Thursday, January 30, 2014

End of January Analysis; February Goals!

Whoa!! It's been forever since I actually got my monthly analysis and goals done BEFORE the first of the month. Admittedly, the next three days are going to be a totally clustery mess of clients and it's unlikely I'll have time to do anything other than fall into my pillow when I get home, so getting it done now is a good way to close out the month. I really feel like we accomplished A LOT this month, and I'm VERY pleased with the way it went! It was a super start to the New Year!


O-Ren January Goals:

1) Prep for our next ride in February - more conditioning, more miles! Be really prepared fitness-wise. 
Success! We're doing well with our conditioning. I think I've done fewer plain conditioning miles and more training time miles, but miles are miles and the mare is getting even fitter than she was before, if that is possible. Actually, that's kind of a scary thought...

2) Make sure to figure out elyte and gastric support for the next ride! Really failed on this one at High Roller, absolutely must do better at the next one.
Success! I have a better mapped out plan and Racing Stripes I (the next ride) will be a good test of whether or not I have our stuff together. I defeated Texas and found some Pro CMC (FINALLY! You can't have it shipped here because apparently Texas thinks there might be illegal Mexicans in the bottle or something), and I'll be testing it out for workouts at home to see if there's any sort of difference in her (I doubt there will be, but it's good to give it a whirl and see). I'm also ordering some Enduramax and will use the Pro CMC as a carrier for the elytes. Liberal use of her tummy herbs and aloe before/during/after the ride will also help. There is some alf in her timothy/orchard that she gets, but I'm thinking a straight bale of yummy leafy alf will help her munch better when she's at the actual ride.

3) More brainstorming and experimenting about footwear... experiments, experiments.... 
Success! The Easyshoe will be available for preorder NEXT WEEK! If I can't get them in time for the next ride, we'll have to glue on boot shells instead. Racing Stripes is supposed to be very barefoot friendly, but the Bootlegger Boogie (the ride after) is NOT, so we need to make sure this is fully figured out before the end of February. This mare just can't do on-off boots.

4) Work on the lunge in the Faux-ssoa - specifically CANTERWORK, and map out a plan for dressage work!
Success! This was a BIG success for us this month, as it was something we worked on REALLY hard. I broke the Faux-ssoa back out to get her canterwork steady and balanced before I got back on her and asked her to be steady and balanced with my butt flopping along for the ride, and she stepped up and did well. (When I say stepped up, I mean she pinned her ears at every canter command and gave me the horrible stink eye, but she was compliant for the most part, except for when she was not compliant. Her attitude irks me but getting after her usually sends her bolting off for several minutes, so there's a fine line between telling her to knock it off and only making it worse.) She has also learned the verbal command "slow it down," which works fairly well. The canter has become quite balanced, and the transitions have become LOADS smoother and better. Her opinion of this entire exercise is that is completely sucks and she is not remotely amused, but being that she generally has a bad attitude about anything that involves being obedient, submissive and yielding, this is not surprising. Docile, tractable, malleable, compliant... these are all things that she is NOT. It's a long, LONG road for us in terms of making her a suitable dressage horse... but we will get there.

5) Freejump if we can, and ramp up the height!
Success! She skipped around at 3'9" like it was a cakewalk. I'd like to freejump her again and go higher but I will have to find some standards with more holes in them!!


O-Ren February Goals:
1) Survive our next LD at Racing Stripes I!
2) Dressage work - back to walk-trot, and add in canter gradually! Get to it!!
3) Ramp up conditioning - possible 50s in our near future....
4) Attend one or two more open XC schooling days! Spend time as well putting cavalleti/jump work in on the calendar as the canter improves!
5) Install Easyshoes when they get there and see how they go! (Or, try glue-on boot shells instead!)


I'd say January went very well for us. Here's hoping February does the same!


Wednesday, January 29, 2014

2014/2015 Plans and Goals

It's high time I really set my 2014 and 2015 goals and plans out on paper. Or well, maybe organize them from vague thoughts to actual concrete things. I've let them rattle around in my head long enough that I have a better idea of what they really are going to be.

I like putting things in numbered lists, but I think I'll babble on for a few minutes before I commit to making a real list. There are a lot of things that still need some sorting out in my head. Life is hard when you're an adult... can't I just go back to when I was a carefree kid that only cared about showing and nothing else?

