered her to an arena, she zoomed around at warp speed on the end of the lunge, cutting corners the entire way and snorting her head off. There was a pen full of roping steers next to the arena that she WOULD NOT go near - she was TERRIFIED of them! (I don't know if she had ever really seen cows before, much less ever gotten close to them! Lucky for her, Texas has about ten gazillion cows in it, so she has since had to deal with cows every day of her life. There is even a herd of cows that lives in the pasture next to hers... talk about learning by immersion!) 

Well, I thought, as I hung on for dear life on those first few rides.... it's time to get this mare BROKE.

If you've been following her journey you'll have seen her successfully navigate a plethora of things, from miles and miles of crazy trails to swimming in the lake, and the more places we go, the more exposure she gets. We go into situations like this with a low-key attitude, so she has the time to see, process, and accept all the weird things that I keep exposing her to, without the pressure of being asked to perform. When she goes to shows where she WILL have to perform, all the exciting external stimuli that takes place in a show atmosphere will be an increasing non-event. The more things she sees, the quieter she gets, and the faster she processes. This mare, who I had a death grip on two months ago whenever I rode anywhere outside of the roundpen, much less anywhere exciting, is becoming a sturdy ATV that will literally go anywhere that I point her and not care about anything going on around her. It's AWESOME.

Last night's adventure took us to a local arena where they were holding team roping practice for the night. I had planned on giving O the entire week off, but I couldn't give up that opportunity! It was almost 110 out, and I was feeling particularly lazy - who wants to lug tack around in that kind of heat? I decided that instead of dragging all my tack over to the trailer, I'd just sit in some of S's western tack. O hadn't ever been in a western saddle before, much less one with a back girth, but ehhhh... why not?

Lucky for me, she didn't care at all. She loaded and unloaded like a pro, took a nap while we drank some wine, and wandered around like a perfect lady once I mounted up.

She was VERY interested in the cows, in a playful way... way more than ever before! 

Actually, she looks pretty darn cute in that tack.... mule ears and all!

She stood immobile at the far end of the arena for awhile watching the ropers practicing, interested but not excited. Every time they ran a steer through without roping, we trotted after it until it reached the strip chute. She caught onto that game immediately, and was quick to turn after each one to chase them down. Maybe she wants to do some team penning for fun? (On the aside, I bet you this mare would make a KILLER barrel horse.... she can turn on a dime and run like hellfire!)

We trotted around for awhile and she threw her head like a maniac for most of the time. She was not amused with the particular snaffle I had picked for the night, and was sick and tired of all the little cattle flies flying up into her face. We did manage to have a few decent moments:

Check out her total nonchalance that a random steer is running around in the arena with her... I know a lot of horses that would TOTALLY melt down if they saw that!!

A little unorthodox.... a LOT of fun! 

Thursday, June 27, 2013

My Newly Minted XC Machine

It's official. O's calling is an an event horse. I CANNOT believe how good she was this past weekend!

It was assuredly her first time ever going out XC, I can 99.9% guarantee it. I've been obviously taking her out and giving her the ATV treatment (going over all sorts of terrain at all varying speeds) for the past two months, and have hopped or stepped her over every obstacle that I have come across. She's always been very, very game and very brave. There's no better way to get a green horse broke than to throw everything and the kitchen sink at them and let them figure it out in a low-key environment - that way, when the bigger and more important things are asked of them, they go, "oh ho hum, we do this all the time, this is whatever."

She loaded and unloaded like a lady, and stood tied to the trailer quietly munching her hay while we got ready:

I opted to ride in the Deltas because I wasn't sure how the footing was going to be, and didn't anticipate that we were really going to jump anything. Boy was I wrong!!

We tagged along with a trainer that I am friends with and her group of kids that were participating in the schooling show the following day (it was an open schooling in preparation for the show), and trotted and cantered around in the warmup while they also warmed up. I was quick to figure out that while I had been riding with no problems in the waterford before, I now had NO BRAKES at all. I could get her stopped, after 10 or 15 strides... but it took every ounce of strength I had. She was more than happy to walk along on the buckle, but when we trotted and cantered? Nope! I figured since I had steering and my backup emergency one-rein stop installed properly, we'd keep on with it and hopefully with some riding down she'd slow down a little more willingly. 

The girls hopped over some BN-N jumps, and then we came upon a little Starter jump. "Want to give it a go?" the trainer asked me, and I said, oh sure, why not. We walked over it the first time - it was small enough to step over, but big enough that it took an effort to step over it - and I decided that we'd jump all the little things that were small enough to be stepped over should worse come to worse. We set up, came at it at a trot, and she cracked her back like it was 4' tall. We headed to the next one, and she slowed to a walk to look at it, but stepped right over it. We re-approached, and she did the same thing, cracked her back over it like it was huge. This mare is REALLY going to make sure I perfect my releases, because if I don't give her enough freedom in her neck, she pitches a royal fit with her head on the landing side of the jump. I was quick to adjust, and she was much happier for it. 

