Friday, November 29, 2013

Tre-il Ride

Tre has been doing really, really well under saddle - she is starting to understand the idea of forward and taking a contract, and she is also starting to ride out away from the barn. Therefore, it was high time to take our first trail ride!

You guys know me - I try to make my horses broke, broke, broke. I want them to go anywhere and do anything, and I want them to be able to physically and mentally take it all in stride. I want them to be confident and careful about their footing. I want them exposed to EVERYTHING, and I want them to learn that they never have to be scared so long as I'm with them. I did the same thing with O, and now she rides anywhere on a long rein at any speed no matter what is going on. I wasn't sure how Tre was going to handle her first ride out, but it was time to give it a go! We opted to go ride out in the big cow pasture instead of down the road, which is a nice place to start them out. (Obstacles to deal with on road: cars, emus, donkeys, running dogs, mailboxes... a lot of things. Obstacles to deal with in the cow pasture: cows, water, scary looking debris... also if she were to freak out and dump me, she wouldn't be loose out on the road!!)

She really surprised me with how bold she was. O is more of a tag-along model - she likes to tailgate the other horses and follow behind the others, she is not really interested in leading. If she is by herself, she's the same (although it took a long time for her to be that way). For as speedy as she is at the trot and canter, she has a pretty slow walk, and usually the other horses outpace her anyway. Tre, on the other hand, totally surprised me by being the immediate leader, barging in front of S's mare and walking along at about 9000 miles an hour with her ears pricked. S's mare is a real hothead, and she couldn't even keep up. She broke to the trot several times - she wanted to go! Despite that, she took all of her half-halts REALLY well, and was easy to maneuver and turn.  

Her old owners told me she had been on a trail ride once, and that the only thing she really didn't like was he water (apparently they had to back her in). There are a LOT of water crossings and puddles out in the pasture, which is good practice! At the first little puddle, she followed S's mare right across. S's mare actually skirted around one side, but Tre just stomped right in! At the next puddle - a BIG LONG puddle - she looked down, paused for a second, and then plowed in. Halfway through, she quit following S's mare and turned of her own accord so that she could stay in the water! She had fun splashing around for a few minutes, and then she started to do that leg-buckling-I'm-about-to-lay-down thing, so we exited with haste. The final water crossing she encountered was pretty scary, complete with muck and moving water. S's mare went first, and with some hesitation, Tre bounded across too. O doesn't like that water either, I can't blame either of them!

There are large piles of debris around the old cow shed, and we decided to go check the stuff out (there are many things to make jumps with over there!). Tre wasn't afraid of any of it, but wanted to check it ALL out. She was more than happy to walk back and forth over a giant white plastic pipe (looked a bit like a huge PVC pole), and didn't care about all of the debris around. She is a little too bold for her own good - she walks TOWARDS anything that she isn't sure about! There were even several huge tractor tires piled up next to the trail that she gave a wary eye to, but then decided that she better go check them out. She stepped right up to them, clonked both fronts on them (and didn't care about the noise), and stuck her nose right into the center of one of them!

The last test was the group of cows. The cows see us all the time so they don't care about us, but of course Tre hadn't seen them before. She wasn't completely sure what to think of them, but true to her form she went marching boldly up to them - I had to actually stop her so she wouldn't get too close too fast! She didn't like when they were behind her and walking towards her very much, but she'll get used to that. SERIOUSLY impressed... some horses totally melt down when they see a cow. I suppose she is a QH after all...!

Can't tell you how impressed I am. She led the way, walked boldly up to all the scary things, and kept her cool the whole time. Not bad!!!!


Both ladies had really great lunges today too. O is back to work, not because her legs are no longer swollen, but because I was getting tired of her sassy crap. She is sound and she is SASSY - her bumps will continue to go away with time, but somebody was going to get creamed if she didn't get back to work. She always comes to me in the pasture, but apparently she won't let S catch her anymore, and the other day when S got her into a corner to bring her in for breakfast, she fired off a couple of double barrels directly at her. NOT okay! She's never done that before - I really didn't think she had it in her, and I'm surprised she did it. Either way, she needed some work before things got any more out of hand. 

When working on the lunge, Tre and O could NOT be more opposite. Tre likes to give her best little low-headed trit-trot and slow pokey canter. You have to really engage and push her up into a proper working gait, and it takes reminders to keep her going forward, especially in the trot. O is her polar opposite - her working gaits are WAY too fast and forward, and she likes to go in a very high-headed, totally inverted way, with her front legs running out in front of her and her hinds flying out the back. I did the same exercises with them both today, but used them for completely different reasons, and had great results with both. 

The exercise just involved the Faux-ssoa and three trot poles. I feel like I lunge these two quite a lot.... I'm normally not a lunger and not a gadget person, but I really like the results I've been getting. I won't use the Faux-ssoa on them forever and I certainly will totally cut out the lunging when they are ready, but it is doing great things for them both right now. 
The three trot poles were spaced so that Tre had to stretch to make them, and O had to compress to make them. Same distance for both, their length of strides is just that different in the trot - and it is totally opposite in the canter, since Tre covers twice the ground that O does in the canter. 

For Tre, we warmed up, and then started trotting over the trot poles. We then did lots of quick transitions, trotting over the poles and then up into the canter, and down into the trot right before the poles came up on the circle, then back up into the canter right after the poles. It really engaged her hind end and stretched her back out, and she really had a great trot going by the end, complete with super soft slobbery mouth. (I lunge them both in a Happy Mouth mullen mouth and just a headstall, no cavesson.) 

For O, I let her roll for a few minutes before getting to work (she was SO FRESH), and then we started doing trot poles. We did LOTS of trot poles before we even thought about the canter. I actually think doing quiet cantering in the lunging system is really going to help her canter under saddle out a lot, since it will help her figure out how to balance herself better and not get so dirt-bikey. The canter started out rushy at first, but what I did was canter for a minute, then go back down to trot and put her right back over the trot poles. When she comes down from the canter, her tendency is to just run as fast as she can out of control in the trot - she has speed in her head after the canter and that's what she wants to do! When she came down out of the canter and had to go right to the stride-regulating trot poles, she had to really adjust herself. It worked really well, and by the end, she too had a super slobber goober mouth!