Goal setting gets harder and harder every year. Life is just not quite as simple and straightforward as it used to be when I started blogging. I'm hoping that in a year or two, once the dust settles a little more on the business building, that I'll have more money for frivolous fun things, but our belts are tight right now and we don't have room for much in the way of extra anything. That's a sacrifice I choose to make in order to better and improve my life and business, and I do it because I know it won't always be this hard. By taking these steps now, I am securing a better future for myself and my animals/family. I never want my animals to have to want for anything that they need, and god forbid we have children, but if that horrible mistake ever happens I don't want them to have to want for anything either. At some point I want our own little ranchette, and while we're on the fence about having a real wedding (good god all that stuff is EXPENSIVE!), it would be nice to at least be able to throw a party and have a little ceremony. All of these things are $$$$$$$$. There is only enough money to go around. 

I'm on the far side of my 20's and have a much better appreciation for finances and the future and non-horsey goals than I did on the early side of my 20's, back when I first started blogging and had no idea what life was really all about. I still don't know what life is really all about - I'm convinced I NEVER will know what life is really all about - but it is safe to say that my priorities are quite a lot different now than they used to be.

I'm trying to make it a point this year to do other things besides horsey things. There are SO MANY OTHER things in life that are SO INTERESTING, and I am missing out on a lot of them. There's a fine balancing act between horsey time and non horsey time (and both of them cut into the other!), and I'm not really sure how to properly balance the two. At this point in my life, I've embraced being an Adult Amateur that is doing this as a fun hobby. I never wanted to be a trainer or pro, but I still get asked if I am going to pursue that or if I'll train. I can't wrap my head around this because a) I am not anywhere near good enough of a rider for that, and b) I have zero qualifications to do this. All of this said, I think I need to take a good long hard look at my equitation this coming year and be very hard myself about things that need to be improved. I need to give this red horse the best ride that I am capable of, and then get even better. But, because this is my hobby, I'm going to be easier on myself if I don't feel like riding a particular day. Today it was in the high 20's and freezing cold, and you know what? I just didn't feel like being outside in the cold any longer than I had to. There was a time when I would have gotten on come hell or high water (or snow or hurricanes or whatever, I was getting on EVERY day no matter what!), but I'm not quite as hardcore gung-ho as I used to be. Still, I beat myself up about it ("you should be RIDING! Champions don't sit on their butts! They RIDE! LOSERS don't ride!"). I have a feeling that when I have shows on the calendar, I'll be a lot more strict and serious. Right now, I have so many other things on my plate that I feel pretty ok about skipping out on a ride if it's crappy out or if I'm pooped. I also think that I want to do things different than I used to go with Gogo - I used to ride the tar out of her 6 days a week, every week, forever. That's a LOT of riding. Gogo could handle it, and I thought it was the best for her, but looking back I really wish I had given her more time off. (It was hard to give her time off because she regularly dismantled the barn every time that I tried!) I don't think O can mentally deal with being hammered on that much. I think if I pull her out and saddle her up EVERY day, she's going to give me the bird. I want her to come out fresh and happy and strong every day. If I am doing endurance as well as trying to make her into an eventer - which is the plan - I need to be very judicious in my training versus time off. Time off for the endurance horse is just as critical as conditioning is, so fitting in conditioning, time off, and training towards being an eventer is going to be quite a complicated juggling act. 

Mostly, my 2014 goals boil down to something like this:


