Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Racing Stripes I Endurance Ride 2/15/14 (Edited to add info about the final score!)

All right!!!! We survived out second LD!!!!!! We had a lot of improvements, some things that were worse, some troubles and some learning experiences, but on the whole I'd say it was a very successful ride and I'm very happy with how we finished!!!

Once again, I have very few pictures as my phone's battery is aging and it was dead for most of the trip. I don't have a single picture from the ride, nor do I have any GPS - I spent valuable battery on my alarm for the morning, and despite charging it in my car repeatedly, it didn't last. Next time, I will be smart and bring a battery powered alarm and shut the phone off overnight to save some juice. And next time I will use the GoPro too - I didn't this time as it is heavy and my neck isn't used to it for long periods yet. I figured with everything else going on, I didn't need a sore neck too!

I felt like our trip got off to as good of a start as last time - O had about an hour to munch hay before we left, I hooked everything up, made sure everything was in order (everyone was attended to and I hadn't forgotten anything in my packing - I try to pack things over the course of the week leading up to the departure date!), loaded up and headed out. On Thursday, I had fixed up my temp fencing (which failed at the last ride, if you remember the middle-of-the-night escape!), cleaned out the trailer, packed all the hay, packed up my tack, and bathed O, so I was ready to leave right after work on Friday. I had a big bottle of Pro CMC with me, and I was ready to use it liberally over the course of the weekend. I dosed her before we left, since she won't eat on the trailer (not even a bite of hay!), and we made the trip in about 3.5 hours, thankfully before dark this time. Last time, we arrived after dark and landed ourselves in the wrong spot to park in (the vet's spot, no good!!), but this time I was able to actually follow directions, see where I was going, and actually park where I was supposed to park!

Yes, the non-generator parking? I actually found it and parked there! Because I'm awesome!

I almost got my truck stuck in the mud as I was parking, which should have been a sign of things to come, but thanks to my 4-Low I managed to get out unscathed. Once I was out of there, I made friends with my neighbors, set up my temp fencing (and was MUCH more efficient and smart about it, and had a much more secure and properly fixed fence), stuck Her Majesty in her pen, dosed her again with Pro CMC, and watched her get to eating the bit of grass and pile of hay that she had. The only water on the property was up near the vet check, so I had to unhook my truck, load the bed up with buckets, take them over to the troughs, fill them there, and drive back, trying not to spill as I went. What a mess!

The ride meeting was boring, but my new neighbor-friends wanted to go, and wanting to be a good neighbor-friend, I went with them and sat through the whole thing. Mostly all I cared about was where I needed to be in the morning and which trails I was on, but I also took note of the fact that the ride manager told us that there were some "wet" spots on the trail, but that "they're not boggy at all." I wasn't quite sure what that meant, but I took her word for it. Remember this for later.

Back at the trailer, O ate her dinner, stuffed her face with hay, and I sat for awhile reading a book in the light from my trailer. At some point, she stopped eating and went to the corner of her pen, where she could see her neighbor. She stayed there long enough not eating that I got up, moved her hay pile over to the corner, and then shook my head as she dove in to eat again. She did this at the last ride too... the hay has to be in a particular spot, or she's not interested. (Mares...) I tucked myself in for the night, but admittedly did not sleep very well as I was worried about her escaping again. At some point in the night, she quit eating again and went to the *other* corner to stare at the *other* horses, so I once again got up, put a pile of hay in front of her and watched her dive in again. She drank too, several times - just a few sips here and there, but it was something. She drank maybe a 1/2 bucket overall, about the same as last time. Gogo was a full 2-bucket drinker every single night, so I'm never very happy with O's water intake, but she was hydrated and had a nighttime dose of Elytes on board, so there wasn't much else I could do about it. She thankfully stayed in her pen all night, but at 4:30AM started screaming her head off as the 75 mile horses started being walked around before their vettings. Sorry to everyone within a 50 mile radius that my screaming horse has probably woken you up....

