Saturday, August 31, 2013

Catch-Up Post, Part II (Or, Adrift in the Estrogen Ocean)

Continuing with our catch-up!!

On Wednesday, I trailered over to WD for some jumpy jump time!! I hadn't jumped her since our last schooling at Greenwood a few weeks ago, so I was definitely excited to get back to it. I set up a varied assortment of little crossrails and verticals, a one stride line, and a three stride line, just in case we decided to go for just a little bit more. 
Our little playground:

Everything except that one jump with the filler in it that has fallen over - it was just a little bit too big for her. Not included was a Pepto-bismol pink vertical off-screen... I wasn't sure how she would take it, since it has Bloks as filler and it was BRIGHT pink. I guess you just have to sit up and find out, right?
She was GREAT. Hot, a little bargy, but great. She did everything, and did it consecutively as well, even the lines and the one-stride! The one-stride I set a little too long for her considering the small size of the jumps (guess I'm still used to setting them for Gogo's gigantic stride), but she managed very well and stretched out to handle it just fine. She even cantered a few crossrails! She is NOT ready for cantering fences regularly - that whole pesky occasional no brakes thing, you know - but it is good to get her going in a rhythm and maintain it properly. Her biggest issue is that she relies on speed when she gets out of balance, and the faster she goes, the more off balance she gets. She is slowly learning how to quietly stay balanced and use her little engine to propel herself forward instead of fall on her forehand and bear down on the bit as she snowballs forward faster and faster.... it just takes time. 
We went and played in the water after she was done.... she LOVES going through the water and practically drags me in every time! That particular eventer prerequisite: check. ;)

Thursday was supposed to be the barrel race that S and I were going to go to (not to run, just to school there while S ran), but I managed the afternoon before to get ahold of trusty Dr. H, who told me to swing by in the late afternoon with O on Thurs instread. O had literally just finished her cycle, so we figured it was a good time to scan her and see what exactly was going on in there. We gave her some light sedation, and Dr. H got out the ultrasound machine. What we found surprised us - both ovaries are grapefruit sized (that's huge!!) and both are LOADED with tons of huge follicles! Basically what this means is that she is more or less one big walking estrogen cesspool, and even though she's not currently in heat, that amount of circulating estrogen definitely affects her (hmmm I wonder why she's always a little herdbound?). The plan for this month is to give her a shot or two of Altenogest (progesterone) to keep her tempered down through this month's shows, and then when she comes back into full-on raging heat, we'll try to either supplement her with oxytocin  (which, instead of suppressing estrus with progesterone, will help prolong the life of her CL after she ovulates and keep it producing it's own progesterone - basically her body will temporarily think it is pregnant), or induce an anovulatory follicle, which will delay a return to estrus. Both of these things are cheap and work with the mare's system instead of against it (like Regumate or Altenogest both do), so they're worth a try. Dr. H, you think of everything! 
Sure does explain a lot of her wacky behavior, doesn't it? I dunno about you, but I know I am a raging you-know-what when I get hormonal... kind of can't blame her there!

It was blazing hot on Friday - 107 without the heat index by the time I was done working - so I decided to call it an early afternoon and go on a date with Future Hubs instead of ride. O got her usual grooming and pampering session, but that was all I was physically up for. We've been battling an itchy tail and mane lately (and itchy everything, honestly.... so many bugs, so much sweat!), and up until this point Listerine has been working well. It seems to have stopped though, and she was back to itching as of yesterday, so I put some MTG on instead. The MTG hadn't been working before, but it seems to help... but she was back to itching today. Half her tail is gone, I am pulling my hair out! We've tried everything else: bug sprays, feed throughs, every oil and itchy product I have in my current arsenal, washing under her tail and udders, and she is up to date on deworming with a negative fecal.... ugh! I think it is time to try the high acclaimed Zephyr's Garden Stop The Itch spray.... I LOVE LOVE LOVE their thrush spray, so I am willing to bet that the itchy spray helps as well. 

Today was supposed to be a nice hack day, but of course, O had some other ideas partway through our ride! We walked out for about an hour down the road, and then trotted all the way back, and she was fantastic save for being a little too forward and a bit disconnected at times. When we got back, I kept trotting around in the big mowed field, and O's boyfriend also went trotting past her. She WIGGED when she went across the field... ooookay, so much for finishing on a quiet note. After riding her down for another half-hour (and I had places to be, so I was on a limited schedule!), I got her to a point where I was pretty happy with her balance and willingness. She is slowly figuring out how to balance better from front to back, and to release her back and stretch her nose out to find the contact instead of curl up behind it and run. I have a little quickie slow-motion video of it - when slowed down, you can clearly see when she curls up a little and when she stretches out and takes her contact back. Note the change in her expression as well, from a bit surly to ears pricked as she goes back and forth!