We started with this...

Hollow back, running, compressed neck, no contact, ticked off.... not good.

Then we did some of this...

Top picture was early in the session, bottom picture was later, as you can tell by the sweat... you can see how she was really starting to use her body as time went on.

Then she offered up some of this on her own....

Stretch that back woman!

And we ended with something more like this:

Loose and swinging, relaxed through her back, taking a contact, much happier, much better rhythm/balance/cadence/speed/everything. 

And a nice goobery mouth to finish on, which she doesn't always have!

She says "phew that was hard." SO glad I clipped her, look at her sweating! 

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Giving Thanks 2013

I have a lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving, as I do every year. 

I am thankful for my family, who still puts up with me even after all these years. The older I get, the more I appreciate them, even though they are just as certifiably nuts as I am.
I am thankful for all my friends and contacts worldwide, who have always been there for me throughout the good times and the tough times alike.
I'm thankful for my wonderful Future Hubs, who puts up with me, laughs with me, gets into tickle wars with me, dances like an idiot with me, sings out of tune with me, snuggles me, and looks into the future with me, always right there by my side no matter what.
I am thankful for my menagerie of pets... the make me smile and laugh every day. Without them, life would be empty and colorless.  
I am thankful that I am still excited for the future, because it's only just beginning.
I am thankful for Texas, because even though it's one of the most ridiculous and random decisions I've ever made, it led me right to Future Hubs, Tonka, Twiggy, Monster, Pickles, Jasper, Mimi, Shitner, Pangea, Imogen, O, and Tre... and that's exactly where I want and need to be.
I am thankful for Metro and Quincy, my two long gone but never forgotten boys. I honor their lives by naming my business after them, and not a day goes by without missing and remembering them.
I'm thankful for five beautiful, crazy, intense, amazing, eventful, and memorable years with my Gogo. She made me a far better horsewoman and rider, she made me laugh and cry, she molded who I am now as a young adult, she got me started on my career path of choice.... and so much more. 
I'm thankful for my two crazy, kooky, wonderful Craigslist finds, Tre and O. They are polar opposites and both ridiculously awesome in their own ways. Finding these 'cheapies' and fixing them up has really been an incredible and rewarding experience, and I can't wait to see what the next year brings for them. 

From Ti, Tonka, Twiggy, Jasper, Snidget, Mimi, Saba, Pickles, Monster, Shitner, Pangea, Imogen, Tre, O, and myself, Happy Thanksgiving, and I hope you all have plenty to be thankful for too.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Pay It Forward

(For those of you asking about Immy & Pmare, I'll hopefully get an update to share soon :) I haven't heard from the lessee all month! Immy has definitely found herself a permanent and loving companion-only home there, which is just awesome and I am so happy for her. It was absolutely the greatest thing I could have done, pulling her out of the situation she was in and getting her into the new situation. She'll never really be a reliable riding horse, but she'll be happy and cared for indefinitely - and I get her back if anything does change. I do want old Pmare to come home to me at some point too, as she is my last link to Metro, even though her lessee adores her and wants her to stay. I have a breeding to a very nice Oldenburg that I had planned for her last year, but never ended up doing.... the breeding is still good for this year, but not sure if I am going to do it or not as I'm not sure that she will be home. I could also breed one of the ladies I have now! The breeding expires in 2014, so either I forfeit it or use it. It was purchased under special sale terms so it can't be sold.... so we'll see what happens and who - if anybody - gets it. His offspring out of any mare are all stunning and typey either way! Scores and scores of Gold Premiums. Love that.) 

I've done a lot of satisfying things this year. One of the best things that I've been involved in has been a sort of unspoken pay-it-forward pact, helping out others who need some stuff. It all started when my longtime friend Kat heard me complaining about needing a neckstrap for O, and she sent me her really nice one, just because she thought I could use it. A few months later,  her mare needed some hoof boots, so I sent her an extra pair of Cavallos that I had. Not long after that, Funder listened to me talk about how badly I wanted a helmet cam, so she sent me hers, as long as I promised to make a lot of videos doing ridiculous things. (The weather has been too wet and crappy to make any videos yet booooo!) Later, she sent me some Really Awesome endurance stirrups, since my nasty western ones were making my ankles and feet hurt. Going through my stuff, I found a nice wicking cooler for Dixie to send to her in thanks. Friend and client M listened to me go on about my hackamore dilemmas, and exchanged her really excellent hackamore to me for a trim. Friend and client Becky also offered to give me her amazing fleecey-butt saver for my rock-hard saddle. The worst of it: Niamh had her tack room broken into last night and had everything stolen, saddle and all. I'm going to send her some things - bridle, boots, pads, whatever I have that can be useful. If you have anything that you can spare to send her, you should!
Edited to add, because how could I have forgotten!!: Bif and Davsgirl both sent me bits earlier in the year, a Mylar twist and a slow twist full cheeck, both of which were GREAT for getting some responsiveness and brakes installed. I can't thank you guys enough!!!

It has been really, really nice, and really inspiring to do these things, no matter how small. I hope next year to keep it up, and get more people involved. The only requirements to this are just to not abuse it - if you need something, ask for it, and if you have something that somebody else needs, send it if you can spare it. If people like the idea, I'm more than happy to put up a page with people's needs - you can put up what you want/need, and people can come look around and see if they have anything they can spare, or that they can offer in trade. It connects us in a tangible, physical way, even if we've never met each other, and that's my favorite part about it. There are a lot of bad people in this world, but there are just as many good and selfless people who are willing to lend a hand whenever they can, sometimes to total strangers. 

What have you done this year to help those around you? What will you do next year?