After that, she was a superstar. She jumped EVERYTHING I pointed her at, trotted and cantered around through the woods to and away from the herd without fuss, didn't complain when we were out of their sight, didn't look at anything, didn't fuss, didn't hesitate anywhere. She went over ditches, bank, trotted through the water complex, went up and down hills, everything! She got a *little* tired at the end, and the last fence we went to she was a little slow to pick up the trot - she gave me some hesitation and a very small 'don't wanna go' attitude when I put my leg on, so after we made it over I called it quits. My only problem was that my brakes were completely nonfunctional. We trotted everything with ease, but the only fence I cantered to I struggled to keep her under control (we went back to trotting and keeping it simple after that). But more than once after a fence, she bore down on the bit and off she went. She was never out of control, but I just had no ability to stop her without some serious strength and a long runway. More than once, I had to one-rein stop her, simply because she literally just was NOT going to stop otherwise! 

I shall have to do some musing on bits. Anything with leverage I can almost guarantee will be out - she knows full well how to curl her neck in and avoid the contact, much like Gogo did when I had anything with leverage on her (even just a short-shank hackamore was too much leverage for her). Something with a different mouthpiece is a possibility - maybe a slow twist. Somebody even suggested a gag, and while I feel like that is A LOT of bit for a horse going around the tiny jumps, I also have to remember that a) a gag would afford me the action of a simple snaffle with the snaffle rein, and have the gag rein as a backup in case we forget to stop, and b) this is a horse in re-training, not a horse in training. I would NEVER put a young horse in a big bit like that - I hate to do it period - but when a horse is strong-willed like this little redhead is, and she decides she wants to go faster now and screw you if you want me to slow down, sometimes it takes a little 'excuse me, are you listening' to wake them up. It takes time and re-training to get them listening to half-halts out on XC, where things are fast and exciting. I am NOT a bigger better bit kind of person - I always ride mine in the kindest snaffles that I can - but once in awhile I need to reach into my bag of tricks. 

Funnily enough, the first year I had Gogo out on XC I had to use a d-ring Mikmar on her because I literally COULD NOT stop her sometimes (same thing, eager horse wants to GO and screw you mom!). I actually couldn't ride her out in wide open spaces for a long time because she would just put her head between her knees and take off bucking towards the nearest group of horses. I thought for SURE she'd never make an eventing horse after our first show, I had to kick and pull around the entire course and barely made it over ANYTHING! She of course grew up, matured, became a properly behaved critter, and was happy to do her gallops in a big fat mullen mouth Happy Mouth by the end of her career. It just takes time with these tricky ones!

To be honest, I don't even own any stronger bits... the meanest thing I have is my waterford. The rest are snaffles! If anyone has any particular ideas for the strong-willed and strong-mouthed horse in re-training, fire away!

If I were made of more money than I am I would have to pick the golden wings gag as my next step up:

Alas, shelling out a hundred smacks on a bit that may or may not work is not really in the cards for me at the moment. The econo-version with bit guards is probably a better option (runs more like $30). I USED to have one, but alas, it ran off with my ex-girlfriend. Isn't that always the way?

Sunday, June 23, 2013

What happens when you ride, a lot

I will post about the XC school shortly, I promise! In the meantime, check out this interesting comparison of O's LF. Left shot is from early April, not trimmed, second shot is of today, also not trimmed.

Her feet were complete garbage in the first shot, and they're still not great now, but they're improving. She still gets footsore when it rains and her soles soften (my paddock is full of rocks!). Her soles are still thin, but they are thickening, as you can clearly see in the photos. Her bars take the brunt of the weight in the back of the foot, and I just leave them alone - some might be keen to jump in and cut them out, and in some cases I might agree with you, but you can see how weak her wall still is in her quarters, and if I take away that support then she'll be super ouch. There's a fine line between knowing what to take away and what to just leave. In this case, as in the case with a lot of thin-soled horses, it's best to just leave it alone. She put it down for protection, and when she doesn't need it, it will wear away. (Now, if I let her over-grow and her bars got outrageously long, that's quite another thing!) 

Rockley Farm would be proud of this one - this mare was trimmed twice, both times in April, and her feet haven't been touched by tools since. Instead, I ride the crap out of her. 
The more I ride, the more her feet change. Her toes are coming back. Her flares are going away. Her soles are thickening. Her frog is beefing up. She wore in her own breakover, and as it turns out she's a little limb-crooked (look at the wear pattern) - you couldn't tell before because it was all disguised by flares and excess length. It's interesting to see these things manifest themselves. 

