Monday, March 31, 2014

Happy Gotcha Day!

Thanks to everybody who offered encouragement about our super crap dressage. You inspired me so much that I got out and did another dressage ride today, and am thankful to report that I had a WAY better ride today. Also, to clarify about the "arena" - it's not actual an arena per se, it's just a section of our big field that is flat and has fence on 3 sides (a big square). I ride out there for the flatness and the fenceline, but even though it is an actual field, it may as well be an arena in her mind, simply due to the fact that she has seen it a million times and it is now very boring. Same old things every day = very boring for an active mind like hers.

 This is a short entry, since it is getting late and my sleepy self needs some bedtime, but I did want to say Happy Gotcha Day to my red demon! Exactly one year ago today, I drove out to McKinney, paid $510 dollars for her ($510 because that was the amount the lady needed to cover her son's latest dental bill), had a huge fight with her about how we really do need to load on the trailer, brought her home, bathed her super crusty muddy self, and turned her out with my little herd.

Dohhhh so cute. Immy is so pretty, I wish she would have worked out as my primary riding horse but that just wasn't in her plan. I really had zero intention of keeping O when I first got her - hell, she was so horribly behaved at first that I absolutely hated her for the first two weeks that I had her - but as time went on, it became pretty clear that she was not leaving!

Happy Gotcha Day, you red demon you! 

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Dressage Fail

Sigh. For two seconds, I thought I might have been making some real headway with O in her dressage work. But.... I suppose I was wrong.

I go through this about once a month, or once every other month.... I get super excited about dressage work/eventing work, buckle down to polishing out dressage work, completely fail, decide she has no real future in dressage, get to doing other things with her, marvel at how well she does other things, get bored, try to do more dressage, completely fail again. I'm a halfway decent jock and have a lot of tools in my toolkit for dealing with evasions and problem horses of all shapes and sizes. But O... O is easily the most difficult critter I've ever sat on.

Some days, her dressage-esque work is en pointe. She relaxes over her back, stretches out, and takes a nice contact. Sometimes, we literally can only trot for about 5-10 strides before she careens out of control again, and we can only go in straight lines along the fenceline, but it feels like something of a victory. Sometimes we can put together a whole walk-trot test. Sometimes. Maybe like, once every few months or so, we can do it. Sometimes we can canter, and the canter is good! But, once we canter, the trotwork totally falls apart, and I have nothing again. The more we canter, the worse everything else gets. 
For every good dressage ride, we have several terrible ones. She came to me a year ago with every evasive trick in the book - that's why I got her for so cheap, after all - and she uses them all at the same time without any particular warning. Ignore your half-halt, curl behind the bit, and take off? Her specialty. If you put your leg on to push her out to the bridle, she takes off. If you release her in front so that she can stretch out to the bridle, she takes off. If you half-halt her to stop her from taking off, she curls behind the bridle and takes off anyway. The more she zooms, the more she wants to continue to zoom. And you just can't wear her out... you just can't. An hour into our ride today, I was so fed up with her zoominess that I just let her gallop on to get it out of her system.... she galloped for at least 15 minutes full out, after a full hour of a completely horrible ride already. I was jelly in the saddle at that point, and she was still galloping as fast she could round and round. She was churning along so fast that I had no brakes anymore, and had to engage my e-brake and pull her around into the fence to stop her before I completely melted into a puddle and fell off. Did she quiet down after that? Of course not. I think this horse would rather gallop until she collapsed rather than put in quiet work. She was lathered in sweat and all she wanted to do was keep running. I managed to get her walking quietly for about 10 minutes, with my usual 5-10 trot steps along the fenceline, before finally just calling it a day. What the hell was the point of all of that?

And yet, I NEVER have problems riding her out along the trail, on a loose rein, at whatever speed I choose. She is ALWAYS perfect. If I choose to take a contact out there, and put her to work while moving along the trail? Always, always perfect. Always. Dressage on the trail? It's always good.

But put her in an arena, or confined area, and go round and round in the same setting? She is an absolute hellish nightmare. This is the only time we fight with each other. This is the only time that she reverts back to all of the horrible evasions that she came with. 

If there was such a thing as trail-ssage, we'd be all over that. We'd win everything. But, there is not. And so, like we do every month, I throw my hands up, again. And as I do every month, I beat myself up about it, because I feel like I am giving up. I feel like any horse can do dressage, dressage is good for every horse, dressage is the foundation for all of everything everywhere. I feel like if I only tried harder, if I only figured out some other way of better explaining things to her, if I only keep at it, somehow I surely will get it with her, someday. But I also feel like every horse has their strengths and weaknesses as well as things they enjoy doing versus things they don't enjoy at all. I know a lot of horses who are arena only horses, and absolutely lose their every-loving minds when you take them out of the arena. I know horses who you couldn't get to gallop if you tried, ones that are super happy to just plod around forever. I know horses who can't stand jumping. I know horses who you can't get down the alleyway for rodeo events. And, I know horses who think arena flatwork is the most boring, miserable thing you could ever do with your life... and O is one of those horses.

Is it training? Is is personality? Past issues? Current issues? Some of the above? All of the above? Yes, to all of it, to some extent.

Could we go event and do ok? Yes, I'm sure we could. Well, I *know* we could. But after doing eventing for so long with such a winning horse, just going in and doing "ok" is not what I want to do. I don't want to waste the money just to do "ok." I was horribly spoiled with having an awesome winning event horse in Gogo. Now, I want to go event and win, if I am eventing. I want to do recognized shows, big shows, if I am eventing. Otherwise, I don't want to waste my money. I've already been there and done that. And everything is different now to me, since I lost Gogo. Some days, I miss eventing something fierce. Some days, I don't think I'll ever want to do it again. On those days when I miss it, I get excited about working on flatwork again. On those days when I don't miss it, I am more than happy to throw up my hands and say *&@! it, I don't want to do this anymore.