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Texas Winter

Excuse the excessive number of posts lately. I've been cooped up in my house with only my stir-crazy animals for company for the past three days. The weather is supposed to intensify and worsen, so I am probably going to spend even MORE time huddled under blankets on my couch. BORING. 
The house is really cold despite the central heat, so I've not had much incentive to move out from under the blankets. I've mostly just been sitting on my butt, eating comfort food and drinking hot tea nonstop. I'm about at the end of my sit-on-my-butt rope, so I've been distracting myself with excessive spring planning. What's a girl to do?

Although I did manage to squeeze a lunge/ground session in with Tre both yesterday and today....

Yesterday, the sleet relented enough for me to get her going (the ground was kind of firm enough to get it done, sort of). I had NO intention of getting on her - the ground is too slick and she is WAY too frisky in this weather to try and ride out her nonsense. It would not have been a productive ride in the slightest. So lunging it was! She zoomed around for awhile and was actually pretty good, despite the fact that her way-too-big quarter sheet kept trying to blow off of her, and she was spooky and zoomy and distracted. When I finished lunging her, we went for a walk, and she was SO distracted by everything around her that she kept bumping into me, totally ignoring my space. That got old very quickly, and I finally walloped her one and backed her up. We went into an intense groundwork session - whoa, back up, head down, walk on, whoa, back up, head down, etc - but I never felt like I really had her attention. She was obedient enough, and did everything that I asked, but she was always focused on something other than me. It's hard to blame her for that, she is a baby after all and the weather was really awful and cold and blustery, but still. Just one of the life lessons she has to learn... doesn't matter where you are, what you're doing, or what is going on around you, you need to listen and take directions from momma. When you ask that of them, they eventually turn into total nonchalant ATVs like Pmare, Gogo, and O... I expect it won't be long before Tre starts to take the world in stride too. 

Today's lunge session was similar to yesterday's in that the quarter sheet was still trying to blow off, she was VERY forward, and the weather was even worse than it was yesterday. It was sort of sleeting on and off, and it was in the 20's. Well, I guess you do what you gotta do! She was really quite good compared to yesterday, and even ended her workout with a perfect halt out on the end of the lunge line. I can't say how much hatred I have for trainers who teach horses that lunging is just running out on the end of a line until it's time to stop, and then you hit the brakes and come walking in towards the trainer. It's DANGEROUS and disrespectful. I don't want to hear any of that natural horsemanship crap saying "oh you're allowing the horse do it, it's a sign of respect" - no, you trained it to do that and it's a sign of disrespect, not to mention the fact that you're asking to either get run over or get your horse tangled in the lunge line. Then I have to explain to your poor confused horse that it has been doing it wrong all along, and re-teach it to do it my way instead. My way: I stand still in the middle of the circle, the horse goes out to the end of the circle at whatever length I give it, and it stays out there on the circle, takes whatever verbal commands I give, and is expected to stay at whatever gait/speed I have given it. I also expect my horses to walk whenever I ask them to walk - no running off, no changing gaits whenever you want. They walk out away from me and only trot when I ask them to, doesn't matter if they are fresh and want to go. This also applies to end of the work session - you transition down to a walk and walk out there until I tell you to whoa, and then you whoa out there on your circle, none of that disengaging your butt and not use yourself properly in your halt. When you whoa, you stand immobile until I come get you. It's all about safety and respect... the horse leaves my space in the beginning, and I go into her space at the end, she never comes into mine. 
I know I'm anal about it, but lunging is work and not time to blow off steam running around like an idiot. A horse running around at the end of a long line doing ovals around you with the lunge line on the ground half the time is NOT safe, nor are you getting anything accomplished. 
Anyway. Off my soapbox. Tre, like all of them, is learning my way of lunging and is finally starting to understand how to walk and whoa instead of hit the brakes and run in to me. She's smart, and she wants to do the right thing, so she picks things up quickly - if she can keep her brain between her ears and off of the other horses, she'll be very easy to train. 

Poor O is genuinely starting to feel left out during her two weeks off. She's acting less vivacious and talkative than she normally does, and even at mealtimes when the two girls are tied up at their buckets, she finishes her meal and then just stands there half asleep with a foot cocked instead of with her usual concern with where I am and what I am doing. Normally she watches my ever move, twisting herself in half to keep an eye on me while I toodle around the barn and get out the grooming tools and whatnot. She is used to me getting her out, putting her on the Theraplate with a hay snack in front of her, grooming her, and getting some work in. Now some young punk is the one getting worked, and she is not amused. I wouldn't say she has *that* great of a work ethic, no more than any horse, but she REALLY thrives on attention and is not happy to be getting less of it than she is used to. She keeps standing at the gate after I put her out going, "what? That's it? Seriously?" 
The fill in the legs legs is still the same. The legs go down when she is cold and fill up when she is warm. She's still sound and fine... at this point I think it's just gonna take some time. After all, the hematoma I have on my butt from when Immy dumped me onto a rock last January IS STILL THERE... obvious non-problematic and has been for a very long time, it just takes a LONG time for the body to reabsorb fluid from an impact like that. 

She goes back to work Dec 1st... if there are any lasting problems, she goes to the vet for an US instead.

Other random things I've done today include going back through video stills of O. Found this cute one:

Wheeeee! She'll get there under saddle too. 

Friday, November 22, 2013

Winter Wonderland.... Or Not

Yes, you read that right. Ladies and gentlemen, Hell is in fact freezing over today. SNOW IN TEXAS JUST AIN'T RIGHT.