2014 Goals (Horse-Related):
1) Focus on business building - priority for money/resources (if there's a show or I need more equipment, the equipment wins)
2) Spend the year training for eventing - showing not a priority at this point. (I want to spend the year getting every last duck in a row - we need killer dressage, killer XC, and killer stadium before I take her to recognized shows. Eventing is very expensive, and there is no need to put money into shows until I know we are going to go in there and clean up. This mare is going to take a lot of time - she has come so far, but she has a long way to go!)
3) Endurance rides - successfully complete LDs and 50s! (Endurance is something we can more or less launch ourselves into right now without any more training aside from teaching her to eat and drink better on the trail, and get our elytes and everything in order. With more conditioning, we'll both do well I think! Endurance is also affordable versus eventing, which means I can jump into it this year without any worries about seriously straining my bank account. My specific goals for rides are to rack up miles and hopefully top 10 whenever the circumstances are right, and always come home with a sound and happy horse [I know disasters can and do happen, but we're obviously going to work very hard to avoid those circumstances if at all possible]. I'm obviously not going to push this mare past her limits, and I'm not going to kill her in order to get completions or top 10s - if all falls into place we go for it, if not then it's not our day. But I think it's a pretty achievable goal at LDs especially, since this mare is happiest cantering to infinity and beyond.) 
4) Let go of my guilt and embrace life as a happy adult ammy doing my hobby - if I don't feel like riding one day, I need to not beat myself up over it. It's okay! (Letting go of guilt is an overall theme in my life this year - I spend almost every second of every day feeling guilty about something that I am or am not doing. There's a line to this, of course - I need to hold myself accountable to things that need to be done - but I need to relax and stop feeling bad about everything, especially things that are not under my control. Stay on track, stay accountable, but don't beat myself up in order to get it done.)
5) Rider fitness and health. (I just have to be better about this. I have to. Or else I am not going to survive endurance!!)

These may be added to over the course of the year..... we'll see!


2015 Goals (AKA The Year of Hopefully Having Things Together)
1) Continue to compete in endurance (Still some LDs? 50s? More?)
2) Recognized events at BN (or N?) - qualify for and attend the AECs

And... we'll flesh it out from there. But that's the idea.


I think that's perfectly doable. Spend this year getting everything together and honed and awesome, and then next year when I have the resources to do it - and a horse that hopefully can go out there and kick some hiney - then go for it. Who knows? This might change partway through the year - I might suddenly go "oh wow she's super awesome now and I have so much more money, let's go to a show!" But, I might not. We'll just have to see.

What do you think? Does it sound achievable?

By the way, check out this old photo of O from April/May....

Holy crap. What a difference half a year makes. 

Sunday, January 26, 2014

MEGAEPIC MeadowCreek XC Schooling 1/25/14

What happens when you get a bunch of bloggers together and set them loose on a XC course? A completely megafantastic time, that's what!!

JenJ from Wyvern Oaks, Lauren from She Moved to Texas, and I all decided a few weeks ago that we were going to an upcoming XC schooling at MeadowCreek Park (MCP). (Mostly it was Jen going, "so clear your schedule because we're going to MeadowCreek!" How could I say no to that!) It's about equidistant between the three of us to MCP, and they were having an open schooling weekend anyway, so we decided we all needed to go! Lauren had XC schooling on her 30 Before 30 list, I had a small red freight train that needed some zooming schooling, and Jen had an adorable green bean Haffie that needed some more XC experience.... it was a perfect situation!

We all arrived at around 10 and the festivities began. I hadn't met Lauren before but I've known Jen for awhile - I hadn't seen her since I went with her to try Oberon though, so it had been awhile and it was awesome to see her again! Lauren was on Red, Jen's Feerless War Pony, and Jen was of course on Paddy, who is even more adorable in real life than in pictures. It was chilly to start with in the morning, but soon warmed up to a very pleasant 60 or so degrees. MCP had gotten some snow (!!) two days before, and there was still some snow left on the jumps and on the ground when we got there. (SNOW. In central Texas.) 

(The S word)

O was very zen while we tacked and readied to go, as usual. I had a ton of people walk by and tell me how awesome her clip was. (And how nice and shiny she is!)

Once up, we spent a few minutes trotting and cantering around to warmup. O spent several minutes Hauling Ass cantering around to stretch out. There is no riding this mare down - she literally does NOT get tired, ever - so mostly our warmup is just a reminder that there doesn't need to be any serious misbehavior going on. I'm happy to report that we have changes though! Not when I ask for them (yet), but when she's cantering around and we switch the bend/direction, she swaps leads. Interestingly, she's quickest to change from her right lead (her favorite lead) to the left (definitely not favorite lead), but slow to switch back from the left to the right. 