I got up too, fed her at around that time (mostly to shut her up), dosed her again with her next dose of Elytes and Pro CMC, and tried to sleep for another hour. I more or less succeeded, but at some point just gave up, sat in my car with the engine on and heat blasting (SO COLD, it was only about 36), and looked at my supply of Clif bars and Gatorade. I felt completely queasy, and managed to drink a small bottle of Gatorade and take a few bites of a Clif bar before my gag reflex kicked in and I couldn't eat anymore. This was the same problem I had last time - I'm not hungry that early in the morning, and my body angrily rejects food until around 8am or so most every day, so I think part of this may be conditioning on my part. The *other* part that should have been a warning sign was that I had been building up to an increasingly bad gastric problem over the past week, and I should have taken that problem into account. I felt fine enough to ride (although I definitely don't feel fine enough to even get off my couch right now), so I choked down what I could manage and got my magnesium pills down, but one preemptive Ibuprofin and I was gagging, I couldn't do it. With that in mind, I *knew* I was going to feel horrible after the ride, but I figured it would be worse to try and force more food in and make myself vomit the little I had managed to get down. 

I headed over to the vet check, and vetted in with all A's and one A- for her jugular, first one I've gotten that was less than an A for her jugular. I was very happy with the A for gut sounds, and was happy with all of the hay that she had stuffed herself with all night. Technically I know that all of the hay she ate on Thursday is the important hay, since that is what is still hanging out in her hindgut on Saturday, but it makes me feel SO much better to see her stuffing her gob all night, since it really helps with tummy problems. She drank water - not enough in my mind, but she did drink some - and she was hydrated. We marked her with a big washable marker, and went back to the trailer to tack up and get ready to ride. I tried to eat more (tried, really tried), and got her to eat some more too before dosing her again with Pro-CMC right before I got on. I had to get off again one minute before we were released to fix a stirrup, failed to actually fix it, got back on, and hoped it would sort itself out as my bad calf stretched out. We checked in, milled around for awhile, and then the gate was open and we were off! 

Last time, I let O start mid-pack and cruised around people to eventually get up to the lead and run with the frontrunners. She got hot and bargey going around horses to actually get up to the front, but once we were in the front, she relaxed and settled and was happy to canter along and leapfrog with the other horses. She got very hot and sweaty in the process, and vetted in at the first check with a lot of Bs (finished with As though), so I wanted to try and avoid that this time. My plan for this ride was to start at the front, keep out in front of or with the people frontrunning, and canter along to keep her brain intact. Unfortunately, this COMPLETELY failed at this ride, as about 15 other people were racing as fast as they could in the front! Once O was caught up in that crowd, it was a lot of work to keep her under control. She dolphin bucked, tried to kick out at her neighbor, barged along, tossed her head, and pulled on me like a freight train. I tried to get her to fall back a bit, but that only increased her frustration and she was bolty until we caught up. I had more or less no choice except to keep her cantering along behind the frontrunners, just because it was the best thing I could do to keep her head on straight. It was frustrating though - at the water stop, she came in behind the others, dropped her head to drink, and all of them galloped off when she stopped. Of course there was no drinking after that.... sigh. 

The trails were not good at all. They were FULL of mud, slop, boggy areas, and areas of water that were deeper than her hocks and knees and wider across than the eye could see. I felt like I was about to dislocate my shoulders and just about broke her nose hauling on her to slow down through these areas. It was easy to follow the other horses, but as far as I could tell, the trails markers were very hard to see.

Obviously no pictures from me, but here are some pictures of the trail from the FB page of the ride:

A few of those arrows here and there, but most of the markers for the trail were on little brown sticks, in the middle of the cow pasture full of white-brown grass. White ribbon on light brown stick in white-brown grass = impossible to see. This will come into play shortly.

We finished our first 14 mile loop intact thankfully. She took a minute or two to pulse down once we finished our first loop, but not long. I felt a bit out of place as all the other 25 mile people had crews and buckets and things all set up by the vetbox.... I didn't do that, didn't know I should have. I obviously will be alone for most of these things, but I think next time I will set out some buckets.
Once in for the vetting, we got all A's again (yes!! Not expected as she had wasted a lot of energy pulling on me), and went back to the trailer to rest. She was tired at that point and not that interested in eating or drinking, but I knew she needed to get *some* liquid into her, so I spent a minute syringing some liquids into her mouth until she decided she should drink some by herself. She munched a small amount of hay and cookies, but mostly I had to stick it into her mouth and make her chew. I was feeling very stressed at that point, understandably... mare you HAVE to eat and drink. At some point it occured to me that the grass near the water was quite green and tasty looking, so we went over there to graze. Success! She was very happy to snarf down the yummy wet grass, and I was happy. I considered, hemmed and hawed, and then decided to give her another dose of Elytes with her next dose of Pro CMC. Once our hold was over, we mounted back up and headed out with one of the 50 milers, a nice old man riding his 25 year old Arab in nothing but a big nylon halter and lead rope.