I was a bit, uh... overly ambitious when I thought I would get to work Tre today. "Oh, it's just cold," I thought. "We'll bundle up and it will be fine."
And then the sideways sleet started. Yeah... I think the daily lunge is out. After having to chip ice off of the barn gate to even get into the barn, it was REALLY out. What I wouldn't do for an indoor right now... or an arena at all. I can trailer out to any one that I want to, of course, but on a freezing cold, just-dropped-50-degrees, sleety-icy day, I'd rather not be out on the roads with a trailer. If it hadn't been snaining (yes, snain... short for snow-rain) on us so hard, I would have gone for it, but it wasn't in the cards for today. Bummer.... I really wanted to work her.
When I left the barn last night, it was 78 degrees. I put O preemptively\ in a sheet, even though I knew she would be hot, just because I didn't want her to be chilly if the cold front blew in faster than anyone expected. The cold front blew in early in the morning, and by the time I got to the barn, it was in the 30's and the wind was howling. The horses were VERY fluffy and VERY unhappy. I bundled up all the horses, fed everyone, went and worked for a few hours, and then came back in hopes of getting my lunge in with Tre. Yeah... not happening in the sideways rain. 

Ladies in their bundles... I've had a heck of a time figuring out blanketing this year. All of my blankets measure either 78" or 80", and obviously both of these ladies are smaller than that. S and I went through both of our blankets, and we kind of hodge-podged it. Mine are wearing some of hers, hers are wearing some of mine! Tonight, one of her horses has one of my blankets, one of them has one of hers, and the other one has one of hers AND one of mine on. Tre has two of her blankets on, and O has one of hers and one of mine on. It's complicated!
The sizes are all off too... Tre's underblanket is a heavy 70" that isn't waterproof, and the Rambo sheet over it is a 75". Ideally she's about a 72" or maybe a smaller 74". O is wearing a medium blanket liner that is medium-sized (76"-78") and the overblanket is a heavy 80". Why the 80" fits her so well, I have NO idea... she swims in my 78"s. Ideally she's a 74"-76". The 75" Rambo fits her perfectly. 

Rainy, frigid, crappy days like this are perfect for planning. If I can't do anything physically productive, I can at least organize paperwork and get things straightened up and figured out. We're coming to the end of the year, so it's a good time to rough out my overall plans for the next year, even if I don't have a complete picture in mind yet.

Excuse my endless lists... I think in lists and bullet points and crossing things off. My mind is basically one gigantic whirlwind all of the time, and lists are how I try and make sense of things. 

2014 Life Priorities:
1) Business building. The business has to come first and foremost in terms of money and time management - if it comes down to paying for shows or buying tools, it has to be tools, hands down. The business has reached (and surpassed) my 2013 year-end goals in terms of client numbers, which is GREAT! I'll be setting out 2014 goals separately for myself, but they include offering my own homemade thrush/WL remedy, adding more synthetics to my line, potentially adding a new vehicle, and peaking at a new set number of clients.
2) Buy our first house, either in 2014 or 2015! We've been looking on and off for awhile now, but our search stalled out in the spring when I got injured and had to make some major schedule changes. With money going into the business, I didn't want to have to worry about dealing with a mortgage as well, not to mention the fact that the kind of home we want isn't just a crappy apartment. What we want: a small ranchette, 5-10 acres, 3 bedroom 2 bath, nothing too fancy but needs to be solid and quaint and cute and in good shape (i.e. not a mobile home, not a thousand years old, not a boring generic run-of-the-mill place). Something with good fencing and shelter for the horses, as well as room for them to roam. Oh, and it HAS to be in the town we're still in - this is home now and we don't want to leave. There are improvements that can be made and additions that can be put in, but we want the basics all to be there. 
Here is one of the homes we're looking at.... it's completely perfect and has everything we want. It's a 3/2, only about 5-10 minutes away from where we live now, 5-6 acres, has a small barn and lots of turnout (and a roundpen), covered cartport and covered back porch. Bonus for me: it's a short walk over to 20+ miles of state trailway, AND it's in a very horsey neighborhood so Google Earth says at least three of my neighbors have huge arenas (make friends and ride over!). BEST part, it's lower than our price range, so it's something we can actually afford. It sounds perfect, but of course you never know until you go see it... hopefully we'll do that this week. I hope we can find the perfect one soon!

3) GET MARRIED! Either 2014 or 2015! It's sort of a moot point since we can't actually legally get married, and I tell everybody he's my husband already anyway, but it would be nice to have a small ceremony. Keyword here is small... we have a venue picked but I really don't want to actually even have a ceremony. Weddings are too much work, too much stress, too much money.... too much of everything except being able to enjoy each other. I would rather spend the money on a house and on a really awesome honeymoon to be honest. I'm just not a wedding kind of girl... it's way too much nonsense for me to even wrap my head around. 
4) Shows/Horsey Endeavors. While I am still trying to decide what specifically I want to be doing with the girls in terms of shows, I want them both out and rolling in the spring. What I expect I will do is aim Tre at recognized spring events, and aim O for sanctioned AERC rides while simultaneously training for other things (eventing, driving, etc). Eventing two horses at the same time at the same level is exhausting and expensive, so what I plan on doing is take out the one who is furthest along in their training out, and continue to finesse the other until she is ready to go out. Who knows which one will get there first! Only time and training will tell.

2013 has been GREAT. It feels like my life has really sorted itself out and come together this year. No guarantees that life will stay that way, of course, but this is the most settled and rooted I've been in my adult life. I've been in situations before where if one thing went bad, everything fell apart (like when I lived at, worked at, and kept my horse at the same place... when your job goes south, you and your animals and your horse are all homeless!) Now, even if one thing goes poorly, nothing else goes with it... and if I lose a client, it's okay, because I have a zillion more to fill that place.... no more losing a job and being panicked and broke. There is always the chance I'll get seriously injured, of course, but I have Hubs to help me if I get knocked down. I finally feel secure... like life is really going somewhere and I have things I can count on. Life is a journey and you never know what is going to happen, but I have high hopes that 2014 is going to be even better than this year has been. 

Ice is on everything right now... ughhhh. Tomorrow, more planning, more paperwork, more catching up on things around the house... I intend to also drink a lot of hot tea, take a scalding hot shower, and spent a large majority of day under warm blankets!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Knees Update: Waco is a No-Go

Well this sucks!