She does need her boots. Her feet are hardening now that our rain has gone, but when her feet are soft she can hardly walk on pavement, much less on rocks. As her feet improve this will also improve - you can see in the first shot that her soles were literally paper thin, so she was really starting from ground zero. It's only been 2.5 months after all! Her feet, being not very well shaped still and slightly crooked to boot, mean that your typical high-performance boots (Gloves, Renegades) just don't stay on. She also needs some padding in her boots, and neither the Gloves nor the Renegades work all that well with pads (although it can be done). She goes like absolute gangbusters in her Deltas, but they are bulky and big. I jumped her in them out on XC, and they did just fine, but they're more like the hiking boots of hoof boots, versus something more athletically inclined and streamlined. Over bigger fences and in tighter turns, I think I'd want something lighter and slimmer for sure. That being said, she did lots of tearing around, trotting through water, going up and down hills, etc... and didn't have a foot out of place the whole time. (But, more on that later!) 

I can't wait to see what her feet look like in a few more months!

Saturday, June 22, 2013


Aaaaah. The red beast looks so good in her roach. I am SO glad I did it.

Further proof of the sexy:


What can I say. I'm the Dolores Umbridge of grooming. 

When it comes in as a bitty mohawk, I intend to keep it as a bitty mohawk. It is going to really accentuate that neck and I think it is going to look super. Unfortunately, I will then have this problem: when I go to shows, my horses wear full body sleazies (because I am THAT crazy about having them be completely clean and spotless for a show). But you CAN'T put a sleazy over a mohawk! WHAT AM I GOING TO DO!

I had a brief image of myself staying up late into the night, sewing a mane-extension pouch onto the top of my neck sleazy, a can of Monster in one hand and a needle and thread in the other. But I'm not that crazy. ............ I think.

Anyway, I digress.

On Thursday, I took O over to the place where I help out on weekends to use their arena and jumps. They have three arenas and a XC course so there is a lot to choose from! I had a plan for the day, but didn't get to set up all of the exercises that I was hoping due to another rider's plans in the ring (of course not a problem), so I made due with something simpler. More than anything, I just wanted to get her over a *little* something to start, just to dust off her skills and see what exactly she had going on in there. I didn't know exactly what I would find - anything can happen when you don't know the horse over fences at all!

I needn't have worried. She stepped off the trailer like a proper lady and stood quietly tied to the trailer, looking around with interest but not being wiggly or noisy. I tacked her up, took her to the arena, and warmed up - she didn't care about anything, which is very nice. She's definitely very bold, and all my hacking out and trail riding has been doing all sorts of good things for her confidence away from home - she really is EXACTLY the same horse at home and away. 
Now, EXACTLY the same horse doesn't mean an angel - she's still hot, belligerent, fussy, and something outright obnoxious about things, but it's all improving. I rode her without the neck stretcher (not exactly easy to jump in those things), and picked a running martingale instead, which ticked her off until she got used to it. Once she had removed her head from my lap and had stopped trying to park trot around the arena, she settled in and had a decent ride, mostly filled with working on BRAKES and MORE BRAKES. She's been very responsive to the waterford (remember this, it will come back later), but more than anything I want her listening to my seat and body more than she does. In order to get her to listen to a half-halt or a halt, you have to basically lock up in rigor mortis before you'll get through to her. Otherwise, she keeps trucking along at 100 miles an hour, totally tuning you out. It will take time, but she'll start "hearing" the aids quicker and quicker, and will start responding faster. It's already an improvement.... before, she wasn't listening at ALL to my body, you just had to haul on the reins and hope she stopped at some point. I forget how spoiled I was with Gogo.... all I had to do was think things, and she did them. Sometimes, I instinctively did things without thinking at all, and she was almost always 100% tuned in and on board. I say "almost" because once in awhile, she'd be rearing instead of listening.... well, I guess nobody's perfect!

While simultaneously working on aids, we also worked on trotting sets of 3 poles, and trotting/cantering a single pole. Cantering a single pole was a little exciting as she wanted to rush at it right off the bat, but the trotwork was really quite good. She was consistently a little too eager in front of the sets of 3 ("THERE THEY ARE LET'S GO"), but she was listening, for the most part, when I told her that we really just needed to trot them. Once the horse is in the set of trot poles, they kind of have to adjust themselves to fit, so it sets them  up to successfully get through. Unless they are a talentless flopping fish, they usually figure it out and get it right. O, being much more talented than a flopping fish, was a quick study!

I set up a very simple little grid incorporating 3 more trot poles to a crossrail and three strides to a ground pole. It's about the most rudimentary gymnastic you can do, but it's the perfect place to start on a horse you don't know. It sets them up for the right spot and allows you to just sit chilly and let them figure it out. The first time through, O cracked her back over the little crossrail, yanked down on the bit on landing side and promptly ticked her own self off, then scooted sideways to the left out of the line. She can be touchy about the contact, so after that point I made her to give her as much freedom as I dared and stay completely out of her face. The second time through I took my leg off completely and half-halted a little too strongly, and she slowed to a walk right in front of the jump, neatly stepping right over it. Well, at least she went! Third time was the charm, and we both figured each other out - mostly what I needed to do was stay out of her face, get her at an appropriate pace before we approach (and keep that pace), and give her just a touch of leg before the jump to commit. When Gogo was a youngster, I got into the VERY bad habit of sitting and driving before every jump, because she was a bit hit and miss sometimes on XC if you weren't fully committed to the jump. She grew out of it, but I always retained the habit whenever I wasn't sure, and still feel like I want to sit and drive before jumps. If I did that on O, I feel like I probably would be lighting a stick of dynamite, so I'm sure I'll get rid of that habit PRETTY quick. This is also a mare that will be good for perfecting my not-always-great position over fences - she's not the type to tolerate mistakes, so if my leg slips or I get too in her face or I drive before a fence, I'm going to seriously tick her off and she's going to tell me about it. I better get serious!