Unfortunately, right off the bat, we were lost. The trails passed through huge cattle pastures, and finding the actual trail markers (little white ribbons on little brown posts in the middle of acres of white-brown grass) was insanely difficult. We went about a mile out of our way trying to find it, then I eventually passed him on and moved forward. Unfortunately I lost the trail two, three, four, five times.... I had to turn around again and again when I looked everywhere and couldn't find the ribbons. Ugh, so frustrating! My phone died partway through the loop, but the last I heard it say was that I was at the 23 mile mark... and I went at least another 5 miles, if not more. We probably did more like 30 miles.

On the second loop, I had a few moments of "ok, so this is what actual long-term long-distance endurance is like." We trotted along by ourselves for a long way, cantered where we had some space, walked for a bit, and stopped in puddles to get drinks. I had a minute to drop my reins and stirrups, drink some water, stretch out, and then continue onward. We were in no hurry and had no other horses to get upset about - and the other horses that she saw off in the distance, or the ones she passed, were of no concern to her since she didn't spend more than a few minutes looking at them. She went along on a long and loose rein for a very long time, happy to trot and canter along with no pulling and no fuss. She stopped at about mile 18 at a puddle and started tanking up, much to my surprise and delight - she did this last time too, she didn't really start to drink until 15-18 miles in. She drank heartily at the next water stop, and drank heartily at the finish as well, twice!

It was nice just cruising along. A group of other 25s came up behind me at some point, and I left them behind (still with a small competitive streak, I didn't want them to get ahead of me if I had gas left in the tank!). Unfortunately every time I got lost, they caught back up again. I finished before them, but they pulsed in before me, and I figured it didn't matter at that point because I had gone so slow on my second loop that there was no way I placed well. Then they announced that we were top 10 again! What! That's awesome!

I don't really have official results yet, but I supposedly finished 8th. Had I gotten into the vetbox before the other 25 milers, I would have been 5th or 6th, but oh well! I let her drink drink drink before we vetted in, as I figured that was more important anyway. Our vet scores went down - some A's and several B's - but she looked pretty good and once back at the trailer she started to gobble hay. She did this last time too, didn't eat a ton at the hold but ate a lot afterwards. I weighed in with my tack, then flopped in the front seat of my truck and tried to eat and drink for a few minutes while waiting to present for BC. I was worried that I had overtightened her girth again (remember the weird swelling she got?) as it was slightly puffy and a little sore to the touch there, but I dosed the area with Sore-No-More and within 10 minutes everything was normal again. A little odd....! I was also extremely unhappy to see that my pad, the ONE pad I have found that doesn't rub her anywhere, rubbed her side. I also ended up with HUGE bruises on my calves from deciding last second to wear a different pair of jeans than I had been. Normally, the jeans work great for these shorter distances, but this time it backfired on me badly. Definitely need to make some changes here.

She looked just awesome after the ride:

She ate some hay, snoozed, ate some hay, snoozed, took a drink, ate some hay, snoozed. I was very happy with how she was taking care of herself post-ride, and before I knew it it was time to haul my butt up and take her over for our BC check.

Last time, I didn't get her Elytes right by ANY stretch of the imagination. She finished the last ride with mostly A's and a B, but by the time we got to BC she had deteriorated some in condition, and was a little muscle sore in her haunches and back, and had some slightly discoloration in her veins in her gums (it was hard for me to understand exactly what the vet was talking about, but basically he explained that it was because the Elytes were off). Her scores included a lot of 10s, but a lot of 7s as well. This time, I was REALLY on top of the Elytes and Pro-CMC, and it paid off. Her condition improved in the hour after the last check and the BC check, and she scored exceptionally well in every category. No muscle soreness, no back soreness, legs looked great, she was well-hydrated, and the trot out was "the best I've seen all day," according to the vet, who had been standing around for 6 hours doing trot outs! Her CRI was 13/12, meaning that her heart rate before the trot out was at about 52bpm, and after her extensive trot-out her heart rate was down to 48bpm within a minute. That's pretty good for a big beefy girl like her! The only thing the vet could maybe fault us on, in her own words, was that if she were scoring the top top score for loudly gurgling gut sounds it would be a 1, and O's was like a 2 on that scale. But that was the only thing she had to say about it. Otherwise, she said she looked great and well-recovered. Wooo!