Do I want O to event? Of course I do. Am I going to be disappointed if she doesn't event? A little, yes. Maybe not at all. I'm not sure. Am I willing to dump her and go find a different horse that is more suited mentally to eventing? Of course not. I'd rather make some other goal for the both of us to achieve instead, something we both love and want to do. 

I've been going through this sort of identity crisis ever since Gogo died. Am I going to keep eventing or not? I thought I was going to. Now I'm not sure. But who am I, if I am not an eventer? Am I still an eventer if I haven't evented in 5 years? Am I going to event with this horse? Am I going to event with a different horse somewhere along the line? What am I doing? Why am I doing it? Where do I go from here? Am I a complete failure, or am I just going in a different direction?

I don't know.

One thing that I do know.... it's deathstorm season here in Texas. This one passed us by, thankfully, but I think Pmare was not impressed...

Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Dressij

I have a few more pics from the hunt last weekend!

Yes, I only made it into one of them. But, you can see some of our beautiful hunt country! 

I did a good deed for the universe this weekend. I got linked up with a questionable ad for a greyhound who had apparently been wandering in the street, and the people who had found him (that same afternoon) were asking $100 for a rehoming fee. That screamed stolen dog to me, so I went to pick up the hound, bartering him down to $50. I had the intention of finding the owner, but as it turned out, the owner had already been located and didn't want the hound back. The hound had been found running with another greyhound (who was muzzled and supposedly aggressive? Greyhounds just aren't aggressive so I have no idea what that could have meant), but the other hound had run off. I have four other dogs, including an elderly greyhound of my own of course, and knew that I couldn't keep him, but I couldn't leave him. He had layers and layers of dirt caked on him, was covered in ticks and fleas, and had a horrible haircoat and was thin. He was tattooed but not fixed, which was a little weird. I took him home, bathed him (several times), pulled at least 30 ticks off of him, doctored his open wounds (several, and it looked as thought he had possibly broken a hind leg at one point? He was not sound), and contacted my local greyhound adoption agency. I was VERY tempted to keep him myself, he was SO SWEET and SO HANDSOME, but he was very interested in making snacks out of my cats (which is common for race dogs), so off he went with his new foster mom. I'm sure he'll need extensive medical treatment, but once he is healthy he'll be adopted out! 

Isn't he gorgeous! Good luck to you my friend!

Following the hunt, O had three days off, then got back to work yesterday with some dressage. We were going to go to another barrel race on Tuesday, but I opted to have date night with Future Hubs instead (which was way fun and totally worth missing a ride for). Yesterday it was rainy and cruddy, but I wanted to ride anyway, so I tried to wait for a break in the weather to hop on. Not surprisingly, as soon as I finished tacking up, it began to pour. I was already about to mount up, so I figured why not just get on and ride anyway. She was understandably not pleased at first, and there was some head ducking/neck curling to avoid getting rain in the face, but the rain thankfully let up after a short about of time (though the mist persisted throughout the entire ride). I tried a little something different in that I cantered first, right off the bat. It did not do any favors for her trotwork, which I felt never really settled into the relaxation that I was trying to achieve, but the canterwork was GREAT. It was probably the best directly dressage related canterwork that I've done with her, and it was good in both directions! I held her tightly together with my seat, and that really kept her enthusiasm under wraps, but it also didn't overtighten her back - she just stayed in the same controllable rhythm, not at all speedy or rushed. I had a talk with Stacey a little while ago about her Mocha (who is a similar ride to O) and how to keep these little firecrackers under wraps, and we talked about holding with our thighs and seat, really holding. This worked for Mocha, and it also is working for O. O likes the stability of a SUPER quiet seat, and the quieter you are, the quieter she is. When she is a little up, she needs a strong halt halt about every other stride, but when she is relaxed, she is happy to smoothly flow along without any real intervention on my past. 
I've been using the running martingale on her every ride, just to make sure the old head toss that had resurfaced is going to go back down to the depths of hell, and it is working like a charm. Obviously that is only a temporary thing, but for now it is very helpful. I'll pull it off soon, but as for now, while we are really starting to finally get into the grit of proper canterwork, it is a good backup to have so she doesn't default the head toss. When she is relaxed and stretchy, no head toss... when she is fiery and not amused with having to keep it under wraps, the head toss comes out. We'll get there.

She says ughhhhh are we done yet, I'm soaked.

Today I tried to see about trying an endurance saddle on her (a real proper one!), but of course, it didn't fit. I therefore opted for another dressage ride, even though I usually don't do the same thing two days in a row. Today instead of warming up at the canter (which seems to fizzle her up a bit instead of quiet her down), I spent a good 20 minutes doing simple walk work on the bit, on a slightly longer rein, doing some easy leg yields and circles and serpentines back and forth between bends. At the walk, when she switches bends and you can move her laterally from side to side, she stretches out through her back and loosens up through her neck. The lower and stretchier you get her, the more relaxed she becomes. From there, we progressed on to some very simple, very quiet, very stretchy trot, and she was so good with that that I just called it a day on a very high note with a crisp and square halt. (She is the queen of haunches to the right at the halt). I am all about quiet, relaxed, stretchy work, especially for a mare like this one. If I can get through the majority of a ride with her just taking a nice contact and holding a steady rhythm - without having to give 5948925930293 halt halts to get there - then I am very happy. 

Tomorrow I probably won't have time to ride, but if I do, she is in need of a good long hack. Spring is here and the weather is beautiful, with highs in the upper 80's and bright sunshine. I'm sure deathstorm season is bearing down on us though... hopefully it won't be too terrible this year!

"Feed us! We are DYING of starvation!"

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Tally Ho!

The Horse That Does Everything now has one more notch in her belt: she's a newly minted foxhunter! And, not surprisingly, she was totally awesome at it.