I LOVED the feel she gave me over the jump - surprisingly round but not ridiculous, very tight and tidy, very game and willing. She's quick to unfold on the landing side, which you can see in the video of her freejumping, but as long as she's being careful and clean and safe I don't mind. I can't wait to get some video/pics of her jumping! I need an entourage to follow me around or something!

Friday, I lunged her early in the AM in the Faux-ssoa. I was a little sterner than usual concerning her speed - she wants to randomly blast forward into park trot and break into the canter, pretending like it's just soooo hard to trot. Yes, it IS hard to trot at that outrageous speed, but you are PERFECTLY capable of trotting at a normal speed, so that's the speed you need to go. Usually when she wants to canter, I make her canter until she is tired and wants to break to trot, and then make her canter for a little longer, but this doesn't work anymore with how fit she is. She can literally canter for 15-20 minutes nonstop without tiring at ALL. Instead, I'm going back and insisting she stay at the speed that I told her to go at in the first place. 

We had an escapee during our workout.... Immy snuck out to supervise!

No harm no foul. She apparently just wanted to keep an eye on things. As soon as we finished, she wandered over and put her nose on me, just to make sure all was well. Even though I'm not doing much with her right now - I've been putting all the emphasis on getting O going! - Immy still is the sweetest and most gentle one of all of them, and always comes over to check in with me whenever I go into the paddock to do anything.

Today, we did something absolutely amazing... our first XC school!!! I have SO much to write about, but I need to go to BED! O's getting a well-deserved week off (if I can stay off of her that long.... maybe it will be slightly less than a week!), so I will have some time to write about everything! I can say one thing for sure, the girl has a SOLID future in eventing!

Thursday, June 20, 2013


I have a love/hate relationship with manes.

I have to admit, I'm a purist when it comes to hairdos. I want a neatly pulled mane, I want it all to lay flat on the right side of the neck, and I want it to STAY like that. I don't want hair flying in every direction and it drives me crazy when it does. I want everything to look neat and tidy, and not like I have a wild hairy mountain goat that doesn't get properly groomed. I WANT ORDER, MANE HAIRS. YOU STAY PUT.

But they never stay put. I can painstakingly pull and braid the hair over, but it always flies right back to where it doesn't belong. I spent almost two years perfecting Gogo's mane, which reached a beautiful pulled pinnacle right in time for the AECs. TWO YEARS worth of painstaking braiding and pulling and meticulous care, but I did it.

The perfect mane:

Oh, how beautiful. 
Well, here's what it looked like MOST of the time:


When she retired, I couldn't stand it anymore. I threw up my hands and said F*!@^ it, I'm shaving the whole thing off. (I did the same thing with Quincy, ironically. His mane was just as horrible!)

She looked a little bit naked at first, like they all do...

But when it grew in a little....

BAM! That is one sexy look. 

Now that I have O, I am having a similar hair issue. O's mane, even with excessive braiding over and pulling, is just plain EVERYWHERE all the time. 


I brushed, I pulled, I braided over. I watched it fly right back to where it wanted to be - everywhere. I tried again. Again, it went off like the atom bomb when it came out of braids. BOOM - hair everywhere.
Finally, I snapped. NO MORE OF THIS HAIR. She's not show-ready yet, so I don't need to worry about braids (and anyway, if you have a hogged mane that's perfectly acceptable at events). I decided that if I hated it, it would grow back, no harm no foul.
That settled it. It was time for a roach.



That's not exactly a flattering picture - she was asleep and her neck was understandably sagging because of it. I'll get better ones tomorrow.
When it grows in a little, and I can sculpt it a bit.... OH YEA. It's going to look completely amazing. I REGRET NOTHING. Well, except not getting better pictures of it today.

Stay tuned, because not only did she get a shave and a haircut today, but she also JUMPED for the first time... more on that soon!!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Liebster Award

Hey Project Runaway won an award! :D Eventing-A-Gogo! had a ton of awards, but this is my first one over here! When I had Gogo, I religiously followed a ton of blogs and always was keen to add new ones. I had a zillion people to follow and that followed me, and we tossed awards back and forth at each other with reckless abandon. With my busy schedule, I've just not been keeping up as well, and haven't even added in a sidebar with my followed blogs... I just haven't put the same sort of loving care into this blog that I did into Gogo's blog. I think I've just been too sad ever since she died to do it. It's been almost two years now though... I should change that.

Hawk at Forging Fiction nominated me for this one! Many thanks, and here goes!