I don't know who actually won BC yet, since nobody seems to want to get back to me about it via email, but hopefully sometime in the next century somebody will let me know. They only took a month to get the High Roller results up on the website, sooo...

Back at home, she gobbled more food and settled right in for a long drink. The next day, she trotted out willingly, sound and happy to move. She was a little stocked up all the way around, but considering the slop we went through, I wasn't surprised at all. She looks like she never even went to the ride at all.

Three cheers for a happy fresh mare and another top 10 under our belts!

EDITED TO ADD: We got in some more info on the final scores! We did in fact finish 8th, and while we did not get BC likely due to our slower speed, we did get the High Vet Score! A short explanation of BC, or Best Condition: the top 10 horses in each mileage division have the option of presenting for BC, which takes place an hour after the final vet check. After your final vetting, you and your tack have to weigh in, and your weight and finish time get recorded. Your horse has an hour to hang out, get groomed/bathed, eat, drink, nap and generally recover, and then they re-present for a secondary (and more thorough) vet check. You do an extensive jog out (or big huge trot out, if you are O), have the horse's Cardiac Recovery Index taken, and get checked for all the same criteria as the normal vet checks, only they are more thorough and tough about it. She scored exceptionally high in all categories. The only one that she scored *slightly* lower in was in her gut sounds category... if 1 is the best score you can get, she got a 2, according to the vet, but she said it would have scored an A in a normal vet check. She also said that the trot out was "the best she had seen all day," which is high praise seeing as she had been watching horses trot out for literally about 6 hours already! Basically it means, O looked awesome and fully recovered after the ride was over. BC goes to the person who gets the best score out of all of the combined scores of weight, speed, and vet criteria, so BC went to someone who went faster, but the High Vet Score went to me! Had we gone a bit faster, we would have gotten it most likely... but I went just as fast as I felt like we should go, and am happy we didn't push for more, as I don't think we would have scored as high. A high vet score is MUCH more important to me than the speed!

As of today, I crawled onto her bareback despite my illness and went for a little walk.... and you'd never know she did an LD on Saturday. She was spooking, prancing around, slinging her head (note to self: bring back out martingale), and being a general goob, like she had been off for weeks. Her legs look great, she is eating everything in sight, and is acting like her totally fit totally idiotic self. Woo!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

An update soon, promise!

I will have an update on our awesome ride this weekend... but I seem to have contracted some sort of salmonella or something else equally as horrible, so I'm kind of down for the count for a bit because I more or less feel like I'm gonna die. BUT, we survived AND we kicked some butt AND I have lots to tell. Stay tuned :D

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Countdown to Racing Stripes I: T-minus ONE DAY!

Ahhhhh!! We leave TOMORROW afternoon for Racing Stripes. Naturally, I am sitting here on the computer instead of packing.... not sure that my bag is going to get packed this way, but there you go.

I feel slightly more prepared than last time, but definitely not actually prepared, because oh god how on earth can I possibly be ready? Did I under condition? Am I going to kill us? I'm sure other endurance folks go through exactly the same thing that I am feeling right now, and have definitely heard it echoed before, so I know I'm not alone there. The mare is *definitely* a lot more fit than I am, which is probably where some of my nerves are.... maybe less worry that she can do it, and more worry about can *I* do it. She makes it easy - you just get up in half seat and go, forever! - but at some point your muscles start to protest that if you're not in shape. Just like last time, I scheduled a bunch of appointments for Sunday, because I know I am not going to want to get out of bed Sunday and moving around and using my muscles is the best thing I can do for myself.

I feel *slightly* more prepared only because I know more or less what I am in store for, and what to do when I get there, and I even made a few friends last time, one of which is going to let me try some saddles on O and see if any of them look like they'd be something to invest in in the future. Let's face it, that barrel saddle is awesome, but all of my gear weighs upwards of 40lbs, and that's an AWFUL lot of extra weight to be carrying around.