I groom for, know, and have crossed paths with several members of the Brazos Valley Hunt. (Apparently Texas, despite being enormous, is actually a really, really small place.) At some point in talking to one of the ladies that I groom for, we got to talking about hunting, and she invited me as her guest to the closing hunt today for Brazos Valley. I've been out hunting with Hickory Creek before, but not with Brazos Valley. It was local, the weather was just right (overcast with slight mist and about 55 degrees), and I was game!

(First though, I had to dig out and clean up all of my tack and hunt clothes... it's been awhile since I've had all of my stuff out. I really, really enjoy cleaning my tack when I sit down and get to it - something about shining, good-smelling leather makes me feel so good. I take pride in a clean horse, clean tack, and sharp attire, so I made sure everything was looking nice ahead of time.)

The morning dawned a bit chilly, grey, and damp. I was NOT awake early on, but somehow managed to drag my butt out of bed and out the door by 6:00 in the morning. (I leave the house at 6 most every day, so it's not like that was super early or anything, but the bed was so warm and the pets were so snuggly.... so hard to get up on days like that!) I fed and groomed both ladies, and noted with some surprise that P had several new bite/kick marks on her, one of which was a solid chomp to the middle of her back. I had been hoping to start sitting on her bareback soon - the girl doesn't even have enough weight/muscle in her back for any of my saddles or pads to remotely fit her - but that puts that out of the question. O only had one mark on her, a good bitemark to the chest, but was otherwise unscathed. My guess is that there was a coup in the middle of the night, and O put in one last stand for boss status and came out on top. Yesterday, she was following P around like a little lost puppy, but today she was completely doing her own thing. Yesterday they were side by side sharing a haybag, but today O would move from one haybag to the next, and P would get out of her way and go to the other haybag. Hopefully this is the last of the fighting.... I'll have to separate them if they don't knock it off. I'm not sure P will take to being second in command very well.

Anyway. We loaded up, headed out, and made it to the property at around 8:45AM. The hounds were set to be released at 9:30AM, so I tacked up, met some folks, and hung out for a bit while O munched and napped.

ZZZZZmunchmunchmunch. She's efficient like that.

The hounds were released right on time, and I headed out with the first flight. This hunt operated a little differently than I was used to - the staff went off totally by themselves, and the first flight stayed behind with another staff member. The second flight (which was mostly a hilltopper group) stayed back even further, and they just walked. We trotted and cantered along behind the staff, but never kept in hot pursuit with the hounds, and never got up close to the master, huntsman, or the whips at any point. The grounds were really beautiful wild prairie, unimproved cattle pasture that wound through some rugged lowland brush and trees and came back up again for some beautiful vistas. It was actually really great - we were back far enough that we got to watch the hounds work a wide area, which is quite different from times when I have hunted in the past and we have been largely in the woods. It was damp and the wind was quiet (for here), which made for perfect scent conditions.

The hounds sent something to ground early on in the hunt, and we moved on to a different area. In a lowland covert, much to everyone's surprise, the pack suddenly all went from sniffing around to baying and leaping around with a prize. There was no chase, they just happened to find and get something. We weren't sure what they had at first, but they went nuts over it. As it turns out, they actually had gotten themselves a grey fox! How about that, good job hounds! Our field master turned to us and said with surprise, "that's the first time in 17 years that this has ever happened!"

(Disclaimer: we normally hunt coyote down here. Foxes are not that common, and grey foxes are not pests. Coyotes, on the other hand, are huge pests, especially in a cattle pasture like we were in. A lot of modern day hunts just do drag hunts, which is when there is a pre-laid scent that the hounds can go out and pick up without having to actually hunt a living thing. Down here, both Brazos Valley and Hickory Creek do live hunts, probably just because there are so many coyotes that it is kind of pointless to lay a scent - there is always going to be a scent. It is not common to kill. If something goes to ground, you don't flush it out, you let it live on to see another day. When this fox got killed today, I was truthfully sad. I love the clever little rascals and I always want them to see another day. The thrill of the chase, the tradition, the attire, the camaraderie, it's all wonderful and I do love it, but I don't have interest in killing anything for sport. I've never seen a kill happen on a hunt and hope not to again - and probably won't see it again, simply because it just doesn't happen often and that isn't really the point of modern day hunting.)

As for O, she was compltetely 100% spot-on could-not-have-been-better perfect. I actually thought something might be wrong with her because she was so chill! (She is quite fine though, thankfully - I think she just wore herself out overnight having fights with P.) I rode her with a martingale and pelham, simply because I was expecting her to be strong and wanted at the same time to stick with some tradition, but I didn't need it. I cantered along on a totally loose rein, even popping over some little logs. She stopped on a dime and stood like a rock. She didn't bat an eye when a few stray hounds came busting up out of the brush and right behind her heels. She just looked on with interest the entire time, and I didn't have to do a thing except enjoy the hounds.

Basically, she's pretty much just awesome.

She was unimpressed about standing for photos. "Dude this is boring... time for a nap."
After the hunt, she promptly zonked out and took a two hour nap while we had out post-hunt brunch. She must really have been pooped after whatever happened last night. It's normal for her to be quiet and napping after a ride, but she was really out - I don't think she moved a single foot the entire time we were having brunch.

Once we were at home, I watched her for another 3 or so hours while I putzed around the barn, cleaned paddocks, filled water troughs, trimmed Pmare, and put on blankets, and she happily snarfed hay the entire time. She is fine, I think she was just worn out from whatever happened with P the night before. I did give her a gram of bute just in case she was feeling sore from her bites and kicks, but otherwise she is just going to have a few days off to relax and recoup. Mares.

On a TOTALLY unrelated note, as it turns out someone did get video of our run at Glen Rose! I had to laugh when I first saw it - I thought we were FLYING along, but we were pretty much just slowly cantering the entire pattern. I thought the turns were crisp and tight, and they were really sloppy. I do have to say, the third barrel was pretty good though!