HOW TO ACCEPT THE AWARD: The Liebster Blog Award is a way to recognize blogs who have less than 200 followers. (I barely squeak by with this one - I have 193!) Liebster is a German word that means beloved and valued.  Here are the rules for accepting the award:

Thank the person who nominated you and include a link back to their blog. List 11 random facts about yourself.Answer the 11 questions given to you.Create 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate.Choose 11 bloggers with 200 or fewer followers to nominate and include links to their blogs.Go to each blogger's page and let them know you have nominated them.

11 random facts about me:

- I have to set my alarm clock in series of five minutes. I can't get up if the clock isn't directly on a 0 or a 5 minute mark.... I have no idea why.
- I actually am starting to feel somewhat like a proper adult who has her stuff more or less together, mostly. Sort of. Well, we're getting there.
- Secretly, I love really wacky colored horses... funny colors, crazy spots, weird markings, you name it.... I love it!
- Come to think of it, I love unique EVERYTHING.... run of the mill things just don't sit well with me. I can't stand the mundane, the boring, the everyday.
- If I didn't have horses, I would assuredly be a crazy cat lady. No doubt about it.
- Don't tell anybody, but I LOVE Texas.
- Everytime a tornado comes through our area, I fight the urge to get in my car and go find it. I WANNA SEE. Which, coincidentally, is how people get killed... who knew?
-  When we get a proper house, I'm going to have some lawn ornament Longhorns.  
- My dream car is a red 1973 Pontiac Trans-Am Firebird Super Duty with a big Firebird on the hood. I'll never own it, but I love it anyway.
- I can back up my truck and trailer almost as well as I can drive them forwards. I am a MASTA BACKA.
- I think most people are good deep down inside, but I don't trust anybody anyway.

11 Questions for Me:

What is your favorite childhood memory?

Oh, hell. I don't know. I had a good childhood, I had lots of good memories. I think all of them centered around playing games outside in the woods.... I was a total tomboy who spent all her time outside. I can't narrow it down to just one!

If you could have a super power, what would it be?

Flying. DEFINITELY flying.

You have one wish - what would you do with it?

Aaaah, good question. Probably something along the lines of world peace, harmony, no more harm to the planet, and a gallon of fresh ice cream every time I opened my freezer. Does that all count as one?

What is your favorite color?

Light blue - duh! EVERYTHING I own horse-related is light blue, black, or gold - my eventing colors. Light blue looks AMAZING on dark bay horses (I'm on dark bay #4, although dark bay #1 admittedly evented in outrageous purple). You want to know what color light blue does NOT look good on? Orangey chestnut. Of course, right?

What are you most passionate about right now?

My small business, Future Hubs, my hunt for a possible house (maybe??), my Furkids, my horses. And weather-watching.

You win the lottery. What is the first thing you buy?

A big, gorgeous ranch and a new truck. Who wouldn't?

What is something that intimidates you?

NEEDLES. Don't you DARE get anywhere near me with one. I might cry and/or poop my pants. I am deathly, deathly afraid of them.

What is a quote that best describes you?

"Are you ready?" Klaus asked finally.
"No," Sunny answered.
"Me neither," Violet said, "but if we wait until we're ready we'll be waiting for the rest of our lives, Let's go."
- Lemony Snicket, The Ersatz Elevator

If you had a week off from work, what would you do?

Well, in my case it's not so much if I had a week off of WORK per se, because if I want to arrange my schedule to accomodate a vacation I can do that. It's just finding someone to watch the pets and the horses that is the real issue! But, I would go to Michigan, go to Florida, go to California, and then go wherever the hell I wanted after that - probably sailing in the Caribbean. 

If you could travel anywhere, where would you go?

Back to New Zealand.... and I might never come back!!

What is the most dangerous/daring activity you have ever partaken in?

Honestly? Hiking unprepared in the wilderness. Having gotten severely hypothermic from improper clothing in a wet environment and also having gotten very lost in the mountains with no GPS/clothes/food/anything, I can safely say that being stupid is the stupidest thing I've ever done. Horseback riding is one thing... being irresponsible in a potentially dangerous situation is another!

11 Questions for Readers:

- You have to choose only 5 things to survive the zombie apocalypse. What do you bring along?
- Quick! There are zombies chasing you and your best friend is slowing you down. Do you trip them up and let them get eaten, or help them along at the risk of being eaten yourself?
- You get to the barn and find that your horse is a zombie! What do you do?
- If you were a zombie, who would you eat first?
- Do you think zombies have feelings and can they be cured?
- In this world of Smartphones and technology, do you ever wonder if we're ALREADY all zombies?
- You found the cure for zombification! What is it?
- You have a choice for vehicles to survive a zombie apocalypse: a heavily armored but slow tank, a very speedy jacked up truck with a gun rack, or a small cargo carrier airplane. Which do you choose and why?
- Where is your safe hiding spot going to be during the zombie apocalypse?
- The zombies have caught you and you're about to be eaten. Which part would you want them to consume first?
- You're up for some hand to hand combat with zombies. You have a choice between a baseball bat, a Swiss army knife, and a meat tenderizer hammer. Which do you choose?
- If zombies could dance, what kind of dance would they do?
(By the way, contrary to what you probably are thinking right now, I'm not particularly interested in zombies beyond the novelty. I've only seen one episode of the Walking Dead and it was too scary to keep watching.)