Now, if I could get her to look like that ALL the time, and in all three gaits, we'd be golden!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Catch-Up Post, Part I (Or, Attack of the Emus)

I am long overdue for an update on all of our rides this week!! I'll try to keep it short and sweet, and now that I am getting back on track with blogging I will try to make sure I do it on more of a regular basis, for my sake as much as anyone else's! Writing things down every few days makes it easier for me to track progress, and to keep memories fresh and alive, since my horses tend to like to, you know, die on me and stuff.

Saturday was our first ride back after O's two week long vacation! I'm glad I did her little mini-break, and I'll continue to do them more often than I have in the past - it's nice to let them have a little down time to relax mentally and physically. (Me too, although admittedly I was getting a little too much sleep and not enough saddle time!) Our first ride back was *supposed* to be nice and relaxing, just an hour long walk hack, but we all know how the best laid plans fall apart in the face of a very fresh mare just back to work. She held it together well for the first 45 minutes of the walk, although it took a bit of encouragement to get her going forward away from the barn. She was on the tail end of her heat cycle, so she felt more or less glued to the barn and not really willing to leave her boyfriends, but after a a few wake up bumps with my spur, she quit walking like a drunken noodle and starting moving properly forward. Halfway through our ride, we were accosted by a very angry pit bull who was guarding his property (and of course, Monster Dog Queen of Dumb Dogs decided to ignore me and run over to make friends... thankfully nobody got hurt in the process!), but we managed to make it safely around and made our turn back for home. On the route we normally take down the road, there is a pair of emus that roam one of the fenced in ranch properties. I have no idea why these people have emus, but they do, and the horses do NOT like them. When they are just walking around, O gives them the stink eye but doesn't do anything more, and we can pass on without incident. We passed them on the way out with no problems, but on the way back, they had become separated by a corner of fence and couldn't figure out how to get back around to one another. Seriously though, how stupid are emus? They literally could NOT figure out how to walk 5 feet around a corner and get back to one another, so instead they ran frantically back and forth against the piece of fence that separated them, leaping up into the air and kicking out at the fence, wings waving and feathers flying. Poor O took one look at this chaos and froze, absolutely immobilized with fear. I could literally feel her heart hammering through my saddle. They were admittedly terrifying, so I gave her the benefit of the doubt and dismounted, leading her over to them so that she could get a better look. The stupid things finally figured out at that point how to get around the corner back to each other again, and everything settled down momentarily... until the neighbor's horses decided to all come galloping across their field right at us. We were obviously on the other side of the fence, but O at this point more or less short-circuited, and we spent a good 15 minutes re-learning how to back up in hand (she had conveniently forgotten how to do this in the midst of all the chaos). When I got back on, she was a little bit fried, so after working on some failed walk-trot-halt-holdfreakingstill transitions, we just trotted off down the road to blow off some steam. Wouldn't you know it, she stretched out over her back, took a contact, and worked like a wonderful little angel. We trotted for quite a distance down the road, and when I finally halted at the end of it, she came to a smart stop and held perfectly still. Fantastic note to end on, if I do say so myself! Unfortunately at this point, it was already almost dark (what happened to just riding for an hour!?), so we called it a day and made our way home.

Since our Saturday "light hack" turned more into a dressage school than anything else, I decided to hack out in the late afternoon with S and do our nice little hack then instead. We admittedly had a few drinks as we were tacking up... ok, several drinks.... and by the time we got on we were feeling pretty good. (NOT CONDONING THIS.) S's little hotrod was acting up on our way out down the road, so we bumped it up a notch and trotted off. O, once again, totally surprised me by stretching out, relaxing over her back, keeping a perfect tempo, and taking a good contact. At the halfway mark (it was getting dark!) I let her stand quietly and relax while S worked her horse a bit more, and then we trotted/cantered back, O acting just as perfectly as she had on the way out. At the tail end of it, things got very interesting - S decided that the best thing to do for her horse was to breeze him up the hill past us, just to let off a little steam. As soon as he zoomed by, O lit up and exploded after him. Being slightly intoxicated, I just hung on for the ride and let her go.... probably not the best idea I've ever had, but it felt good to just let her rip. We walked down the next hill and let them go again on the way back up, and I can say with certainty that I can't remember ever having gone that fast on horseback ever before in my life. She blew right back S's extremely speedy barrel horse and kept on going until we reached the top of the hill. It was GREAT.