She's something else isn't she. She events, does dressage, jumps, does poles, has had roping work done with her, chases cows, barrel races, foxhunts.... she does it all!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

O Runs some Barrels

Scratch that title. How about, "O runs some barrels... and wins some money!"

(But before I get into that story, I wanted to make sure everyone is clear on what happened with Immy and P. Immy did go with P to the lessee's place at first, but she ran the lessee's other mare through the fence repeatedly, so that wasn't going to work. She ended up at a different place doing babysitter/pasture ornament duty, and is fine, fat, and happy at her new forever home where she never had to be ridden or do anything more complicated than get handfuls of cookies. She's doing just fine and they love her. So don't worry!)

Anyway! On Monday, after I brought P back, S and I went for a nice little walk hack and talked about what we were going to do on Tuesday. There was a barrel race at Glen Rose that she wanted to go to, so I decided to tag along and do some exhibitions for fun. As it turns out when we got there on Tuesday, she entered me in it!! I am obviously NOT a barrel racer and neither is O, so mostly I just flung my hands up and went sure, what the hell, why not!

Our exhibitions went decently - I trotted a few, I cantered a few. S gave me some tips on how to stop riding like, well, you know... an English rider... and we went on our way. (It still sounds weird to me to tell people I ride English down here... people down here don't know what dressage or eventing is, so I either tell them I ride English or that I jump. Then they sort of get it.) Mostly she told me to just let go of her head, to trust her to turn, to hang on and to just go as fast as possible. Yep, sounds about right.... I tweaked a few things in our last exhibition and it went pretty well. Much to my TOTAL surprise, O has the barrel pattern completely figured out. I would hustle up to the barrel, get to it, sit up and settle into my seat, and the mare whipped around each one by herself. I didn't have to turn her, just put my outside leg on to support her and around she went by herself. Which admittedly is exactly what you really want, versus all the people you see doing this cringe-worthy cranking..... yikes. 

As a small aside, it's a well known fact that there's a LOT of really, REALLY bad riding going on at barrel races... it's a sport where you don't need a trainer, much money, or any real equitation to actually be able to sort of crank around and get the job done, and it has some sort of weird glitzy cowgirl allure to it.... so you get a lot of really Bad Riding going on. There is a VERY obvious difference between people that clearly know what they are doing, and people that should seriously take up another hobby... maybe like underwater basket weaving, or taking care of pet rocks. 

I am not one of those riders. I will not EVER be one of those riders. The cranking and the spanking and the flailing legs.... that's not for me. I'd rather not fall off or royally tick my horse off, thanks! 

ANYWAY. Before I knew it, it was time for us to head on in. Remember, this mare has only sort-of cantered the pattern a few times.... she's no pro. I'm no pro either. But hey, why not! Down the alleyway we went.

And actually, we did pretty well all things considered! I took a really bad approach to the first barrel, and sort of cantered and weaved around trying to figure out exactly where I wanted to place myself. I failed at that and ended up burying her at the first barrel, and she just about trotted around it. We were not exactly hauling some ass at that point. However, I got us more or less unstuck on the backside and pushed her on. From there on out, she was MOVING - she zoomed to the second barrel and whipped right around it, zoomed to the third and whipped right around it too, and FLEW all the way home. The girl was HAULING ASS. And it was FUN!

Our time was a 20.29. We were the slowest ones there by several seconds, and were in LAST place. Not surprising! But somehow, even though we were in dead last, there were few enough people there (around 30-4) that we were 3rd in the 4D. Don't ask me to explain the divisions, I do not remotely understand how it works. But I got a check for $31! Not bad! And considering that I totally flailed and wasted a ton of time around the first barrel (and really, we were trotting), our time would have been WAY faster had we just gone about at fast around it as we did around the other two. 

So there you have it. My warmblood does pretty much everything ever.

As for old Pmare, she is doing well. She had a bath today when it finally warmed up enough to allow for it, and while she still looks sort of dull and grungy, she already looks way better just from eating good food for a few days. 

Not impressed with the bathing, the grooming, or the paparazzi. "Lady, leave me alone and feed me already will you?" Definitely still the same crusty old bat as she always is.

The mares got into an EPIC battle on Tuesday. I think what happened is that O used to be on the bottom rung when she first came to join the herd, and Immy regularly beat the crap out of her. Then the girls left, and she lived alone for awhile. When Tre came, O found herself on the top of the totem pole for the first time, although Tre did regularly try to take over. I think maybe she thought when P came back that she could try and pull a fast one over on the old mare and make herself the head honcho, but nobody knocks old Pmare off the top rung. O definitely started it - she turned her butt to P and backed into her, hopping up like she was threatening to kick. P of course turned her butt right around and backed right into O, and the hooves started flying. They threw themselves at each other like sumo wrestlers, screaming and double barreling - I almost thought their blankets had hooked at one point, they were mashed together so tightly for so long. Usually I let them sort their differences out, but this fight got out of hand quickly, and in a flash O had knocked P clean off her feet. P got up, hurled herself into O, and knocked HER clean off her feet as well, then jumped on her and started savaging O's neck with her teeth. I was making my way over there to break up the fight when they both stood up, reared and struck at each other, and P got one final chomp in. Then they quit and went back to grazing peacefully side by side. O has a number of scrapes on both hind legs, and P had several swollen bitemarks on her neck, but other than that they are both fine. O is now humbly following P all over the place like a little lost puppydog. 

P looks so crappy compared to O.... we'll get her back to where she was!

Monday, March 17, 2014

The Old P

After a very sudden whirlwind of events, the old Pmare is now home. This has been a total chaotic cluster of a week, and I'm still trying to process my thoughts on everything.