11 Tags:

I'm going to break the rules here. I nominate YOU, reader! I'm tagging you ALL because you all are awesome and deserve it!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Epic Trailventures

This summer might go down as one of the most epic trailventure times of my life. With one last week, one this week, and one in the works for the coming week, it doesn't look like we'll be slowing down anytime soon!

These rides are EPIC. We pick a place with miles and miles of trails and go first thing in the morning during the week - we rarely see another soul and almost always have the place totally to ourselves. Summer is here and in Texas this means blistering temps over 100 degrees every day, so we make sure to get on at dawn to make the most of the "cooler" hours. ("Cooler" = 80's). Last week we chose Lake Mineral Wells State Park for our weekly ride, and headed out bright and early as usual. We were tacked up and mounted by 7:30AM, which was a little later than we had hoped but still gave us plenty of time to enjoy the day. 

O's been wearing Delta boots for our treks out. Her feet are still complete garbage, but they are improving. For distance and terrain, she absolutely needs help, but she's a hard one to fit - her feet are still relatively misshapen, and high performance boots like Gloves or Renegades favor the "perfect" foot and don't stay on for beans if the foot isn't great. For those unfamiliar with the Delta brand, Delta boots and Cavallo Simple boots are literally EXACTLY the same thing, except Deltas have a ballistic nylon upper (with a leather rim) instead of an all-leather upper - but literally even the back of the Deltas is all-leather and has the Cavallo name stamped into it. They're EXACTLY the same base, have the exact same drainage, same tread, same sole relief, same everything. While I am very familiar with the Cavallos, I've never even looked at Deltas before until now, since they are almost virtually unknown and are completely overshadowed by the bigger names. I picked them for O over the Cavallos due to the fact that ballistic nylon dries quicker and is cooler than hot, water-absorbing leather. The leather on the rim of both types of boots is exactly the same, so it breaks in the same. While they are breaking in, they are rubbing her slightly at the back of her pasterns, but some pastern wraps fixed that issue quickly. I've been severely impressed - they have stayed on and straight in deep water, muck, over insane rocks and boulders, at a dead gallop, and through every extreme I can think of. I can't get them to turn or come loose even when I try! These ones won't be high-performance type boots (lower profile and lightweight for jumping, eventing, etc), but they are the perfect "hiking boot" for this mare over terrain when I need something rugged. 

At Lake Mineral Wells, we had the trails all to ourselves. We didn't go for nearly as long as we could have, and only trotted and cantered for a little while, but it was still a solid 3.5 hour ride and we had a great time. We couldn't figure out the map for the life of us, but managed to decipher the fact that the trails were marked by color - green for easy and wide, yellow for slightly narrower, orange for narrow and twisty/rocky, and red for straight up and down cliffs and boulders! We were pretty surprised when we ended up on the red trail, it was VERY rugged terrain!

(Not the most flattering picture of me, sitting in slouchy chair seat with her all parked out and inverted....)


This past week, we had an even MORE epic adventure than the last one, this time at Lake Whitney State Park. We chose this location in the hopes that we'd get to go in the lake itself, and we were not disappointed! (Actually, I think we were not *supposed* to go in the lake... but we did anyway.)
The trails themselves were lovely - flat, wide, white sand with beautiful grassy fields and some forest. I could have probably gone bootless, but chose to keep the boots on anyway. We walked for quite a long ways, found some cows, and found the lake, which we promptly went along and walked in for awhile. We got lost in the underbrush trying to get back to the trail, and O nearly lost her noodles when her buddy left her (as per her usual... it wouldn't be a trail ride without at least one total meltdown on her part when her friend leaves! Thankfully, these are getting less outrageous and fewer in number.)

Halfway through our ride, we were walking along and chatting, not paying much attention to the path. Abruptly stopped mid-sentence at one point, S shocked me with an "OH MY A GOD SNAKE!", pointing to the ground right beneath O's feet. I had only a second to register what she was saying before I heard "crunch, crunch", and booted her forward. It was a GIANT bull snake, probably almost 6' long, and O STEPPED RIGHT ON IT, TWICE. It never once tried to bite her, by some strange miracle - it was just trying to get away. O, unfortunately, assuredly broke its back in several places... ouch. Served us right, and we paid MUCH closer attention to our path after that point. 10 minutes later our astute observations served us well, as a big rattlesnake showed up to our left and made a speedy beeline right for O, rattle going. We got out of Dodge pretty quickly, and thankfully didn't see any others. Note to self: Texas flora AND fauna is scary!