Back at the barn, we enjoyed a nice session on S's new favorite toy, the Theraplate...

If you've never experienced the awesomeness of vibration therapy (and get your mind out of the gutter, you pervert!), it's WONDERFUL. Check out more info on it here

On Sunday night, S and I got a text from the guy leasing the pasture behind her house asking if we would come help push his cattle in the morning so that he could separate calves for that day's sale. We were planning on heading to WD in the morning, but of course agreed to help him, so at the crack of dawn we were saddled and out riding to meet him. Neither O nor I have ever helped move cattle, so it was brand new for the both of us, although it wasn't hard to figure out. Most of the cows followed the feed truck over to the holding pens, but it was left up to us to get the ones who weren't interested in following. O was a very good girl, more than happy to run at the stubborn little bull calves who are all getting old enough to be getting ornery, and even chased down a Longhorn and her calf who were trying to break away (there is one Longhorn out there with the rest of them, apparently owned by somebody else who wasn't smart enough to consider the fact that you can't run Longhorns through a chute!) On the way back to the barn, I gave her another brief flatwork session, and she was just as perfect as the two preceding days.... awesome!! Interestingly, she was in a western saddle with the blue bit in... I haven't been able to decide if she loves the blue bit or if she loves the other loose ring snaffle, but I think I will do more work in the blue bit... and who says you can't school dressage in western tack anyway? ;)

Back at the barn, we had a nice little surprise when a giant tent from the neighbor's house came blowing in the wind over to O's pen.... it must have been one heck of a gust to send that thing flying our way! O, true to form, looked at it with mild interest when it came crashing into the fence, but went right back to eating her hay. Giant tent monsters = 0, O = 1.

Tuesday was a somewhat un-anticipated day off! I had intended to give her Thursday off instead of Tuesday, but S wanted to go to a local barrel race on Thursday and asked if I wanted to join. Well, of course I did, so I decided that since she had been so very good for each of our previous rides, I could let her have a nice relaxing day off instead of a workout. I groomed her, fussed over her feet and tail, and gave her some extra cookies, just because she is awfully cute when she's finally not in heat anymore.

I also got a few quick shots of the changes in her feet!

Note: She has NOT been trimmed in this interim save for knocking a few edges off here and there! This has ALL been done through movement and diet!

Left: when I first got her. Center: 2.5 months of change. Right: 4 months of change. You can see how crappy, thin-soled and thin-walled she was in the first photo - weak, underdeveloped frog, long toe, quarters broken out with some WLD problems. I could depress her sole with my thumb!! Center photo showed massive frog improvement, a thicker sole, better development at the back of the foot and a shortened toe with a better breakover (you can see where she creates hers, off to the side, since she is slightly toed in). Her bars are long, but they have filled in in place of the weak wall in the quarters that was still being treated for WLD. The most recent photo is slightly deceiving, since the morning light makes it had to see the back of the foot and she had a flap of extra frog hanging over her central sulcus that makes it look like a big crack (it isn't a crack at all, just is being covered by the extra flap a little). Sole and extra bar material is starting to crack up a bit as it prepares for exfoliation, but just LOOK at how much thicker that wall is!!! New research has shown that new wall growth not only grows down from the coronary band, but also generates outwards from the laminae as well, which shows quite clearly in this photo. In the bottom photo, you can see just how different her new growth is from the old crappy stuff, which was thin, shelly, weak, and prone to cracking and chipping. She is getting increasingly surefooted every day - it wasn't long ago that she couldn't even walk on pavement without being crippled. Now she is starting to walk over gravel and rocks with increasing confidence - she isn't totally "rock crunching" yet at this point, but loves her boots and rides great in them. We ride without boots as much as we ride with them, whereas before I couldn't do anything at all without the boots. Progress!

I'll have a Wednesday-Friday report shortly! 

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

I will have a bigger update soon!

Phew! We are back from our week-long trip to Michigan. It was pretty fantastic floating in the water on Lake Huron, not roasting to death, seeing old friends, AND.... we're engaged! I've been talking about Future Hubs as Future Hubs for several years now, and now shortly he will actually be Hubs! It kind of sucks though because on paper he's still documented as female - which means we can't legally get married. And since all of the laws in this state require surgeries in order to legally change genders, and they are all horribly painful and extremely expensive (because insurance doesn't cover what they deem to be 'elective' surgery), it doesn't look like we actually are going to be legally married for a long, long time. Like ever. But, we can still have a ceremony and we will probably next year. Silly laws, telling us we're second class citizens who don't deserve happiness or legal benefits.... oh well, what can you do. 