We did some Very Serious prep work today... does this count as "heavy petting"?

She's a serious cuddlebug and would. not. leave. me. alone. as I picked their pen. She just sort of squeezes her way into whatever I am doing, puts her face right into the middle of it, and insists that I stop everything to pet her. She then closes her eyes in total bliss. 
Dunno what she did to get that little scrape on her face... with her, you never know!

On a different note, check out these TOTALLY ADORABLE pictures of Tiny Baby O:

Showing off her Big Booty and Very Large Head early on! Looks like she got mom's booty! I love love love love wee babies... I just want to squeeze her!

I guess I better go pack..... wish us luck!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

The Blargs

After my last "take that, winter!" post, I admit that I have lost all further steam and motivation to continue my screw-you-winter antics. There is only so much a girl can handle.

I really don't do winter well. The entire reason I bailed from beautiful New England and went to Texas was the fact that I just could NOT handle even ONE more second of freezing cold miserable winter, and I HAD to get away. Those of you that were around for the Great Sojourn to Texas (or maybe more like the Exodus to Texas) will remember the moment I cursed winter all to hell and said that I would never live in the snowy cold North ever again. The DAY before I was scheduled to leave Connecticut for the move to Texas, I crashed my rig on the side of the mountain:

It was 15 degrees and it took us 4 hours to get it off the mountainside. The next day, I bolted and never looked back.

Texas, for the most part, has really reasonable winters. Sure, we get a bad ice storm here and there, and once in awhile you'll have some ice on the trough... hell, it even snows once a year here. But the rest of the days are usually in the 60's and 70's with plentiful sunshine. Two winters ago, we even had bluebonnets in February, and we had GORGEOUS weather in the 70's with green green grass and tons of flowers all the way from January to May. It was the BEST WINTER EVER.

This winter? I don't have a clue what is going on. We've had our fair share of the polar vortexes, and have seen more ice and snow storms in this single winter combined than I've seen in all the rest of my winters here. Everything is miserable, grey, wet, and cold. It just SUCKS.

We are on day 8 now of chilly temps and totally grey, misty skies. I know that those of you up North are going, "psh that's nothing," but hey, I MOVED here because of the weather. I suffer from REALLY bad seasonal depression, which is 100% dependent on the sun, so when I don't see the sun for literally 8 days, I pretty much want to crawl into a hole and die. If I don't see the sun for even just a couple of days, I get really mopey. 8 days? I just want to die and I hate everything. I DON'T WANT TO BE IN THIS SUCKY WORLD ANYMORE IT SUCKS SO BAD LIFE IS POINTLESS AHHH. Which makes me a lot of fun to be around.

And it's not going to get better for several more days. Tomorrow? In the 20's-30's, with an ice-sleet mix. Awesome.

Luckily for both O and myself, our next endurance ride is NEXT SATURDAY! She really needs some let down time before the ride, so she's having this week off in order to come out fresh and raring to go on Saturday. Considering how hateful and grumpy I am right now, it's probably for the best that I don't get on anyway...! This week, she is getting time on the Theraplate every day and the rest of the time off. She is not particularly amused by this, as the Theraplate was moved to the other side of the barn and now feels 'cramped' and closed in. At least once every session, she goes rocketing backwards off of it for no particular reason, and she no longer will eat when she is standing on it (she won't eat when she is concerned/nervous/alert/worried). It doesn't help that Tre usually is panicking and screaming every time O is out of her sight, which upsets O further... mares.

The day before a show, I *can't* ride my horse, simply because I get my nerves all wrapped up and nit-pick and tick off my horse. I see people schooling in the ring, and I just *can't* get on, I don't want to change anything or tire my horse or risk anything.... I just get too freaked out. Not unlike that, on Friday I suddenly realized that my next ride was just one week away, and I shut everything down. Can't ride, can't do anything, can't risk anything, can't have a tired horse, can't have a fatigued horse, what if she steps on a rock, what if she is worn out, what if she then overdoes it at the ride, what if what if! Better to just give her the rest and get everything sorted and in order - I would rather have a strong and hot horse versus a horse that is going to be too fatigued. Fatigued horses get injured, and I'm not about to risk that.

I feel better prepared for this ride, but I still feel like I didn't do enough conditioning. Will I ever feel like I do enough conditioning? 