Yesterday, I got a text from P's lessee saying that P had cataracts. Cataracts? She didn't have cataracts when she left my place, when did these show up? Only one eye? And 48 hours ago? Ok, that's not normal. 
She texted me a picture:

Oh geez. THAT'S not normal. It looked like a small ulcer, or fungal infection. It looked as though there was already a small crater in it. I told her that she needed to have the mare taken to the vet right away, and that eyes were never something to mess around with - it might be nothing, but it might be something that causes her to lose her eyeball. You just don't take changes with an eye.

Then I started getting texts back saying, 'welllllll I don't know how I'm going to pay for that, sooo....'

Welp, that's the end of that. That is a breach of the terms of lease - the lessee was to pay for all veterinary upkeep (and farrier, and feed) in place of a lease fee. (Barring major catastrophe, which was a negotiable thing.) If you can't even afford to have the vet come stain the eye and look in there to see if there is something going on, then you certainly can't keep the horse. It is one thing if you choose to bypass a veterinary issue with your own horses. It is another thing entirely if you choose to do it with someone else's horse. I told her I'd be there as soon as I could in the morning to pick the horse up. 

I got up at 4, slogged my way through dressing, driving, hooking up my trailer, feeding the horses, and then driving for several hours to pick up my mare. I texted the lessee an hour out, and then 10 minutes out, to let her know I was on my way. 
When I arrived and called to Pmare, she popped her head up and stared at me in what looked like total disbelief. She didn't come over at first, just stared at me while the other horses ate. It was almost as if she was going, "are you seriously here right now?" It was definitely a look of recognition. A minute or so passed, and she decided to make a beeline to the fence to come over and see me. Good old mare. 

I still had no reply from the lessee, even though I had texted her to tell her I was there. I had already schedule a vet appointment at 1pm, so I couldn't really hang around. I tried to call her, and the phone picked up, but then promptly hung up. I tried to call back, but the phone went to voicemail. A third call sent it to voicemail as well. Frustrated, I searched the barn for her belongings - her Renegades, her blanket, her bridle - but I found nothing. I tried to approach her door, but her dog wouldn't let me it. Finally, I just gave up, took the horse, and left. I texted her and told her to send the things to me, though I don't expect to ever see them again.

Several more hours in the trailer, and finally arrived and unloaded her at the vet. She's very dirty, very hairy, and a lot thinner than the last time I saw her :(

Obviously she's not emaciated, but to give you some idea of a comparison, here's how she looked at this time last year, shortly before she left for the lease:

It's unrealistic to think that anybody I could have ever leased her out to would uphold my ridiculously high horsecare standards, but this is a little ridiculous. Return her to me dirty? No problem. Return her to me a little rude and pushy? That's fine, I get it. Return her to me with her ribs sticking out and neck half the size of what it was, and feet flared out with tons of extra toe? That's really not cool. 

The good news though? Today, the eye thing has magically disappeared. When I arrived at her lessee's, I immediately looked in her eye, and.... saw nothing. Huh. We stained it at the vet anyway, and... nothing.
Diagnosis? Really interesting looking EYE BOOGER. 

Obviously, it was some divine intervention or something though.... she couldn't stay at that place looking this way. All the pictures I've seen of her were taken from angles that just never showed how thin she really had become. I had no idea it was like this. It just took a really questionable looking eye booger to get her out of there. 

So, thanks eye booger! Now begins the long process of getting her back to the way she used to look... 

Saturday, March 15, 2014

The Horse That Does Everything

Can I just take a moment to say how much fun it is to have a horse that is capable of doing a little bit of *everything*? I feel at this point like O could do almost anything we decided to try. (I say almost, because things that involve a steady rhythm or being slow, like hunters/WP/etc, are definitely NOT things she would be capable of doing well at. 'Slow' is not her thing!). 

Today, we decided to play around on the barrels, because why not? We are just starting to canter parts of the pattern, and she is starting to understand that idea. (We started with walking the pattern, then trotting the pattern, then we switched the pattern to run it backwards, and then we started with the canter, all over the past few months.) After watching these videos, I see that I need to give her some more of her head around the turns, but the rest of it doesn't look half bad for someone who doesn't actually know anything about running barrels. It's fun!

We even finished before it started to rain, how about that.

I obviously don't *really* know how to barrel race, but it is super fun to do and can be very technical. It's a constant fun challenge - how best do I negotiate this obstacle at speed? A little of this, a little of this? And sometimes it all comes together perfectly. I'm not about to jump ship and change disciplines, but it might be fun to do some of our little local rodeos. 

Naughty ponies that flip their heads around have to have their tie-downs put back on though...

Please excuse extra strings in the background... that's how you keep your tackroom door open ghetto-style. There is a little bumper on the bottom of the door that is supposed to pop into a little rubber holder to keep your door open, but you have to push hard on your door and the hinges to get it to pop in there. Sundowner hinges are notorious for breaking, and I've gone so far as to have all of them replaced from the plastic (that snaps) to metal (that rips the screws out of your door) to metal with bolts that go through the entire door (that all snap in half)... so at this point I give up. I just loop a long string that I tied around the doorhandle all the way to the tongue of my hitch and call it a hooptie day! 

When I got her, she was THE queen of the head toss, She'd about put her head in your lap every time she did it, and she did it CONSTANTLY. We got her over that, and she hasn't done it in a very long time (and I haven't needed to put anything on her except a snaffle or the hackamore), but she started to pick it up again at the last endurance ride when we spent a lot of time arguing about speed on the first loop. She does it mainly as a protest (do not want to slow down you can't make me!). The tie down is great because it is loose and has give to it, and it doesn't do anything at all unless she tosses her head. One head toss today and she went OH WOW SORRY, and didn't do it again. It's nice because she only pulls on herself, and I don't have to get into a fight with her about it. She pops herself in the nose once, and doesn't do it again. Mares.