ANYWAY. O is back to work, and she's doing great, but I am pooped and would love nothing more than a hot shower and BED. So, I will have more soon!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Quick Video (To see some of the mare-stuff we're dealing with....)

Here's a quick video to show a small part of why I'm considering some, er.... hormonal help for Hellbitch Herself. She did this for approximately an hour before I convinced her boyfriend to come back and calm her. Assuredly, she's doing it again right now, and will continue to do it all night... and will do it all week. She won't eat, sleep, drink, or stop running unless her boyfriend has his nose up her butt. 

This stuff, plus her serious misbehavior under saddle and on the ground, plus being unable to catch her, plus tearing out half her tail from humping the fence.... yeahhhh. It's pretty high my the list of 'worst hormonal issues ever.'

(The tail wrap is from trying to tame it a little after washing it... it was sticking up in all directions. It was only temporary until it dried!)

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Losing Her Marbles

Well, it's that time already.... time for O to come back into heat again. BAH.

Gogo was an exception to the annoying in-heat mare rule. Every time she'd come into heat, she listened better under saddle, was more malleable and responsive, and did exceptionally well at shows (we joked that we ought to give her Estrumate before every show just to make sure she'd come in and behave herself!). It was like she was a little less self-assured, so she'd look to me more as a leader. It was AWESOME.

O is the total opposite of that. When she comes in, she'd rather have nothing to do with me. Normally, she's a total peach, very interactive and loving, a total attention hog and a snuggler who comes right to you in the pasture. When she's in heat, the first sign of it is not wanting to be caught. Today I caught her snuggling over the fence with one of her Blonde Boyfriends, and then when I went to go groom her, she left. Come on, we're just grooming, you can do it while we're eating dinner, we don't have to work today! She eventually gave in, and I inspected a nice big bite mark on her butt which no doubt was from her very studdish Blonde Boyfriend. Yep.... she's coming in again.

She gets super distractable and flighty when she's in heat. She can't focus on eating, sleeping, doing regular things... she's just constantly on the search for another horse to flirt with. She is balky and sticky and cranky under saddle. She wants next to nothing to do with me and leaves whenever I show up. And it's hard to say whether or not there was a serious correlation, but that horrible terrible no good very bad jump school we had? Right during her peak cycle, when she was at her most distractable and crappy-feeling. Every other jump school? TOTALLY different horse. She's 100% hit and miss under saddle on the flat either way when she's in - sometimes she's OUTRAGEOUSLY HORRIBLE, sometimes she's ok, but she's definitely a wild animal when she's cycling. She's already on raspberry leaves and magnesium... chaste berry is probably worth a try too. 

There is another option which I am definitely interested in trying - marbling. I'm really NOT a fan of giving supplemental hormones unless there is really a good reason for it - like if she was honestly trying to kill herself or kill me. (Let's face it, hormones are super powerful and super scary! I'm not keen to mess with you, Mother Nature!) The marbling procedure involves placing a specially sized glass marble into the mare's uterus, which tricks her into thinking she is pregnant. This procedure can be somewhat hit and miss... some people swear by it, other people have had their mares expel the marble or come right back into heat anyway. I like this idea the most because a) it is cost effective, b) it is reversible, c) it doesn't need to be given daily/monthly like oral or injectable hormones do, and d) the mare produces the necessary progesterone by herself instead of being artificially given them. 

I have a call in to my vet to discuss some options. Either way, something needs to be done.... dealing with In-Heat Demon Child isn't a lot of fun. Any success stories out there with marbling versus depo/Regumate/etc?

I decided after all was said and done that she should have a little two-week vacation after her awesome schooling last weekend, so she has been relaxing and enjoying herself this week. She's been working super hard and doing very well, and I will be gone all of next week anyway for my own vacation to Michigan (excited!), so I figured she could have a little down time herself. I think it's important to let them have breaks like that... it's something I never did with Gogo, and I regret it now. She won't be ready for the little schooling show at WD at the end of the month, but maybe we can shoot for the one at Curragh in early Sept. I'm going through my list of schooling shows today and making some more solid plans!

EDITED TO ADD: Here is the update list of hopeful shows for the year! Ones in bold are a definite yes (if all goes well, of course), ones that are just in italics are maybes.