More importantly, will the sun ever come back out so I stop feeling so horrible about life?

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Oh the weather outside is frightful.... and sucky... and cold... and snowy.....

.... yet somehow I managed to man up and go for a ride both today and yesterday. Take that, winter!

O was supposed to do a 10 mile conditioning ride yesterday, but when I arrived at the barn my truck said it was 24 degrees. The wind was howling at a sustained 25-30mph, and the windchill reading was hovering around 10 degrees. At first, I thought, "no way am I getting on." As I was feeding, I realized exactly how sassy the girls were being in the cold weather. They were also being sassy about their hay... they are getting increasingly spoiled about it. When both of them got here, they were quick to hoover up every stem of the delicious tim/orchard/alf mix that I feed - both of them were transitioning from crappy coastal, and Tre especially was only being fed meals, so EVERYTHING in sight got inhaled. As they realized their hay was going to be in front of them 24/7, and that they never had to fret about being without, they started to get increasingly haughty about it. "Oh, this stuff? You put this stuff out this MORNING. Don't you know it's 5pm already? It's been sitting out in the air all day. It's NO GOOD ANYMORE. We won't touch it." Yesterday, they apparently decided that the stuff that S had filled their bags up with that morning was NO GOOD (it's the same hay  as always guys....), and stood around in their shed all day moping about it. O ate fresh hay when offered, and her grainfoods as well, but then stood glaring at me when presented with the several-hours-old hay (again, from the same bale at the fresh stuff I had just given her).

I took it as a reason to get my butt in the saddle. You want to be a hay snob? Fine. We're going for a workout. I will MAKE YOU HUNGRY.

I canned the idea of the conditioning ride (what am I, a polar bear? Screw that) and decided that this day would be our glorious return to dressage. Mind you, I haven't had a dressage saddle on this mare since, oh I dunno... October. I haven't ridden the mare in a bit in that amount of time either. And it was about 10 degrees out with howling winds and grey skies. Surely this won't be a bad idea...

I knew it was going to be exciting when I pulled her blankets and she was already shivering. I tried to put her pads on and quarter sheet, but they all blew off of her before I could walk back over with the saddle. Twice. She was pretty cold by the time I got on, and I couldn't feel my hands.

Understandably, she was terrible for the first 30 or so minutes of the ride.

But, once the bolting stopped, once she had quit running herself into the fence out of control, once she had stopped flinging herself around like a maniac, she settled. She was lighter in the contact than I would have liked, but she took one (mostly). She started listening and started paying attention to transitions. We even did a few turns on the haunches (more or less), and a few head-to-wall leg yields. I hadn't actually ever schooled these before with her, I just started maneuvering her around and realized that she was getting the idea. We ended with some quiet walk-trot stretchy work and some obedient halts, and I called it good with that.

My general plan for the New Year had been to do canter boot camp on the lunge in the Faux-ssoa in January, get back on and do simple walk-trot dressage work (maybe with some canter) in February, and begin more serious canterwork in March, but my guess it that her progress won't be that linear. I'm glad I spent January doing canter boot camp, but truthfully it probably didn't do as much for her as I was hoping. When it comes down to it - and I KNOW this - if you want to progress in dressage, you have to get on and do dressage. Same thing if you want to progress in jumping, you have to jump. If you want to progress in endurance, you have to put the miles in. There aren't any shortcuts or things you can do in the end that are going to be anywhere near as effective as actual saddle time. O likes to carry a slight counterbend to the right (like Gogo did, and like a lot of horses do), and in order to fix that, I have to get on and gymnasticize her. O likes to rush through her half-halts, and in order to fix that, I have to get on and work to rebalance her. In order to improve your under-saddle issues, you have to put in the time and just DO it.

It was freezing and miserable out, but I feel a renewed sense of drive in me to continue on. Now that I have been reminded about what kind of hard work it really takes to get where I want to be, I have no excuses, not even the weather. If I want it done, if I want to get where I want to get, I have to get on and get to it.

Slight counterbend. Only one way to fix that!

That drive to get on no matter what *almost* continued through to today. I had every intention of getting on for another dressage ride - I really WANTED to get on! Unfortunately the weather had other ideas, and snow was blowing and falling hard all morning. Yes, you heard me.... snow.