Also, PHEW! She is also finally starting to shed. Not that she had a lot of winter coat to begin with, but it is nice to know that soon it will be gone. 

Yes, she really is that shiny. Yes, that is her winter coat. Yes, winter coats are supposed to be shiny!

We also figured out that she may have some funny extra krazy kolor genes going on.... first, check out her countershading dorsal stripe! It's not a *real* dorsal stripe like a dun horse or a horse with primitive markings has, but it is a special kind of genetic switch that gets flicked on during her change of coats. I knew it was there, but it is REALLY noticeable now versus last year when I had just gotten her and she had kind of a raggedy winter coat. If you look closer, you'll see all these little white hairs all over the place, white ticking all over her body. That means she's possibly a sabino! It's really minimally expressed, and without testing we don't really know for sure what it is (and I don't care about color enough to bother testing), but it is interesting, and everyone I've shown it to that knows color is oohing and aahing over it. R also reports that her breeders thought she was sabino too! 
She used to have a few white birdcatcher spots on her when I got her, but they have all vanished and haven't come back. Weird! Color genetics are really cool and way beyond me. 

Friday, March 14, 2014

Self Exploration

Phew! I have some catching up to do. I have another post to follow about my birthday, but I better catch upon this one first!


Little Miss Tre left for her new home this past weekend! After this experience I can safely say I am NEVER EVER EVER doing the buying and selling thing ever again, EVER. It was a horrible, frustrating, money-bleeding experience, and I never want to take part in it ever again. She went to a great place, but not for what I wanted and not within the time frame that I wanted. It was a learning experience for me, but mostly all that I learned is that while it seemed like a great endeavor, it was not, and I am not made of the stuff that horse sellers are made out of. I am never. Ever. Doing. That. Again.


Doing this also gave me some good insight into my own workings though, and for that I am grateful. I realized at some point that I am really just a one-horse kind of person. I really like just have one single one to spoil and dote on. It's very hard for me to have two that are both in work at the same time (having one retired one or one youngster plus a working one is a different story, that is doable). I don't know, I'm just sort of... horsey monogamous, I suppose. Only having one means that the one that I have doesn't have to want for anything. Only having one means that I can take as long as I feel like every day, because there isn't a time constraint. 

From here on out, it will just be O, and of course Pmare when she comes home. Obviously, at some point in the (way distant) future, that will change in some way or another (I get rich, somebody dies, something unexpected happens, etc), but not now. Now is a time for conservation instead of excess. Now is a time to focus on building up the things I have instead of trying to reach for outside things. 2014 looks like another huge year for personal and professional growth, and not surprisingly I am feeling a little wiser with every passing day. My 29th birthday was yesterday.... hard to believe I am approaching the end of my 20's. What I know today is certainly far more than I knew at this time last year, or the year before, or especially five years ago, or ESPECIALLY ten years ago. Ten years ago at this exact time, I was waiting for my brand new horse Metro to arrive from Canada, while doting on my old man Quincy. Five years ago at this time, I had just recently moved to Connecticut, and was prepping young Gogo for her Novice debut in Area 1. Two years ago, I had just moved into a house with Future Hubs and was wondering how in the heck I had survived a year already in Texas. Last year, I was about to get struck in the ankle with a rock and have everything in my life completely change for the better. At the end of my 20's, I am seeing that everyone was right - your 20's is a RIDICULOUSLY dynamic period in your life. It is a time for growth, a time for huge decisions, a time for successes, and a time for mind boggling mistakes. A time to really figure out who the heck you are, and where you want to be going with your life. I know that I will change every year - that's just life - but I know a lot more about my older, wiser self now than I did my younger, more irrational self. I am also old and wise enough to know that I am neither old nor wise in reality, and that I don't know nearly as much as I used to think I did. 

Anyway, I digress. 


The past two weeks has been absolutely insane. I was sick for a week and a half, which threw off all of my appointments, and then the weather tanked which didn't help any of the complexity. I then ran myself ragged trying to catch up with everyone, and finally everything is back to normal. In the interim, I only had time to lunge a few times and go for a quick hack, but hey, at least it was something! This week things have finally gotten back to the normal level of crazy, so I've been happily back in the saddle. 

O doesn't like to do the same thing every day. If she lunges two days in a row, she'll be much worse on the second day. Same thing with flatwork, or conditioning - some combo of being bored and using the same muscle groups makes her much less pliable on the second day. She seems to do quite well if you space out her more intense workouts with either a day off or some very differing kind of work. After our dressage ride on the 1st (a Saturday), she had a day off on that Sunday (when the weather tanked), and then on that Monday we went for a 5 mile hack. We checked on all the new baby cows (so far there are 14 new little squeezy cute beef tips!), trotted over some raised poles, patterned on the barrels for a little while, and then called it a day.

It was REALLY COLD, and I had to practically peel my frozen self out of the saddle. Is winter over yet!?

The rest of the week passed in a whirlwind of business. Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, she had off, and Wednesday and Friday she lunged in the Faux-ssoa. Putting a day off in between the two of those sessions was very helpful, although I did think that on the second day she was a bit less cooperative than she had been on the first. We worked on our usual stretching out, trotting and cantering over raised poles, and relaxation.

(If you couldn't tell from the change in background weather/scenery, those were taken on two different days.)

On Sunday (the 9th), I decided to try a little experiment. I had the idea long ago (meaning, a month or two ago) that I should try a pelham on O for some flatwork. This pelham has a short shank and the same Happy Mouth mouthpiece as the snaffle I ride her in. My idea was that I could ride off the snaffle, and then would have an extra bit of "excuse me whoa there wild animal" with the curb if I needed it. And that was a good idea, of course, but in reality it seems as though O has recently really connected with the idea of a half-halt. She stretched out and took a nice contact, moved off my leg, took half halts from my seat perfectly well, and was in general just fantastic. I ended up tying up the curb rein and just riding off the snaffle anyway, because I had a horse who was listening to my body and just taking a nice relaxed contact with the snaffle. I was also surprised to find that we have leg yields in both directions, really nice ones! I didn't know we had them... we certainly didn't have them before. Not sure when she picked that up, but she did!
She was great. Back to the regular snaffle, because all good dressage-y things come from a simple snaffle and that's how it should be!