Sept 7th-8th: Curragh Open Schooling & Schooling HT (Schooling Sat, HT Sun)
Sept 21st-22nd: Lazy Dog Ranch Open Schooling & Schooling HT (Schooling Sat, HT Sun)

Oct 5th-6th: Curragh Open Schooling & Schooling HT (Schooling Sat, HT Sun)
Oct 19th-20th: Quail Run Open Schooling & Schooling HT (Schooling Sat, HT Sun)
Oct 26th: 5th Annual Brazos Valley Hunt Fun Show & Trail Ride Challenge

Nov 3rd: Lazy Dog Ranch Schooling H/J Show
Nov 4th: Curragh Schooling Dressage Show
Nov 9th-10th: Texas Rose HT (MAYBE, but it's a BIG maybe!)
Nov 16th-17th: Greenwood Farm Open Schooling & CT (Schooling Sat, CT Sun)
Nov 23rd-24th: Meadow Creek Park HT (MAYBE, if all is going well... this one is further and significantly more expensive than the others due to the fact that it coincides with a recognized event!)

Dec 7th: Las Colinas Schooling Dressage Show

Looking ahead at these potential schooling shows makes me realize how NOT PREPARED I am for going back in the show ring! The last time I ever turned down a proper centerline was at the AECs in 2009. Ya'll, that is FIVE YEARS AGO. I don't even know if half my show tack is still around, and I don't even have the slightest idea when any of these shows open and close. There is SO much to do!!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Who Needs Brakes?

(The short answer to that is that I need them. I need brakes. I need them, a lot. More on that shortly.)

 I'm still trying to recover from being repeatedly overheated and working a lot, so this post is a bit slow to come, but we've had a very eventful week, in a good way! It has been blazing hot outside, but we're making due.... summer is almost over! Or well, summer is slowly approaching the end. Or well, summer is maybe half over by now. Or well, summer maybe will stop being so miserable by October, hopefully....

I gave O last Tuesday off, and on Wednesday I busted my butt working in the heat all morning. I was roasting by the time I finished with clients (around 1pm), but I wanted to at least go for a light hack, so I headed off to the barn, since I was already out in that area anyway. When I got there, S suggested going for a nice long trail ride. It was 106 out and I was feeling overheated, but hey, why not?

About an hour into it, I started to feel pretty lousy. I had been drinking water all day long, but I had just been too overheated for too long that day. When the trails were in the shade or when there was a breeze, it wasn't so bad, but when the air was still and the sun was beating down on us, it raised the temp by about 15 degrees. I also made the terrible mistake of bringing Monster Dog along - she's always by my side on the trails, but I should have just left her home that day. Honestly, since I had no idea we were going to trailer out anywhere and I had no idea how hot it really was, I wasn't able to make that judgement in time to leave her. We stopped and watered her every time we caught a path down to the lake (which was regularly) but it was still just too hot for her. Around the same time that I started feeling crappy, Monster Dog flopped down in the shade of a big mesquite and refused to walk another step until she had taken a rest and had some more water. It was time to head back.

Poor Mooey....

But, we all made it back in one piece. After putting the horses up for the night, I promptly went home and crashed on the couch, totally exhausted and sun-sick. If you've never truly been sun-sick, I don't wish it on any of you. At best, you just feel dizzy, weak, thirsty and hot. At worst, you black out, puke on yourself, get tunnel vision, and fall over unconscious. And then you die, but I haven't reached the dying part yet, thankfully.

Thursday morning I woke up bright and early (for no particular reason at all, seeing as I had nowhere to be that day), and decided that I better get my butt going if I wanted to ride before the heat of the day! I outfitted the red beast in her western garb and gave her a nice warmup before starting some patterning on the barrels. At this point, it's not about teaching her the pattern anymore - darn mare already has it figured out and wants to go as fast as she possibly can through the pattern. Great, I love your enthusiasm, but really, we're not ready for warp speed yet! I did let her canter the first barrel a few times, which went well, but if I'm actually going to do this occasionally then I need to focus on giving her a better ride. Obviously I'm NOT a barrel person and she's not a barrel horse - this is just for fun! - but she deserves a good ride anyway. I sit like a total noob in a western saddle for whatever reason, and I can't quite figure out why. For the life of me I just can't sit when we're cantering, I just bounce around! I'm a halfway decent jock, I can't figure out what exactly it is about a western saddle that throws me all off. I stick like a centaur when I'm bareback or in any other tack... just not in a western saddle. WHY!?
Despite me being a monkey up there, she did exceptionally well. She REALLY likes playing on the barrels... if she fails as an eventer, we all know what she can be instead!