After a number of hours, we decided to loop back to the lake, and let the horses stretch their legs with some trotting and cantering. This quickly became a flat-out race back to the lake, hauling butt at top speed along the wide, flat trails as the lake came gradually into view. O had way more speed to give, and required no encouragement whatsoever - the girl's got some real afterburners! On S's riding app, we clocked ourselves at almost 25 miles per hour (and O was going faster, as she went from way far back to passing her buddy), which is almost 670 meters per minute. As a comparison, the average speed of an Advanced horse on XC is about 570 meters per minute... we were going FAST! The horses are very fit at this point, and neither of them were even breathing when we slowed down. They were, however, quite hot and sweaty, as the temperature was fast approaching 100 degrees. We decided it was high time at that point for a dip in the lake, since we were roasting too!

I had no idea how O would handle a swim in the lake, since I hadn't ridden her bareback before and certainly hadn't ridden THAT far into the water. She walks into water no problem (although she does it better with a friend leading at this point), but this was something altogether different. We stripped off our tack and most of our clothes (thankfully nobody else was around!), led the horses out to a partly submerged stump, and shimmied up bareback. O didn't care in the slightest! We waded out until our knees were totally submerged, and at that point both horses made a serious about face and went back to shallower water - we figured that maybe they could feel the surface changing underneath them, and decided to trust their judgement. No need to get stuck out in the lake.
In the shallower water (up to mid-barrel on them, and ribcage for us), we both jumped off and floated around, still holding the reins. The horses stood totally immobile in the cool water with their eyes closed, swaying back and forth in the waves in total bliss. We jumped around, splashed, stuck our toes in their noses (which they thought was great fun), and bobbed around in the water for about an hour or so. I didn't want to ever get out, it was SO fun and refreshing! Eventually, we decided that we had better get up and go, since we were all turning into prunes. It was AWESOME.

(Whoa there wild steed!) 

(Again, with the flattering slouch and squinty face...)

Our ride stats. The app is called Equitrack, and it's accurate for the most part in terms of speed and mileage. Sometimes it doesn't always get the ride time right (and definitely not the temp... it was NOT 73 degrees!), but it got it mostly right. 
Wish I had more pictures of us swimming, but it's a bit hard to do that when you're in the water!

To quote Calvin and Hobbes, these days are just packed! 

Thursday, June 13, 2013


KITTEN UPDATE! We went back to the vet, and as it turns out, the little sh*tten's leg (not his real name, just his nickname for being such a little you know what!) is healing so well that we don't need an amputation after all! His spongy little bones are coming together of their own accord, and while he might always have a shorter leg and a mechanical limp, he is using the leg well and he'll get to keep it after all! I'll be returning donations unless otherwise specified - THANK YOU so much to everyone who donated!!!!


You know, when I first got O, the entire reason for getting her for as dirt cheap as I did was because the mare would not go forward to save her life. She literally would not go faster than a walk - she'd just stop and pin her ears and refuse to move if you put your leg on her. Well, that certainly didn't last very long! My entire problem at this point in time? Getting her to SLOW DOWN! 

O is a veritable Energizer Bunny, or Little Engine That Could, or Perpetual Motion Machine, or occasionally Speedy Hellbitch - whichever name sounds most appropriate on each given day. I appreciate that she wants to go forward and is full of power when she does so, but she also uses speed as an evasion. If you trot fast enough, you'll either a) eventually break into the canter, which is easier or b) disconnect through the back and run around hollow, no matter how much it *looks* like your head is down and pretty-looking. (It's all a lie!) There is a fine line between having a forward horse and having a horse that is running away with you (and yes, they can run away with you in the walk and trot!), and O constantly toes that line. She alternates from perfectly reasonable forward trot to speedy hollow park trot in an instant, although her random upshifts are getting less frequent and are not particularly dramatic anymore. She still struggles with the idea of not only half halts, but downward transitions and actual halts themselves. The mare just wants to GO, and she wants to go ALL the time. And the fitter she gets, the more she wants it.

Don't get me wrong, I really like a forward thinker. I hate a lazy horse, and I loathe one that needs to constantly be nagged forward. I wouldn't say O is a hot horse, in that irrational TB way that you sometimes get in off-track horses... she is my kind of forward, more than willing to walk along on a loose rein and be chill but always ready to turn up the volume when asked. She doesn't do any of those silly hot-horse things, like jigging or dancing around or presenting extreme anxiety. She just has a motor on her that won't quit, and when she gets rolling, she GOES.

With that in mind, we're starting to add in some conditioning work, only we're not. I really don't want to over-fit her, I just strongly believe in cross-training and working different muscle groups. Our "conditioning" rides, aside from our long hacks out on trails, consist of just a few minutes worth of trot sets, and just a few minutes more of canter sets (about 2 mins each). Mostly, it's just a chance to let her stretch out after working on some more compressing dressage work the day before (I use the term dressage loosely here with her, as she's far, far away from being a presentable dressage horse... mostly I mean working on taking a constant and responding promptly to transitions!)