She sure did look cute though!

We had another lunge, which looked quite a lot like this (although this was taken a few days earlier):

Awwww good mare.

We also had a fun day of desensitizing with a rope and playing on the barrels. She has started cantering the barrel pattern and is REALLY pretty good at it all things considered. I tried to get a video of that, but unfortunately all I ended up shooting was a long video of the sky. But, at least I got a short clip of playing around with the rope!

Caveat: do not be this lax with your own personal safety unless you really know the horse. I'm being very sloppy about safety in this video because I know this horse and I knew she wasn't going to do anything. Still, that doesn't mean that something unexpected could have happened - practice safety!

You can see that she's not particularly keen about it flying around near her head, but it won't take long for her to get used to that. I am a total goob with rope handling, so I won't be swinging around off of her anytime soon, but this is a good place to start. Not surprisingly, she didn't care about it much. You also get to see some very poor leading skills on my part... I suppose I've been letting her be too lazy with the leading as of late. I will get back on that now that I have noticed her trying to drag along behind me.

Phew, I think I caught up with all of the riding stuff!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Stupid blog!

Blogger is being a right pain in the fanny. I wrote TWO huge long posts, one about this past week, and one about my birthday, but they of course were magically deleted when Blogger decided it couldn't save them for some reason. DAMNIT.

So anyway, enjoy this adorable picture until I stop being angry at Blogger and get back around to re-writing THE WHOLE THING AGAIN. 

Monday, March 10, 2014

Hooves Are Cool

Are hooves not the coolest things ever?

If you remember, about a year ago O came to me with the cruddiest hooves ever. She had been in Texas for a little while, standing in a field for several months just eating on a nasty roundbale, and while she had been getting hoof care at that time (supposedly), her feet were still awful. Her soles were so thin you could depress them with your thumb. She couldn't walk on pavement without being gimpy. She had zero soft tissue development in the back of her foot. She needed some work.

There was literally nothing I could take off that would make it better. So, I put her to work. The best thing you can do for a horse with poor soft tissue development and thin soles is to make them comfortable, feed them well, and work them. Off we went.

She couldn't walk on pavement barefoot at first. She wore boots and pads for every ride. She tripped. She kept going.

Eventually, the boots started being less of a necessary thing. She couldn't wear them all the time due to how badly they rubbed her (ALL boots that fit her rub her, and the boots that don't rub won't stay on her crooked toed-in feet), so they started to stay off for periods. She wore them less, and less, and less.

Pavement because as easy as turf to work on. The gravel driveway became less of a challenge. The rocks in the big pasture started to be less terrible and more simple to negotiate. 

Eventually, the boots went by the wayside. I think they're in my trailer somewhere collecting dust. She hasn't worn them in months. 

The soft tissue in the back of her foot started feeling firm to the touch, like something was actually in there. Things were developing, responding to the hundreds of miles that we had traveled. And then one day, concavity was there. Where did that come from?

Voila! Here we are, a year later.

The first shot was taken last April, the second was a few days ago. Remember, NO TRIMMING happened during this time except for the very rare occasional touch-up. This hoof is nowhere near perfect by any means, but the development in the back of the foot is WILD, and there is quite a lot of concavity to it. It had some hunks taken out of the lateral side (she is toed in) when she was monkeying around one day but no harm no foul, just looks a little funny until it grows back. There is still a very long way to go, but this is remarkable progress. 

Good food and miles and miles and miles and miles of proper landings are the only real way to achieve this. Nothing you put on the foot will make it develop like this. It has to be done through stimulation and proper nutrition, and it doesn't happen overnight. By this time next year, they will look totally different, again.

So, what are you waiting for? Go ride! 

Sunday, March 2, 2014

End of February Analysis; March Goals!

Is it already time to do our monthly goals? Where did the time go!


O-Ren February Goals:

1) Survive our next LD at Racing Stripes I!
Success! We finished 8th with the High Vet Score. She was bouncing around like a maniac the next day, she recovered REALLY well. I, on the other hand, not only caught a stomach bug but also couldn't eat or drink much during the ride, and therefore felt like I got hit by a bus the next day.

2) Dressage work - back to walk-trot, and add in canter gradually! Get to it!!
This did not go over the way I was hoping. Due to the ride schedule, I spent more time focusing on conditioning, and she had a fair amount of time off before and after rides. Unfortunately, I planned for us to be at a another ride this weekend, and therefore gave her a chunk of time off between the last one and leading up to this one, but I ended up bailing on the ride this weekend because I was feeling too cruddy about everything to even consider going. Thankfully, Funder gave me some pep talking, and I'm not quite ready to dump the endurance idea yet. That said, more dressage work and more eventing-type focus is DEFINITELY warranted for the next few months. 

3) Ramp up conditioning - possible 50s in our near future....
Well, I don't really know about this one. I'm not completely sure that I want to pursue endurance beyond LDs at this point, or if I want to pursue it at all. I don't really know. I think that I do, but I don't really have any intention of doing 50s in the barrel saddle. Unfortunately I also can't afford a new saddle right now. I could possibly do more work in my dressage saddle, but I don't really think I'll find it secure/comfortable for very long distances. So, I dunno what we'll do! 

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!
Again, total fail. My endurance-y schedule majorly interfered with this goal, as all of the XC schooling days around here coincided with ride times or times when she needed to not be working that hard (right before/after a ride). We'll make this a higher priority this next month. I have been lunging her over single cavalettis at the canter though, and that's a start!

