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....


  1. Hope the weather warms up for you soon!! Kudos to you for riding in it anyways :)

  2. Not that you need tank heaters, but we have them in all winter (live in Montana) with the fish. The fish actually enjoy hanging out next to them I think :)

  3. You should mohawk the long mane and have the dips where the hair is on the zipper cut....!!!

  4. You're not kidding! I had to laugh at the title because I've been feeling that way for 3 weeks now. I lost all motivation to ride or condition - haven't ridden in 4 days now. The weather has just sucked it out of me.

    The hay snob act is ironically something my horse is pulling too. I had started to wonder if it was just him! Funny to hear your girls are doing it too.

    Now... these fish. Can you tell us some about them? I've only briefly heard of using fish to keep a trough clean, but details would be cool! ;)

  5. Ha, my horses are the same now that they get free choice hay! They demand first cutting orchard grass... And even then, I still found Jetta making a bed out of her nice hay!

  6. Fish? Do they keep the tub clean? What about their excrement?

  7. About the fish: they're S's thing. I didn't *really* want fish in my trough but she insisted. They LOVE the fish water and prefer it over clean water. The fish eat the algae and sludge that accumulates in troughs in the hot weather, and more importantly they eat the mosquito larvae. I toss some horse cookies in there sometimes to feed them but mostly I forget, and they survive anyway. My tank has had fish in it for a few months and I haven't needed to clean it - that green tank has had fish in it for YEARS and that is the tub the horses prefer. That water to me looks gross and weird but the horses go to it first, they love it.

  8. Andrea! I'm still waiting for a Pangea/Imogen update :P

  9. My horses will only drink out of the pond full of fish that also has ducks living on it... gross! They do prefer it though....