(Excuse the 959382947584929294843992 bot eggs. I feel like all I ever do is scrape bot eggs off.)

It's not completely easy to see, but the right front is swollen below the knee and gravity has slowly pulled that down some. Tendons are clean and tight. Above the left knee is where the more concerning swelling is - you can see the lumps and bumps. They are soft, squishy and are no longer warm to the touch, and they don't hurt. She has full range of motion in both knees, is sound, and flexes clean. Nothing so far has gotten rid of the fill... so far I've tried S's Hip-E spray (which is basically liquid DMSO with some other anti-inflammatory agents), Sore No More, Zephyr's Garden liniment, Traumeel tabs, bute, cold hosing. I have some A&Js Ice poultice that I'll try tomorrow... my Traumeel ointment is out unfortunately, I'll have to get some more. I'm going to nail her with some Dex if it still won't go away in another day or so. 

The long and short of it is that she's fine, BUT I don't feel remotely prepared for the Waco ride. She hasn't been worked enough, and I don't want to put her in any sort of a situation where she works to exhaustion. I really want to go to Waco, but I feel like it's just not a smart choice. We have a lot of rides upcoming to choose from, and since we're new to this it's not exactly like I'm going for top 10 or anything.... if I complete and get miles period, I'll be happy! 

While O is off, Tre is going strong! She's doing well and looking better and better. I've been alternating with lunge and saddle work, but will be transitioning over to all saddle work within pretty short order. Today was the first time that I got on her without taking a minute to spin her on the lunge to make sure all her fizzies are out, and she was very good. She got VERY up when she suddenly realized that all of her friends were over in the corner of the pasture running, and she got very jiggy and hot for a few minutes, but some walk work diffused the timebomb and got her back thinking again. I need to get her to a proper arena soon... it's really hard to do proper dressage on the side of a hill, especially with a cold front and rain coming in tonight (read: slippery and crappy). She needs to go forward and learn about taking a better contact, but the basics are otherwise there for her, and she has moments where she really 'gets' it. I like that she is most sensitive to seat aids and hasn't had a lot in the way of rein aids to have to get around - that will make her pretty easy to put together for dressage. She is ready to start trailering out to local arenas for some exposure, and she is ready for her first little trail rides. 

Looking at our Thanksgiving week forecast, I'm not too sure that we'll be getting much done though....

I don't want to see you Northerners rolling your eyes at me. I escaped from The Great White North and moved to Texas for a reason... so I don't have to deal with this crap weather very often!! 

Stupid Fat Knees!

Bahhh. Well, the Wacky Waco Wide is in 11 days and I haven't sent in my entry yet. O's knees and leg are still swollen. She is the queen of sensitive skin and whenever she gets a lump or bump, it tends to stay for extended periods of time. She is sound and fine, but I just don't like where the swelling is, especially on the left knee - it is right above the knee, but gravity has pulled some of it down and there is a small bubble of fluid right over the knee now. It's just a little bruising and swelling, but still. The mare is SO cool and has SUCH crooked legs that I am having a hard time trying to justify pushing for the ride. She's sound and fine, but I haven't been on her since the show this weekend and expect that she probably needs another few days off. When I see her today I'll know for sure. Bahhhh.

Basically I cam break it down like this:

Reasons Not To Enter:
1) Not enough saddle time = feeling a bit unprepared. Will she be ready?
2) Will swelling be gone in time?
3) A cold front is coming in and it's about to get REALLY rainy and crappy and cold for the next entire week - saddle time may get limited then too

Reasons To Enter:
1) I can always scratch!
2) First ride of 2014 season = important miles!
3) This is the closest ride to me in all of our Area, so it's actually doable when I am otherwise stuck at home watching the animals

Hmmm. What would you do? I can always send in my entry and then pull out if I feel unprepared. Maybe I will do that.

O, Y U have such crooked legs!?

Monday, November 18, 2013

My Midgey and Meeeeee!

(Kids of the early 90's, you'll sing that title along with this classic commercial.)

Omigoodness. Is Tre not precious. I just want to squeeze her.

She is doing REALLY well. She put all her weight back on and then some, and looks more like a horse now instead of a scrawny waif. This is the first picture I have of me riding her, and I'm happy to see that I don't look like a giant Amazon lady despite her diminutive size (just over 15.0). Although over the course of the year I have packed on 15lbs, so I should probably do something about that... I'm not happy to see that it's starting to show in my big fat belly! Don't laugh at my jeans either... I didn't have any breeches with me, and my calf has been giving me serious hell whenever I have tall boots on, so I've just been taking the simple route and going with just the jeans and my ropers. Poor dressage saddle, I subject you to so much torture!

She has graduated to a proper normal running martingale - I managed to shorten my schooling one to an appropriate length for her. I actually could lengthen it a few holes, and probably will, but it is good to have options. She does need one right now as a 'just in case' backup, but I doubt she will for long. The girl is mellowing out and getting more and more mellow every day. She is QUIET. It's actually a nice change from O, who likes to go go go. Tre likes to just dink along in her little dinky dink trot, and lope along in her la la lopey lope. (That's a QH for you! Funnily enough, she is race bred on both sides... obviously that didn't come through very well in the breeding!) Now that we are cantering, it's just really nice to sit there and put my leg on instead of have to give 9573298739293 half halts all the time like I do with the freight train woman! 

I hadn't posted this before I don't think, but this is Tre cruising around a course last year with her old trainer:

She can jump eh?
The draw reins kill me though... why would you jump in those!

I've had her for exactly a month now... we had our little week of crappy downtime, and a week of just handwalking, and a week of just lunging, so I've only really been on her about four times. She has really chilled out so much... I was cantering big circles around in the field today on a light contact and she was steady and quiet. We even trotted up to the top field (where she historically has been very spooky and herdbound) and she was fine. Go mare!!