On Friday, I worked again all morning, but had weekend plans to take O up to Greenwood for another XC school. Since our last school went SO very wrong, I really wanted to get her over some little jumps the day before just to make sure that her head was back in the game and that it wasn't going to be a waste of my time on Saturday. She had been really excellent all week, so I decided to trailer her over to the ranch and take her over a little tiny course of x-rails, just to see what she'd do - if she'd be game or not. The weather was decent that morning, but of course by the time I got her over to the farm, it was over 100 degrees again (and the arena is in the sun). Well, you do what you gotta do!
I needn't have worried. She was SO game - a little too game, even! - to everything I pointed her at. We kept it simple, with little crossrails and poles, but she wanted more. I used her little three-piece snaffle again, and for the first time didn't use a martingale. The excellent Kat had recently sent me her neckstrap to try, and I made very good use of it. In order to just keep out of her way while she gets back into over-fences mode, I just lightly held her neckstrap with one hand and let her figure it all out. She was fresh as a daisy and bounced around over everything without a moment's hesitation in excellent form. That's what I like to see!

Note the lathered sweat... she looks pooped. I was even more pooped than she was.... even a 30 minute ride in that heat was oppressive. 

And finally, it was SATURDAY! I got my sorry, sorry butt out of bed at 3am in order to get to the barn to clean stalls before we all headed as a group over to Greenwood. I decided that my plan for the day would be to trailer O over to the other barn, turn her out with some hay while I was busy cleaning stalls, and then would load up and take her straight from there to the schooling grounds. This quickly dissolved into disaster... when I got there, the only place to put her was in an outside stall with a run, so I did that. She munched her hay for a little while until I had to turn out the horses on either side of her. She stopped eating, started looking around in a concerned way.... and then her eyes fell upon the farm's resident potbellied pig. Whenever the horses get turned out, the old pig shows up to look for dropped grain scraps in the empty stalls, and makes herself known by her many shuffles and grunts and squeals. At the mere sight of her, O lost her cool and started ramming into the walls in an effort to escape. Usually I am one to let a horse figure out a situation on their own, but there was the very real possibility of her killing herself all in the name of a pig, so I moved her to an inside stall. This was no better - she stood immobile in the stall, totally ignoring her hay, lathered in sweat and rolling her eyes around. I don't know if she has spent much (if any) time in a stall in her entire life, so this wasn't really an ideal situation either. Finally, I had a chance to turn her out into a small run, and she finally relaxed *a little*, munching on some hay on and off inbetween bouts of trembling and staring at the other horses in the distance. I'm super, super, super, SUPER neurotic and weird about horses eating - anytime they are not eating when there is food in front of them, I am totally freaking out. EAT FOOD, DO YOU HAVE ULCERS, WHY ARE YOU NOT EATING, YOU ARE GOING TO GET ULCERS IF YOU DON'T HAVE THEM ALREADY, FOR GOD'S SAKE WHY ARE YOU NOT EATING. Mostly I think she was just too on edge to even think about food, but it didn't help me with MY ulcers. (Thankfully I thought to give her a dose of Ulcergard before I left the home barn!) She loaded on the trailer prancing in place with her tail over her back - the pig showed up again as we were leaving, of course. Good lord, let's just get out of here!!

We made it to the schooling in one piece, and O settled in for a snack while I registered. It didn't take long before the group all headed out, us included.... but would she behave?

I needn't have worried. She was absolutely excellent. No brake still, half the time, but excellent. She jumped everything I pointed her at with enthusiasm and great form, thanks in large part due to my removal of her martingale. Whenever she'd toss her head and hit the martingale, she would royally tick herself off, and would throw down the landing gear early, slam her face into mine, freak out, hit the brakes, etc... the martingale was doing what it was supposed to do, she was just not reacting appropriately. It did keep her from throwing her head for the most part through. Unfortunately without it, the head tossing did return to some extent, but only when we were stopping and her royal highness didn't want to stop. Boy when she gets to plowing down into the contact and running off, good luck with stopping.... just not going to happen sometimes unless you a) one-rein stop or b) find something to run her into. Half of the time, she is light and responsive and listening, and voila! Easy halts, easy transitions. But the other half of the time, she'll be going along nicely, and then upshift in gears and zoom off at high speed - that is when your brakes fail. I rode her in the slow twist, and had halfway decent brakes with that, but I still feel like she hides behind it half the time and definitely don't want to encourage that habit at ALL. She also plays with the bit when she's bored, which is extremely annoying. Clackity clackity clack... she's done it from day one and it drives me NUTS! I banished the clacking when I had her in the mullen mouth, but with anything with joints or metal, she's clacking. She doesn't do it when she's working, just when we're standing there or milling around..... UGH so annoying. I hate when they make annoying mouth sounds, it drives me nuts!