5) Install Easyshoes when they get there and see how they go! (Or, try glue-on boot shells instead!)
Much to my pleasant surprise, I ordered and received O's EasyShoes and discovered that she has sized up since I last measured her, which was not that long ago! She seems to have broken through her plateau, and has not only sized up but gained quite a lot of concavity as well as increasing surefootedness over rough rocky terrain, which is all great. But I'd still like to use her as my crash test dummy for the EasyShoes... we just have to get her into the right size. 

So basically, February did not go as planned at all. 


O-Ren March Goals:
1) Dressage work - back to walk-trot, and add in canter gradually! Get to it!! High priority!!
2) 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!
3) Install Easyshoes and see how they go! 
4) Consider 'what else' we want to try and figure out how to fit it into the schedule - keep doing endurance? Try roping? Barrels? Driving?
5) Look at show/ride schedule - what will we be doing in the next few months?


On the riding front, we've been mixing up some actual work with some fun. Last week, my best bestie best was here visiting from California, so of course we had to take the mares for a spin!

First, I put her up on Tre, and we went out to check on all the new calves:

And that was fun, but of course she had to get up on the Big Comfy Couch and try her out too:

O powerwalked with her for a minute, and then they meandered along on a long rein with no stirrups. She is a cool cucumber, that's for sure!

Our weather steadily improved over the course of the week, until it was sunny and in the 80s:

 Naked girls were LOVING the sunshine!

When I decided to bail on Bootlegger, I set her to work lunging instead. She had been a total wild animal all week, like she gets when she hasn't been worked enough - running around, refusing to be caught, and double barreling at us when we'd try to catch her. It's a playful thing, more like a 'whee haha you can't catch me neener neener' thing, but it's 1000000% never ever acceptable to kick out at your human, even if you think it's a game. I got fed up with her antics and freelunged the crap out of her on one of those days, long enough that she sweated up and stood panting for a minute when she finally decided she had better knock it off and stand still to be caught. Following that little come to Jesus meeting, she has been marching up to me in the pasture whenever I show up, nickering to me the whole time. She might be a wild animal when she is not in work, but when she is in work and getting her willies out every day, she's a TOTAL peach.

On the lunge, she needed to canter for about 30 minutes before she finally settled a little bit and got to work. I don't really like them to have to be on a circle zooming around for that long, but she needed to blow off some steam before I asked her to get to real work - there was no way she could focus until she got some of her zooms out of her system. Some of her zooming included cantering over a small raised pole, which was a big zoomy and exciting at first:


And then, she settled. She did some nice stretching:

Trotted and cantered the little groundpole like a champ:

And had some nice halts at the end, which included giving me inquisitive looks:

She also had a nice bath and a mane trim, since it was nearly 85 degrees out by this time. Both mares are starting to shed too, which is AWESOME!

Yesterday, we had a REALLY great dressage school. The last dressage school we had was kind of a disaster, but this one went very well. She was being fresh at the start, like she usually is, and I tried a few things that were different this time around to see if they would make a difference. I warmed her up at the walk, then did some SLOW trot work, where I felt like she was not going forward enough and was a little too bundled up, but was at least not zooming around. I half halted her about every other stride, and held her together with my seat more than anything else. She liked that quite a lot, and back at the walk, she stretched out and loosened up over her back. She eventually melted into that putty-like state that I love so much, where they become all loose and buttery, and it feels like you can smear them in all directions with your legs and seat. That's really the best description for it... they are butter and you smear them in whatever direction you want, side to side, forward or back, up into your seat. She is different from Gogo in her extreme desire to go forward, and in her rhythm... Gogo was born with perfect, consistent rhythm, always with that long and slow sweeping stride of her, always going at exactly the same balance and cadence, even when she was just starting under saddle. O on the other hand doesn't really have an innate sense of rhythm, and tends to bounce around from speed to speed within gaits, especially when she is hot or using speed as an evasion (her favorite). That said, they both require(d) a very quiet, uncomplicated ride, and neither mare can(could) stand a noisy hand. Gogo would rear if you got too up in her face, and O just braces and runs.

Gogo and her perfect rhythm all the time. So miss that mare.

Near the end of our ride, O kind of melted into that nice, relaxed state where she is happy to stretch out and take a quiet contact, and was happy to trot around willingly without having to half halt her constantly. I called it a day with that, very pleased with her. We even did some really excellent leg yields both towards the rail and away from it (rail = perimeter fence) - I haven't schooled lateral work very much, but she had shoulder-ins and leg yields, and when she is relaxed they are REALLY good. When she is still too up and forward, they just kind of rev the engine and spice her up too much, but when she is relaxed they really help to loosen her up. (Gogo was like that too... they really are similar rides, even in their differences).

Nice lipstick! I had a running martingale on her yesterday for the first time in months - I've never actually used one on her during flatwork before. However, Tre was down in her paddock hollering for friend, and everytime we came around the corner into view of the paddock, O would give me a good head toss. I thought that habit was over and done with, but apparently not yesterday! I jumped off for a minute, put on the martingale, and headed off, instead of getting into a fight about it. The head tossing stopped, the mare went to work, and all was well. I doubt I'll use the martingale much, but it is nice to have as a backup to toss on as a reminder - much easier to let her figure out out herself instead of get into an argument with her about it. Goofy mare.

Today, temps are hovering in the low 20s, with windchills below 0 and sideways sleet. O is wearing 3 blankets and Tre is wearing 2, and they are snuggled up in their shed with lots of hay to keep warm. All of my appointments for the day cancelled (thankfully), as did all of my appointments for tomorrow. We might have more sleet coming in Tuesday, which is SO NOT OKAY! Come on now winter, all the daffodils were up and the trees were flowering.... we thought you were over! Cut us some slack!