As for Miss Perfect Queen, we went to a local H/J show yesterday and just CLEANED UP! It was a small show, and there weren't many people entered in our classes, but it was great for her to have to go and deal with cantering around with a group of horses. We did the in-hand classes, won them all and were the Mare Halter champions, and we did a showmanship class where we sucked pretty badly (okay well, I sucked because I don't have any idea how to do showmanship and the judge was looking at me like I was a crazy person!) but we got second in that one too. Our under saddle classes were supposed to be all walk-trot, but we opted to do a canter class as well, just for kicks. She won all of the walk-trot classes, and as expected came a bit unraveled in the canter class, but did manage to get second in that one too somehow. Apparently the judge didn't notice me almost running into the fence... 
Everyone raved about her, and of course they loved her clip job too!

I didn't realize she had her eyes closed when I posted that picture.... it's hard being a diva!

Her ribbons and loot.... it was supposed to be a Halloween show but it got rescheduled due to weather, so we had a lot of Halloween-theme prizes, including 5 bags of cookies and 2 jars full of even more cookies!

She's amassing quite a collection of schooling show ribbons!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Red Mares CAN Jump!

YAY! O's old owner saw my laments about her form over fences and sent me some encouraging pics:

So somewhere in there, she CAN jump! YAY! 

Here's my thoughts on this:
1) Her canter still sucks right now. I haven't spent nearly enough time working on improving the canter, so this is entirely on me. (It's SO FUN doing other things that buckling down and getting proper dressage-y work done isn't always high priority!) I spent a lot of time getting the walk from sucky to good, and now it is very good. I spent even more time getting the trot from sucky to good, and now it is also very good. The canter is still in sucky phase, and the golden rule of jumping is that if your canter sucks, your jump is gonna suck. You HAVE to have a good, balanced canter in order to have a good, balanced jump.
2) Aside from working on the canter on the flat, we need to do lots and lots of gymnastics. (Or, as horses probably like to call them, gym-nasties.) Lots and lots and lots of them. Winter of gym-nasties!
3) ME. I trust this horse now so I have GOT to let go of her face. Before, I spent a lot of time eternally half-halting, and I never felt like I was able to really give her her head and let her just go around, probably because she would have be in Egypt before I could have stopped her. 
4) Hoofcare. She's done super well barefoot, considering where we started, and in an arena she's great - but let's face it, we ride on rocks and hard ground ALL the time. I'm going to try the new Easyboot Transitions on her in an effort to try one last time to get a boot on her crooked feet that won't either turn or rub her raw, but if that doesn't work it is probably time to try some glue or nail-on synthetics. She's doing very well barefoot, but our progress has sort of leveled out. Can't hurt to give them a try, and perhaps it will give her that freedom to move out and land better.

Admittedly, she is already moving out pretty well though!: 

There is a 30 mile endurance ride in a little over two weeks that I think she will be ready for. She's been working super well over distance, but I'm sort of on the fence about deciding if I want to do this one or if I want to do one in January instead. This one is the first of the 2014 season and will count for miles towards it, so I would in theory like to do it, but I want to go into it just with the idea of completing. If I decide to keep eventing her - and I do want to! - I think doing LDs would be really fun cross training. Or, if I get more seriously into endurance, then LDs are a step towards even more mileage!

She looks pretty darn pleased with herself, even though I look a bit like a sack of potatoes. Details.
I think I might go about trying to endurance-ify the barrel saddle... I'm obviously not going to go hacking off the horn, it isn't my saddle, but I did get a few ideas.... 
The moste excellente Funder already sent me a new set of stirrups:

CAN'T WAIT TO TRY THOSE. I'd really like to get one of those butt-fluffy covers, but they are way too much $$$... S has a Cashel butt cushion that I might try though!

Seriously though, I can't wait to get some grids up and get going through them... Operation Jump Recon is coming to town! 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

A Clipping Tale of Woe

Gather round, clipping cadets! Let me spin you a yarn, a cautionary tale about the agonizing woes of clipping. The misery! The horror! The hair!

There is one golden rule to clipping that you must remember. Aside from the oil, and the proper blades, and all the Cool Lube you could possibly find, you must NEVER break the cardinal rule of clipping. The one thing YOU. MUST. DO. EVERY. CLIP.


I know this rule. I KNOW IT. I am The Clipmasta. I know all the clipping things.
And I broke the rules. AND IT WAS NOT GOOD.

I had bathed O on Friday, before heading out to do our little endurance ride on Saturday. On Sunday when I pulled out my clippers, it was a bit chilly and nearing the end of the day. I thought to myself - so naively - that she had just been bathed two days before, how dirty could she possibly be?

The answer to that was very, very, very dirty. Do you know what is sticky and clogs in clipper blades? Salty hair. Dirty, nasty, salty, sticky hair. My brand new blades ran well for only about 20 swipes, and that was all they had in them. They were screaming SANCTUARY! SANCTUARY! in the form of many jagged lines. Suddenly, my horse was looking like much like an inappropriately shaved alpaca.

Oh god. This is not good.

On and on my clippers struggled, jabbing into the hair instead of cutting it. AHH. IT'S SO STICKY WHAT WAS I THINKING.

I actually had to stop halfway through the first extremely failed side and go bathe her other side. The thought of tackling another half of horse with the same grungy coat made me genuinely consider my life choices. I would have rather tackled Ghengis Khan's army all by myself than face that long, lonely tapestry of salty red hair. My clippers would have probably been more effective as weaponry against a horde of Mongols than they were against her filthy coat at that point anyway. 

But I plowed on. I struggled, I screamed out in agony, I cursed my decisions and I thanked O for not kicking me in the head every time my blades snagged in her coat. 
I am not called The Clipmasta for nothing. I was gonna MAKE THIS WORK.

And make it work I did. Somehow, some way, I managed to triumph over the mess I had created. 

AND I did it all freehand. That's right, no markers for me, just eyeballing it! (It shows in a few places... we won't talk about that.)