She jumped everything I pointed her at, including some BN-sized logs, with gusto. And she trotted and cantered through the water with glee - she was practically dragging me to the water complex, she loved it! Shoulda gotten a video but alas, my phone was dying!


.... and the Beast, playing the clack-clack game.

But, she does look SEXY!

Back at home, she of course set to stuffing her face, drinking deeply, and acting like none of this has ever happened. That's my girl, don't freak your mother out now!

She had a deserved day off yesterday, and will either have a light hack today or another day off, and either a light hack or a flatwork school tomorrow. It's 100+ degrees out there right now, so I'm not exactly running out the door just yet....!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Feel The Burn

So, to tell you something you didn't know... it's really hot in Texas in the summertime.
Seriously, I think I might actually physically be on fire right now.

My truck, for whatever reason, religiously reads temps as 5 degrees cooler than they actually are outside. That would make it 112F outside. And that's WITHOUT the heat index... I don't even want to know how hot THAT is. 

For obvious reasons at this time of year, if you want to ride at all then you have to get your butt up and do it as early as possible. 

Yes, that would be considered a "pre-dawn" ride. Three days in a row we had to do this, due to me needing to be somewhere by 8am.... so we were on by 6:15. We spent one day hacking down the road (and playing on the barrels!), another out on the trails, and a third doing gallop sessions. Our gallop sessions are hardly a workout for either of the horses, but it gets them out to stretch their legs. 

Easy "Gallop" Set:
10-15 mins walk warmup
4 mins trot
2 mins walk
4 mins trot
2 mins walk
2 mins canter
2 mins walk
2 mins canter
10-15 mins walk cooldown

It's really all we even had time for that day, since I had to scooty my booty to work right after. It's not even enough to get them breathing hard, but she certainly doesn't need to be *any* fitter than she already is for the kind of work she'll be doing. The focus for her right now needs to be on increasing training and maintaining fitness, not the other way around. Obviously that will change in due course, but not right now.

Yesterday, we headed back to WD for some dressage work. O was kind of just an all-over hot mess last week due to being in heat (among other things), so I was keen to get some actual productive work done. She did not disappoint - after a long walk hack to warm up, we went into the covered arena and did some simple walk-trot work, focusing mostly on taking a light contact and keeping a steady rhythm. She was extremely reasonable and steady, and was completely agreeable about more or less taking a contact and being steady with it. Even when she wasn't quite on contact, she kept herself slightly above the bit instead of behind it. I'll take that any day. She listened well for transitions, without much more than a light halt-halt on my part (this is huge!!), and even stretched in the walk. She really actually stretched!
I'm glad I did away with neck stretcher and martingale. I definitely needed it for the interim that I was using it, but it's time to give her some more freedom, now that I know she isn't going to try and actively kill me the entire ride or try to break my nose with her swinging head. Priorities, you know.

She was REALLY concerned about her friend being in the other arena, but she didn't act on it, just turned her head and popped her eyeballs out while I was taking photos. When we were working, she didn't do much more than look at him a few times and then get back to work. And for the first time EVER, when we were out hacking, her buddy trotted away from her and SHE DIDN'T FREAK OUT. No more dancing Mexican horse! She wasn't happy about it, but she kept on walking on a long rein and didn't do anything else except try once to break to the trot once he fully vanished (and she came back in a stride or two, so it wasn't a big deal). YES.

I also managed to repair the Deltas with a lot of angry words and glue/cable ties. And if you were curious about the boot/leg setup... 

First, apply long cottony knee-high socks over the hoof and pull high
Second, apply no-rub pastern wraps over the socks
Third, beat boots on with much cursing and swearing
Four, pull socks down
Five, wrap legs with polos of choice
Six, pull socks back up over the polos
Seven, ride, and express joy at how happy horse is in boots and how it's all worth it to keep them from rubbing her
Eight, dismount, wail in horror about the amount of goathead stickers and cactus thorns that are now in the socks that will shortly be embedded in your fingers
Nine, pick out all stickers, bleed profusely
Ten, pull off boots, then pastern wraps, then socks, then polos, and have a drink

It's an enormously huge pain in my butt. It's worth it - totally worth it, for her health and the continuing improvement of her hoof - but it's pretty obvious why people just go right to shoes. BOOTS ARE A HUGE PAIN. 