What I've found on our "sets" conditioning days is that a) the sidepull is DEFINITELY NOT AN OPTION, and b) she does some excellent dressage work when you're not actually asking for it. I might try the sidepull again at a later date, when she's a little more broke, but for going faster than a walk? Not an option. It started out well on our first conditioning day, with a long rein and a nice forward walk, but when I bumped her up into trot? Insta-uncontrollable. I had this image in my head of her trotting out on a nice loose rein, forward but perfectly content to bop along on her long rein.... and that image immediately vanished the second I started trotting. Her head went up into the stratosphere, her neck inverted, and she almost immediately broke into the canter. I couldn't slow her down, turn her, or get her to un-invert. The more I tried, the more she continued to totally ignore me. I eventually completely gave up, grabbed my right rein with both hands, hauled on her as hard as I could in an attempt to do a one-rein stop, and ran her into the fence. She finally stopped with that, and I tied her up and went back to the tack room for the blue bit. To my surprise, once it was in she was PERFECT - reaching for the contact, stepping through without rushing, using her back and minding her manners. Who knew! (I know I'm *supposed* to be all into natural stuff like bitless bridles and treeless saddles, but the truth it that most of my hotter horses can't stand or deal with the bitless bridles. Gogo hated them, Immy dumped me when I tried one, and O totally blew me off when we did anything faster than meander. P-mare, on the other hand, LOVES her bitless and acts like a fool when you use a bit on her. She was already quite finished when I got her, whereas the other three were either completely unbroke or very green... perhaps it's something in the way I train them? I don't know. Mine just like bits!)

Our "sets" are totally nothing to be excited about - two sets of 3 minute trots, and two sets of 2 minute 350mpm canters - but I don't need her to be ANY fitter than that for the time being. It's mostly just to get her moving out and using different muscle groups... I fully believe in cross-training!

"Come on lady LET'S GO!"

She's also had a few lunge sessions - one a week in the Faux-ssoa to offset the other work we're doing:

And, EARLY in the morning, before it gets hot!


Coming up next... we have some INCREDIBLY EPIC Trailventures, including swimming in the lake, killing snakes, galloping flat out, and accidental mountain climbing! For right now, it's BEDTIME!

Friday, June 7, 2013

The Trouble With Tack

First off, thank you SO MUCH to everyone who has chipped in for the little munchy kitten's surgery!! He's doing really, really well, perking up every day and starting to get a little more mobile. He needs to finish his course of antibiotics and get some strength back, and then he goes in for surgery. (This will give him the best chance at making it through surgery... going under can be risky when they are so tiny!) I'll keep everyone updated on how he is doing!

In other news, I am having to face the fact that neither one of my saddles is a good fit for Immy. I got away with it while I was breaking her, but now that she has gained some weight it's becoming an issue. It's not that the saddle itself doesn't fit, it's mostly the fact that she has a narrow and far-forward girth area and enormously sprung ribs (and belly) right behind it. Couple that with her mutton withers, and it pulls saddles forward like crazy. If the saddle gets too far forward, she stops dead. If it really gets too far forward, she bucks. If you get off and fix the saddle when it slides forward, it's not a problem... she'll let you know when it's sliding because she stops. But it's not exactly a feasible option to dismount repeatedly during a ride! 

Things to try: no-slip pad (I have one, worth a shot), a crupper (as a last resort ONLY), or an anatomically shaped girth (possible, since I have one, but mine is so wide that I don't think it will make a difference either way). Things to really consider: if I want to ride this mare more than I have been, I need different tack. The problem with this? A) I cannot possibly afford all new tack at this point. B) I am hopelessly attached to my saddles and they fit P well and fit O as if angels created them custom for her. (O and Gogo have exactly the same back!) If Immy was shaped more like the others, this would be less of an issue. Or... if I had a saddle to fit a more mutton-withered horse... a saddle that also had a back girth, like the one I broke her in (which stayed put).... then it would stay where it belonged.... wait a minute. I should try a western saddle. They're made for horses built just like her, AND they come equipped with back girths which will help the saddle stay put around her belly. It doesn't have to be forever, just for now... it's worth a shot. S has an abundance of them, so I will have to ask if I can borrow one!

She's had her month off and she looks great - her weight is good, her coat is great, her demeanor is excellent and she is acting like her silly, sweet self. She was very determinedly trying to open her gate today when I was making grains - she had the whole chain in her mouth and was trying to wriggle her lips just right to see if it would open for her. Such a goon...
The plan at this point is to just let her come along as slowly as we need to - since I have O to focus on competition-wise, I can let Immy take all the time she needs to slowly come into herself. Some trail rides, some fun things, some light work.... just having fun, no pressure. I see no reason to rush this mare... it will only get us nowhere. She's come so far, and I am not about to let her backslide. She needs to just have fun, and enjoy herself in whatever we're doing. I think that's really my only goal for her in the foreseeable future.... have fun, in whatever we're doing. As long as she is enjoying herself, I'm happy. Think that sounds like a fair plan for the time being?

More on this little red demon shortly... she's starting to look GREAT, isn't she?