I opted to try the hackamore instead of a bit. Riding her XC in a snaffle is just a joke, and I'd rather not haul on her mouth. Riding her in the pelham is quite a lot better (same mouthpiece, same ability to go on the snaffle and then have some brakes when I need them), but I wanted to see what would happen if I could totally get out of her mouth. Her poor form I think is mostly due to a) her overly enthusiastic response to being presented to a jump (RUN NOW RUN FASTER OH CRAP BAD SPOT FLAIL), and b) me hanging onto her face so much in order to keep her from running and flailing that I have no real ability to just give her her head and let her take it without curling up into a ball. Other things, like greenness/balance come into play definitely, but I'd say that the large majority of all of our problems stem from her belligerence. I use that term in an endearing kind of way, as it makes her very brave and bold, but there is a certain degree of difficulty to her wanting to do things her way, and to hell with you if you disagree! 

We warmed up over a little coop in the first field that we were in, and the first thing O did was refuse it (twice). I haven't jumped her in literally about two months, so I *slightly* forgive her for this, but Paddy and Red played jump standards for a minute so I could get her over it. The first few jumps were UGLY but we got over. When we moved into the main field things quickly improved and she started REALLY jumping well. The hackamore was a really good idea - the combo of getting out of her face and having a shadow roll (so she has to put her head down to look at things) was very helpful. Not to mention for some reason I was riding halfway decent myself - it helps when you can get out of your horse's way! (I'm really, really, really rusty and my left ankle doesn't really bend anymore, but oh well! I look less horrible than I thought I would and I think with some more practice I might be back to where I was before. I just need to lean less, stay over my center of gravity more, keep that leg steady and let the release happen naturally instead of leaning to make it happen. Happy to see that my lower leg is pretty strong and stable all things considered... I suppose that's what happens when you ride a zippy little red horse and you need to be able to stick like velcro!) 

You can see I'm clearly still leaning at her and not giving her NEARLY enough of her head to actually stretch out and get over the jumps with good form, but it is vastly improved compared to before. It is very, very hard to give the horse some rein and let them roll along when they are this strong and enthusiastic. Seriously, she feels like riding a freight train with no brakes. She may need to have her martingale put back on, but I'm not keen to do that with the hackamore - that's an awful lot of leverage if she throws her head around, and I think she'll hit the brakes and have a meltdown if she hits it too hard. I may have to abandon eventer-land for a bit and put a standing martingale on. 

You'll see in the video what exactly I'm talking about in terms of getting a little too strong in front of the fence - and the difference in her jump when she just lowers her head a stride or two our and looks at it instead of charging at it with her head in the air. 

Thanks SO MUCH to Lauren for the awesome video! Check out the adorable canter through the water... if only I could get her to cruise around on a loopy rein like that all the time. If I let her have that much freedom we'd be doing a lot more of the galloping scene.... I didn't ask for that by the way, she just needed to blow off steam so I loosened up on her for a minute and she was OFF. (The martingale has a lot on the way of brakes but we still had a very hard time pulling up at the far end of the field after that....)

All three horses were AWESOME. They were all game, brave, and forward. I'll let the other two tell their stories of schooling, but let's just say a certain red horse (that was not mine) got the award for best blooper of the day after cantering through the water jump...

We finished up with our hilarious ditch session - Paddy did not want to do the bigger coffins so Jen and I got off and schooled over them in hand. I think O would have done them under saddle, but she was getting mentally tired and I didn't want to push it. Going through the water AND to a jump at the same time was a hard concept for her to process. She had a few runouts there before finally putting two and two together, but that was about the end of her mental capacity for the day, and we did the little ditch a few times before taking a nice long hack home.

After the ditch we also played musical ponies!! First I got on the Feerless War Pony and took him for a spin...

Then I got to ride the Haffington in all his mighty cuteness!

Lauren rode both Red and Paddy too. And Jen rode all three of them!!

(Note to self.... find a smaller headstall to make the hackamore actually FIT. I had to punch extra holes and it still didn't sit high enough!)
I jumped Paddy around over a few little things (AHH SO CUTE SO WIDE SO SQUEEZY) and it was awesome. He's going to be so great. O was a perfect lady for Jen and she walked her around on a long rein with no stirrups. That makes me feel REALLY good... this is the first person I've had on O besides myself since I've had her, and even though I was pretty sure she'd be fine, you never really know what's going to happen. She was perfect for her!

Very, very impressed and pleased with my little red bullet train. We have a long way to go, but we've already come so far. I'll have a post soon about our 2014 goals!

All in all, we had SUCH a fun day. I hope to do it again with these lovely ladies soon!!!!!!!!