You can really tell the difference in the horses... how O is so super shiny and muscular, and how Tre is just sort of dull and weedy still. Oh well, she'll get there! You can also see many mistakes in my clipping... this was the side that was the dirtiest. 

That's a little better.

Getting some chiro at the vet! She has a small asymmetry in her SI region that I wanted to have looked at - hasn't caused her a problem, but I wanted to make sure it stayed that way! The chiro noted that she has some thickening in her stifles, and flexed her both ways and jogged her out - she flexed clean and trotted out fine. She has some jewelry on her front ankles, crooked legs, thick stifles, asymmetrical SIs.... and none of it has caused her a problem. (I better knock on wood right now.... I know better than to put that out into the universe.) He adjusted her neck in a few places, and worked on her poll and SI, but it's all maintenance only at this point, there is nothing to seriously adjust. As long as we keep stretching her and properly warming up and cooling down, there isn't any reason to think that this adjustment won't hold for a long time. The girl is a TANK and never has so much as a sore back, even after miles and miles of hard riding. 

Temps have been in the 20's at night, which is a bit of a freak thing for Texas... the horses are all snuggled up in their blankies keeping warm, and I am about to do the same. It's FREAKING COLD!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

I'm Just Sayin'...

.... that this year's clip is pretttttttty awesome.  

More later!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Trace the Trails 11/9/13

Endurance riders are really onto something. I had SO MUCH FUN yesterday at our little Intro ride! If it is possible, O had even more fun than I did. Maybe we found her true calling!

As with all good days, the beginning always seems to start out crappy.Yesterday morning didn't exactly go as planned, as usual. I had forgotten to take in my spare trailer tire to the store to have it repaired (flat with a nail in it), so I was worried about that and didn't sleep particularly well. My alarm went off at 3AM, and I managed to drag my sorry carcass up and out of bed. Somehow I got myself going despite being exhausted, and managed to get out the door by 3:45AM. I had originally wanted to spend the night at the ride, but there were some problems with that idea. Firstly, I don't have a hi-tie or a portable paddock system to bring to camp, and therefore I would have to tie her to the trailer all night. She ties well, so that is doable, but that really would suck for her and I really didn't want to do it. Second, I didn't have anyone to feed the horses at home, since S is gone. That is a bit non-negotiable - the horses obviously need to be fed - so I opted to just come in the morning. The Intro riders were not going out until 9am, versus everyone else at 7AM, so I had time to get there. Still, it meant I had to be up and out the door by 3:45AM so that I could feed and unblanket everybody, as well as hook up the trailer and make sure all was well. We managed to leave the property by around 5:15AM, and I spent the next two hours trying desperately to find SOMEWHERE that would serve me some hot breakfast. I also had to stop the rig about a thousand times due to the fact that O kept repeatedly opening her escape door. She figured out how to knock against it hard enough to pop it open, and how to pull the level as well. I tried locking it from the outside, but unfortunately she can still open it from the inside. The key to the bolt was lost many moons ago, and I am loathe to bolt it from the inside since I can't open it from the outside - if we were in a wreck, I couldn't get to her. Therefore, we just kept pulling over and pulling over and pulling over to shut the door and shut it again. Someday I will have a second bolt installed... someday. 
Oh yeah, and did I mention my running lights have been on the fritz? We thought they were fixed, but apparently they are not.... they randomly sputtered out partway there, and I had no more lights to the trailer. Brakes and signals were working, thankfully, but with no actual lights otherwise... that's no good. I traveled most of the way there with my hazards on (which are also working), just to give some light to the trailer. 
By the time I actually got my breakfast, I was pretty ticked off. I just wanted to get there already!

Thankfully, when I got to the ride, all of that crankiness vanished. The folks greeting me at the gate were super helpful and friendly, and gave me directions and pointers for what I needed to be doing for ride prep. I unloaded, got my vet card and number, and took O over to the vet check. She checked out with all A's, and we went back to saddle up and head out. I opted to ride in the barrel saddle, hackamore, and - OH GOD! - JEANS. I had originally decided to ride in the dressage saddle, but I've been having such a hard time with my tall boots and my calf pain that I decided I better not do it after all. I can trot for pretty much forever in the barrel saddle without pain, so I figured that was a better option. Jeans and my roper boots are perfectly comfortable and don't rub or chafe me anywhere, so I stuck with those, as unorthodox as it looked. The Intro riders were told to go on the 9 mile Orange trail loop, and then could add on the 6 mile White loop if we felt so inclined. I spent a few minutes chatting with a couple of Intro riders in front of me who had done a million Intro rides before, but it didn't take long before I wanted to get moving. I said my goodbyes and trotted off, figured that she would be good but probably a bit green, possibly herdbound, and maybe a little spooky.

She was none of those things. She did spook once or twice, sort of, at some funny looking logs (and at the finish line... apparently it was very scary!), but she didn't care that we left the other horses behind. She didn't care when there were horses passing going the other way, or when she saw horses on other trails through the trees. She just got right to it and trotted along on a loopy rein. She was super smart about her footing, and actually put her head down and looked at all footing challenges, always picking the correct answer (go over/go around/slow down) with minimal assistance from me. When the trails opened up, she picked up the pace of her own accord, and when they got rough, she slowed down and found her way through, picking up again when they got better. All I had to do was post and look at all the pretty scenery. I never had to leg her on, slow her down, or do much more than steer and occasionally say, "hey you might want to slow down, there's a log there." She trotted along, ears pricked, very interested in her surroundings and happy to follow the trail on autopilot at speed. I literally did nothing but sit there for 98% of the ride... I didn't have to do any work at all! 

Horrible pictures... sorry about that. I was too busy ooing and aahing at everything to stop and take photos! The fall colors are in peak season down here right now, and while they are not New England colors by any means, they are REALLY great this year for Texas. There was one moment where we passed under a huge tree with neon pink leaves - I swear! - and between all the leaves underneath us and the leaves still on the tree, it felt like we were passing through a gleaming neon tunnel. It was really cool. 

