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....!


  1. She looks so amazing!! And I feel you on western saddles: I don't know what it is about them, but I can. not. figure out how to not look like a total idiot when I ride in them.

  2. You both rock. O looks amazing - she's hardly lathered at all, because she's in AH MAY ZING shape. Are you electrolyting? The Hammer pills are good. Do it.

    That pig is an asshole and a devil. Pigs are food, not friends. ;)

  3. This is going to sound counter-intuitive but a light shirt that covers more skin might be helpful if you start to feel really sick from being out in the sun. Part of the problem in sun poisoning is not just the heat but the actual exposure of sun on skin. Even just a tee shirt instead of a tank top can help a lot. It's hard in Texas to think, in million degree heat, that you should put on more fabric, but it can help a lot if you put that barrier between your skin and the sun especially in the middle of the day when the sun's rays are the strongest. Even if you already feel yourself start to get sun-sick it can help to go ahead and put one on if you're not doing being out in the sun.

  4. Smart Monster Dog! I heat-stroked myself pretty good about five years sucked goats and my heat-tolerance has never been the same. :-/ Good luck taking care of yourself, and big ditto re: the human elytes.

    (She _does_ look super!)

  5. Ugh. Heat sickness! I get that all the time, and I'm not even in Texas - just Indiana! I'd die out there, kudos to you for still being alive. I find that I need to chug electrolytes daily if I'm outside any amount of time. I wonder if you might be the same. Just a small bit of Gatorade electrolytes mixed in water seems to work miracles- and it's cheap.

    Have you thought about using a pelham (with both reins) for brakes? That works really well on my sensitive mouthed TB when he believes he's back at the track. Most of the time I can ride on the mullen snaffle, but if I need I can have real brakes with the curb.

    Stay cool out there!

  6. Elyte pills.... I will have to look into this. I wonder if my ongoing calf cramp isn't half related to that problem after all.
    And a pelham is a good idea! I had originally thought that any extra leverage was not a good idea for this mare given her propensity to curl up behind a contact as an evasion, but it might be worth trying - and if I get a dogbone/Happy Mouth one it might keep her from clackity clacking away! Now, to see if I am handy enough to actually deal with 2 reins going XC...

    1. I can vouch for the Korsteel Flexi-mullen Pelham bits! They are better IMO than the Happy Mouth Bits. I foxhunt in the Pelham and do everything else in the loose ring version. Nice bits and they won't break the bank! Usually a bunch of new ones on ebay if you can't find them locally. :) Oh, and riding with two reins is like driving a stick. So many more options and alot more fun! I'm sure you'll get the hang of it.

  7. Andrea are you eating enough? If I don't eat my body like CANNOT work and drinking tons of water doesn't seem to make up the difference.

    Just a concerned reader here...

    She looks awesome! I'm down here in Austin so I hear you on the heat. :/

  8. To canter in a western saddle I find that I have to jut my heels out in a bit of a chair seat and really boot scoot my butt along. It's definitely not the same motion as in an english saddle. Good luck!

  9. Western is a totally different way of going (I show western eq on top of my usual hunter/eventer-wannabe routine). Try dropping your stirrups at the canter, and ask for your mare to slooooooow down. Shoulders back, legs loose, tighten up your abs, and just try to move your lower back/butt with the motion. Your stirrups might be too long, too -- that makes it almost impossible to keep your seat at the lope!

    O-Ren looks AMAZING, btw. Love the mohawk. I'm so tempted to try it with my mare.

    PS: My OTTB auction purchase is newly barefoot in all four!! Her feet are looking amazing, her frogs are ridiculously healthy, and the farrier mentioned that she had some good calluses built up in front. She ripped off one front shoe and stayed sound walk/trot, so I took that as a sign to pull the shoes. She's a little sensitive in the fronts on her soles (near the outer toe area), but that's improving every day. She did w/t/c at liberty in the sand ring, and was doing some major frolicking. Didn't appreciate walking over gravel to get there, but oh well. This is day 4 barefoot... I don't think she's been barefoot since she was born, to be completely honest.

    The best news is that SHE DOESN'T TRIP ANY MORE! And she has some AWESOME movement at the trot, now that she's no longer stumbling over her front feet. I am so, so happy. Thank you for inspiring me to pursue barefoot eventing with my mare (she thanks you too)!!

  10. Try perhaps a Market Harborough, rather then a running (or standing, I'm not sure which you used) martingale. We use 'em to build topline in the upwardly-mobile beasts...

  11. I'm loving that roached mane <3

  12. I'm not nagging or criticizing but I have to say something... please don't turn her into fences to stop her! There was a teenage girl who posted videos of herself and her horse on Youtube that I used to watch and she was a jumper. Sometimes he would be hard to stop and she was taught to turn him into the fence. One day when she did that instead of stopping he tried to jump the arena fence, caught his legs, somersaulted, landed on her and killed her. Use the one rein stop, but please don't use fences. I'm not trying to nag, I just don't want anything to happen to you.

    She looks fantastic. I love her neck and her cute mini Mohawk. :)

    Also pigs are evil! I don't blame her for being distressed. I dread the day Chrome ever has to meet one LOL!