Friday, January 24, 2014

The Subtle Art of Subtlety

For the most part, I'm really, really loud person. I'm emphatic, I'm noisy, I'm yelling, I'm demanding. Move this here! Do that now! Get out of my way, I'm coming through! 

You know who does not tolerate this in the slightest? O. O does not suffer fools and loud aids and noise. She is just as proud and belligerent and hard-headed as I am, and she lets me know exactly what she thinks when I am too loud in any way. If you give too strong of an aid - if you are demanding without giving her a forewarning that something is coming - she gives you the mare stink eye, flattens her ears, and either blasts off or totally ignores you. She couldn't give you a louder "SHUT UP I'M NOT LISTENING TO THAT NOISE" if she mastered the human language and yelled it right into your ear.

Sometimes it surprises me how quiet I am with her, and how much better she listens if I am as quiet as I can be. On the ground, I can do whatever I want - hell, I could turn cartwheels down the aisle setting off firecrackers and I don't think she'd care - but under saddle and on the lunge it's all different. If you poke her in the side or thump her with your leg, she completely ignores you, and makes an ugly face. If you whisper with her leg, she zips right off. It's kind of as if she thinks the loudness of those kinds of aids is just too rude to be true, and she can't possibly oblige me if I don't oblige her first. 

The other day I was pleasantly surprised to find that she takes a contact in her hackamore. I had no idea she'd do it, and quite frankly I'd never bothered to ask her to put herself together when wearing it. I'm admittedly a bit of a dressage purist, and found the idea of going on the bit without a bit to be somewhat incomprehensible, but that's obviously a bit of a silly thing to get hung up on. In her hackamore, if you take a light contact and put her to work, she goes right out to whatever length of rein you give her and takes the exact same kind of feel on the reins that she takes when she is bitted. It was really kind of incredible, and made me feel pretty good about our progress - whether or not she has a bit in, she is understanding how to contain herself in whatever package I ask her to be in, and responding well to my body. But, I have to be quiet in everything that I do, or else she's not going to give me the time of day.

Today on the lunge I noticed just how closely she listens to me, and just how deliberately she ignores me when she's not interested in listening. The wind was blowing, but she hears every single word I say and notices every single move I make with my body. Her canterwork is really coming along on the lunge - REALLY coming along -  but I have to preface every canter aid with a quiet, long, "aaaaaaand..." so that she knows it is coming. She is still liable to jerk her head up, pin her ears, and blast off if I am too loud for her liking, but the quieter I get, the quieter she gets. If she doesn't want to transition downward from canter to trot, she twitches an ear at me and keeps going. She hears exactly what I say, she just opts not to until she's ready. (There is usually some kind of argument after this happens... you can't just not do what you're told, there are rules after all.)

But then there always comes a point in the lunge when I realize I am literally whispering to her. I barely make a sound but she hears everything. I barely make a move but she sees everything. I didn't realize it until today but she takes half-halts through the lunge line as well. If I tighten my core and the arm holding the line lightly, she takes it as a half-halt and slows herself. Conversely, if I give in the line, she takes it and goes outward with it. It feels like having a really long rein. It is really, really awesome.

I should make a point to long-line her more often. I think we could really do some awesome things.

So, do you have a hypersensitive and belligerent critter in your herd? Or one that demands that you listen up and pay attention? 

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Clipmasta Strikes Again

I've had a lot of weird nicknames over the years. The two horsey nicknames that I've held onto have their roots in purpose and, if I do say so myself, a little bit of talent. Depending on which day you catch me on, you might be able to call me either Tailmasta or Clipmasta. It all depends on what I'm working on that day.

Tailmasta makes tails of any shape and size into EPIC SILKY MASTERPIECES. 

Let's be real. That tail is perfect. 

Clipmasta, on the other hand, is the perfectionist queen of making All The Lines straight as arrows.

Let's be real. Those lines are awesome.

But a few years ago, Clipmasta veered away from doing her razor-sharp lines and went a bit... rogue...

Let's be real. Those swirls are fantastic.

And it was all over from there. 

I can't go nuts when I am clipping for other people, of course, so I have to keep it under wraps until I can let loose a little on my own horses. This resulted in O's trace clip of course...