She rode REALLY well in the hackamore! I'm so glad I tried a second one - she loves it and I have control should I ever need it. I need to punch some holes in the headstall and raise it up a few spots, but it's not bad where it currently is. She ate really well along the ride, happy to stuff her gob whenever we stopped. She did not, however, drink ANYTHING the whole way. She dipped her nose in a few of the tanks, but never really drank seriously. That was frustrating for me, but there was nothing I could do about it except have her eat some grass and just move on. (When she got home, she glugged down a ton of water, so I know she was thirsty when we were there. I have some samples of Equine Aid that SheMovedToTexas sent to me and which I hadn't had a chance to try until now.... you bet I'll be cracking those out soon! A friendly passer-by also shared the idea of Hydration Hay. O can be picky about some things, but for the most part she is an oinker, so I bet if I made soup out of her hay pellets she would slurp that up just fine as well.) 

We finished our 9 mile loop on the Orange trail still raring to go, so we headed out for the second 6 mile loop still chugging away. We stopped and dawdled around at each water stop, and I dismounted and let her graze each time. I got turned around a few times on the trails, but was quick to realize my mistakes, and was able to correct them all within short order. The trails were really nice, very sandy and soft, mostly all through the woods with a few wide open pastures to motor on through. She did the ride barefoot, and did just fine - if the trails get worse she will need to be booted for sure, but this one was no problem. She vetted out with all A's and one B for gut sounds (probably due to no drinking). We were grazing when the first vet called us over to check her HR before we went to the trot-out vet - her resting HR was 13bpm. I had to ask the vet twice because I thought I misheard him. 13 is INSANELY LOW. The girl is fit!

It makes me think about just how far she has come in six months... when I first got her, she had probably not been ridden outside of an arena much, and our first few rides were more or less just trying to stay upright on her back. She spooked at everything, had no steering or brakes, and tripped over every little indent in the ground because she hadn't had to worry about her footing before. Without decent steering, she went crashing through uncountable numbers of cactus and brier patches - I couldn't turn her well enough to get around them, and she didn't know what they were, so there were many post-ride cactus thorn removing sessions! I also couldn't ride her alone without her totally melting down. It was a nightmare!
Many, many, many miles of trails later, she is very thoughtful about her footing and is careful to assess situations by herself. She knows how to pick her way around and over things, and can adjust herself to the terrain around her. Water, mud, and other weird obstacles don't bother her. Other horses coming and going don't bother her. Just getting out there and letting her learn how to deal with these things has made her a spectacular trail horse. The fact that she is happiest cruising along at a big fast trot to infinity makes endurance a natural thing for her. 

You can bet we'll be doing this again. I am a trail riding junkie to begin with - who doesn't love to be out enjoying the beauty of nature? And to be able to do it fast? Even better!


I'm also happy to report that Tre seems to already be doing better. I didn't give her any Ulcergard yesterday, I just loaded her bags full of hay before I left and hung her bucket of hay pellets out for her to munch on as she saw fit. When I came home, she had finished all of the pellets and was munching hay. I'm under the impression that she ran around for awhile after we left, as she had dried sweatmarks on her neck. For dinner, I gave her more pellets soaked in aloe juice, and she munched them all up happily. Today she gobbled up a larger portion of breakfast (she ate it all, supplements included. It was about 3/4 the size of her normal breakfast). Here's hoping we get things sorted out within short order!

A few of you also asked about her feet and what I feed, so I thought I'd post a few photos and give a description of my feeding program. Here is what Tre is doing/eating:

  • 24/7 turnout with a friend
  • 24/7 free-choice slow-fed hay in various spots around her paddock, so she moves from bag to bag to eat
  • Hay is very good quality timothy and orchard, with a bit of alfalfa - we have to have it trucked in from Washington and Oregon because down here all we get is crappy coastal!
  • "Grain" meals are timothy/alfalfa hay pellets and Healthy Glo fat nuggets measured by weight, which varies for each horse - the horses don't eat a commercial grain product. They eat "grain" twice a day, and always have hay in their bellies before they eat it. They also always have hay in them before they go to work!
  • Supplements: Equine Challenge Grass Formula Vitamin/Mineral supplement, raspberry leaf, chia, rosehips, tumeric, lecithin, l-glutamine, Equine-Zyme Plus (pre/probiotic), magnesium, Cosequin, spirulina. Top dressed with aloe juice to make it all stick together. It sounds like an awful lot of crap, and it is, but you've seen how muscular and shiny and healthy O is. It's not for nothing that she is rippling with muscle, gleaming with shine, and finishing super long rides with a bounce still in her step and no soundness or health issues at all. 

O-nald Shwarzen-mare. No juicing required!

As for Tre's feet, they are really going to be nice when they get fully transitioned. She was shod when I got her up front, and was bare behind. She was due and it was showing. Shoes came off, edges of the fronts were lightly rolled to keep any serious ravel at bay, hinds were trimmed, and off she went, looking better with them off than with them on. It doesn't always go that smoothly - it was really nice to see her go back into her turnout and take off bucking and running, looking like a million bucks. 

As with every de-shoeing, the feet go through some really awesome and fantastic changes almost immediately. Here are some solar shots for comparison, the first being in shoes, the second being a few days out of shoes, and the third being this morning:

Remember, this is without being trimmed! She did this all by herself, just with work and with turnout (full of rocks and bushes and things to walk around).

And a side shot, as a 3-week comparison:

Again, that foot was not trimmed! 3 weeks and the nail holes are already gone, and the entire length of the foot has shortened significantly. She has created her own mustang roll - check out the bevel and the concavity in the oblique shot. Over time, the toe will continue to shorten, and the back of the foot will strengthen. 

To say I'm pleased with this progress is a total understatement! I can't wait to see where she is a few months from now!