Ponies down the road.... fluffed up and wearing their nice frosted coats. 

Luckily, the snow stayed away from the barn for the most part, but I couldn't get around the fact that the wind chill was hovering somewhere between -4 and -2 degrees, with actual temps in the low teens. I had been outside working all morning, and was absolutely frozen when I got to the barn. Poor O had two heavyweight blankets on (yes, two!!) and was STILL shivering underneath them. It was just cruel to take her blankets off and make her get even colder (and subsequently tighter and hotter) all for the sake of a ride. I added a third heavy blanket and went looking for my neck rugs - of course when I found them, I rediscovered that Gogo had more or less destroyed both of them (I had long since forgotten about them both). Poor mare! But, with tons of hay, a shed, three heavies and a friend to snuggle with, I think she'll survive.

I did manage to hop on for a little 'bareback' toodle around for about 15 minutes - we were both freezing, so we needed to get out blood pumping! I tied her lead rope onto her halter, jumped on top of all three blankets, and off we went. We patterned on the barrels for a bit and called it quits after we had moved enough to both stop shivering. She really likes the barrels in the way she really like endurance (and jumping as well) - the idea is REALLY simple and doesn't take a ton of mental finesse and focus on her part. You go fast, and you turn, and that's about the extent of it. I think once she has a better understanding of dressage, she'll get into it in the same way, but it is much harder for her to deal with mentally because there is a lot going on, and none of it has anything to do with going fast.

Getting a nice long drink after she was done. A REALLY long, long drink! It's so cold that the ice freezes up quickly - the horses have to keep their troughs unfrozen by going back to them often. Mine understand the concept, but I worry about them. We have no tank heaters - there's not a reason to have them usually - not to mention the fact that the tanks all have fish and we don't want to fry them. Therefore, breaking ice it is.

Hopefully it will warm up this weekend....

Sunday, February 2, 2014

If you're doing other things besides watching smelly football....

.... you can watch some more of yesterday's GoPro footage!
I've been asked a few times about how 'looky' O can get on the trail. The truth is, she still looks at things, but mostly with interest, and she does spook once in awhile, but it is rare and it isn't ever anything huge (except for sometimes). For the most part, you can take her anywhere, hop right on, and off you go with the same horse you showed up with. She wasn't like this when I got her - I couldn't ride her out in the big field without her totally melting down. Not any more!

So what's the secret? Honestly? Go ride the pants off of them, everywhere that you can. Throw everything and the kitchen sink at them, and just act like it's normal everyday stuff. If you see something and anticipate that it will be scary, it will become scary to them. They know exactly what you're thinking and feeling. If you see a scary trash can and tense up, they automatically go, "why is she scared? Is she scared of that? I should be scared of that too! It must be scary!" If you act like EVERYTHING is No Big Deal, it quickly becomes No Big Deal. Even if they come across something scary that really does scare them - the emus scare the pants off of her when they get near the fence and start flapping around like crazy - just act like it's no biggie and push onward. If you give them your bravery, they'll become brave too. 

Saturday, February 1, 2014

GoPro Test!

Phew! I FINALLY managed to get everything with the GoPro organized today for a trial run. I'm not thrilled with the placement - after all, what's the point of an ears video if you can't really even see the ears? - but I'm sure with position tweaking I'll be able to get the camera back further so that you can see her better. She is pretty small and her neck isn't particularly long, so she's not going to be like those giraffe event horses that have necks a mile out in front of them and fully in view of the camera, but hopefully I can get it to where you can at least see a LITTLE more of her!

It's shaky and kind of boring... but it's a start! At least it has a fun song...

We logged a quick 10 miles (estimated 10 miles, it may have been slightly less but my phone died after mile 6 so who knows!) and she still had more than enough energy to go galloping away across the pasture when I turned her back out. Mares....

If you'd like to see something entirely more adorable, check out this video of Tre and a tiny child:

A very cute prospective buyer came to sit on her today and it was adorable. Tre was foot perfect for her and walk-trot-cantered no problem. She even flopped over some tiny crossrails with her. She'd never been to this property or in this arena before, much less has a beginner like this on her, and she was fantastic. No word on whether or not they've decided if this is the right horse for them - she is still just 5 and green, after all - but it made for adorable video nevertheless.