Nice schooling bridle, yeah? One of my friends sent it to me for super cheap - I had been hoping to score a cheapo one so I wouldn't have to keep switching bits every five seconds. It's a bit hard to tell, but the browband is a ribbon one she custom made herself - it's black with sparkly gold. LOVE it. The bit is one I hadn't bothered to try before, but she LOVED IT - just a simple thick three piece loose ring, nothing fancy. I don't think I had ever even really used it before now, it was just one of those random finds in my trailer... can't remember where I got it or why. Either way, glad I tried it!

As an aside, nobody can believe that she's actually only 15.1. She takes up my leg well, moves like a big horse, and has a big horse presence. I always think I look huge on her, but in reality, I really kind of don't:

... but when you stand her up next to a bigger horse? Well....

Granted, she's slightly downhill from the other horse, but he's a solid 16.3. She's a shrimp!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

End of July Recap, August Goals!

It's time for monthly goals! Hooray!


July Goals:

1) Continue basic dressage work - walk/trot/canter on the bit, stretching, emphasis on balance during circles/serpentines, start some lateral work! (We've already begun to play with leg yields and turns on the haunches - more work on those!)
Success, mostly. We are a MILLION years away from where we need to be to even start thinking about showing (ok, maybe not that far, but sometimes it seems like it), but we're getting to the point where we're having more and more flatwork rides with normal, appropriate behavior. She's still not where I need her to be in terms of responsiveness, and being able to take a contact, but slowly we are getting better. Slowly. Very slowly. Our progress is all upwards though.... it's just very slow. 

2) More jump schools - increasingly advanced jump work in the arena! (No more XC schools in the area until August sadly - everyone in TX hibernates in July, with good reason!)
Well, we're getting there. We didn't do as much as I was hoping and our last XC school was awful, so I think what we're going to do is just stick to the arena for a little bit and get her comfortably cruising around small courses there before we start heading out again. We'll school in August, definitely, but if we're not ready for schooling shows at the end of the month, then we're just not. And that's ok... these things take time.

3) Plan out our hypothetical "show" schedule for the fall - pick out some schooling events!
Success! Hopefully we actually get to stick with it... that's all up to her. We can only go as fast as we can go in terms of progression! I'm not about to rush into something that isn't going to end up being a good experience for her, so we'll just keep doing what we're doing and aiming higher and higher each time. 

4) Chart out our monthly calendar and stick to it!
I'd say this was only partially successful. I gave her days off when I felt she needed them, instead of sticking to her schedule, and did more lunging than I thought I would. I think that for the most part I am done with the lunging from here on out.... mostly we'll be sticking to under saddle work. I have this month's schedule in the works already!

5) Continue to play around with patterning on barrels and swinging ropes off of her - maybe progress to pulling the dummy and/or roping the dummy!
Success! We didn't swing ropes off of her, but we kept patterning on the barrels... the mare is a freak around a barrel and she LOVES it. And it's really fun... aw crap, does my warmblood want to run barrels?


I'd say the month was about 50-75% successful, in terms of goal completion. It just didn't end up being quite what I wanted, but we did try.


August Goals:
1) Continue basic dressage work - walk/trot/canter on the bit, emphasis on stretching and quietness, taking a contact solidly!
2) Jump schooling - work on gymnastics, small courses, things in the arena - just getting her rolling, quiet and confident! Also go to some XC schools, but keep it low key!
3) Keep to our monthly calendar!
4) Continue to dork around with hoof protection options - how best to help this mare with traction and comfort! 
5) Keep playing with barrels, and conditioning work.... because you never know, maybe we'll play around with some limited distance stuff and some barrels too ;)


Mostly, last month's work made me realize how much filler still needs to go into her training gaps. Being a very competitive soul, I have no interest in going to any shows unless we're going with the intention of winning (aside from a few schooling shows for experience, when she is ready), so I am more than happy to sit tight and do my homework at home until we're ready. Showing is great fun, and my end goal obviously, but unless I head out to one fully anticipating a good run, I'm not going to waste my money. 

I'm also having a lot of fun playing around the barrels, and she LOVES it, so maybe we'll dabble in that in our near future... because why not?