Which was all kinds of ridiculous fun to do. Everybody LOVES that clip, and everybody comments on it wherever we go. We were even featured in Eventing Nation for it.

Red mares being red mares, she has grown most of it back and is now back to getting very hot and sweaty every day. Seriously, the mare sweats like a sinner in church. She is all kinds of a hot mess when she gets going.

Well that won't do. Clearly she needed to be reclipped, and she needed a more extensive job done.

So, I went a little nuts.

I went over all the old lines from the last clip (rather hastily, and partly in the dark) and therefore all of the old squares look terrible. I also had to use nasty dull blades, which sucked a lot but it still turned out somewhat ok. I'll have to re-go over them tomorrow and straighten them all up. It was all freehand, and in the twilight-y shadows of the barn, so I suppose it's not too terrible of a job. And yes, I did do half her face with squares too.

She is a really, really good girl for her clippings and stands immobile in the barn aisle for as long as I need her to be still. That said, I'm not sure she quite agrees with the idea of the new clip job. I think the look on her face pretty much sums it up:

"Y. U. Do. Dis."

Friday, January 17, 2014

Freejump Friday!

I finally got O out for her first real freejump since I've had her! I have a video of her freejumping (or well, running at a small jump in her field as a young horse), so I know she has technically done it before, but I wanted to get her going over some real height and see what exactly she had in her in terms of scope. I've been disappointed in her form but pleased with her enthusiasm, so it's a little bit of a toss-up.

I set the stride a little bit short in hopes that she would compress, rock back, and fold up better, but she didn't take the exercise quite how I was hoping until the very end. I set a canter pole to a xrail, then one stride to an oxer with no ground rail. Her thing is to get up close to the base of the fence and jump over her shoulder instead of fold up in front. She has plenty of scope to get over the jumps... her form isn't exactly textbook though. Next time I freejump her, I'll set the stride longer and make BIG WIDE oxers so she has to stretch for it!

Sorry for the shaky video and crappy stills... it's a bit hard to be the lunger and the videographer! Next time I'll plan that better and set up a camera at the end of the arena instead. The oxer is about 3'9". The last time through on the video was her best effort. I really don't like how she rolls over her shoulder instead of makes an effort to snap her legs up and forward, but hopefully this will improve some.

One thing I can't fault is her enthusiasm. She took one loom at the chute and went LET'S DO THIS. She was more than happy to go through the chute, stop and look at me while I adjusted things, trot off when asked, and pick up the canter whenever she rounded the corner and the chute came into view. 

Balance, balance, balance. I like the canter she has coming around the corner, but she tends to flatten out and speed up in her enthusiasm. I think the form will improve some with a very, very balanced and bouncy-ball type canter coming to every jump... and we will have to do lots and lots of gymnastics with lots and lots of oxers and bounces. The Easyshoe is about to be released as well and I'm eager to get my grubby little paws on those.... I think they're going to be a GREAT option to try on her. They might help her form out too! 

Thursday, January 16, 2014


8 years ago, I said goodbye to this wonderful, giving, charming, incredible character. 

He was really one of a kind. He took such good care of me, snuggled me, talked to me every time I popped out from around a corner. He toted my butt around my first real XC courses, and brought me my first big fancy ribbons. He was always there for me.

When his time came, I cried and cried and cried. It was so hard to let him go, but it was the right thing. His body failed him, and I set him free. He shaped my life as a teenager and young adult, and I owe much of where I am today to him. He's even part of my business name. 

I don't know if I believe in spirits and orbs and those kinds of things, but I took at least a dozen pictures of his gravesite the day we euthanized him and only this picture had orbs. Both of them are flying upwards, one over his headstone and one directly overtop Quincy's headstone, which is where I was standing when I took the picture. It wasn't snowing, it wasn't dusty, none of the other pictures have them in there. So, I don't know... but maybe.

I am so lucky to now have old Pmare - his last remaining offspring - with me. She may be off-site at her lessee's place for the time being, but she has a forever home with me. She is wonderful and witchy and every bit his child, and I love her. 

Now, Cuna shares this day with Metro. Keep them in your thoughts, and send Aimee some well-wishes when she's ready to put up a post on it. When our horses hurt, we have to be their stewards and make choices for them... this choice is the hardest one to make, but it is the most selfless and honorable one. Much love to her, and to everyone else who has gone through the same battle.