Monday, April 28, 2014


I had a bunch of very interesting and thoughtful comments on my last post, all of which I appreciate. Alicia made a particularly interesting comment that really gave me some food for thought. What she specifically said was:
"Try less to think about putting a round peg in a square hole. Make the hole round. Seeing as the horse is round already, why change the horse, just change the demands. So you want to be an eventer. Be one!! Instead of 'making' O do eventing, make eventing work for O."

I really like that way of looking at it. It's very easy to feel frustrated when you're in dressage tack in a dressage arena and nothing is going right.... BUT take away the tack and the arena and give the horse something else to do, and things are very different. To say that O is a tactical ride is the understatement of the century. Complicated things shut her down. Slow speeds frustrate her unless she is completely relaxed. Her evasion of choice is to get strong and run away at every gait. She absolutely excels at the combo of curl your head to your chest, completely ignore half halts, and bolt. When she is frustrated or confused, she fights me every. Single. Stride. Most dressage rides, it is all I can do to just get her walking quietly with four or five steps of relaxed trot on a straight line, and that's all we can do. That usually either comes only immediately in the beginning of the ride, or after two or so solid hours of sweating, cursing, and fighting each other tooth and nail.That pretty much sucks for both of us, all the way around. Neither one of us works well when we're upset like that.

When we're out going down the road, or when we're working the barrel pattern, I have a different horse. It's not necessarily on the trail that she is good - and it's not necessarily in the arena that she is bad - it's mostly just on the hardtop road going in straight lines that she does her best work, which boggles me a little bit. It took me a little while to figure that out - I thought that being out on the trail itself was what made her happy enough to relax, but in reality I don't think it is relaxation. I would not say she is relaxed so much on the trail as she is vigilant and interested in her environment, enough so that it gives her something else to think about. At that point she goes, "yeah yeah human you can manipulate me how you want, I have more important things to think about here." This of course still can go too far - if something is genuinely scary, she is still going to get tense and bolty. If she has seen the trail a million times, she is just as full of evasions. If she has never seen the trail at all, she sometimes gets a bit too spooky to relax. There's a formula to it that I haven't quite figured out. Pretty consistently, however, she gives me awesome trotwork on certain stretches of the roads around the barn. And if I can get her relaxed enough, no matter where we are, she's always pretty darn good.

One place that she is consistently good is on the barrel pattern. She gets it, it's automatic for her, and she can therefore relax because she knows exactly what is going to happen. She gets plenty fizzed up about it when I ask her for some speed, but the rest of the time she gets so mellow that she lowers her head, stretches out over her back, takes a big sigh, and breaks to the walk around every turn. Except for the turns of course, everything she does otherwise is perfectly acceptable dressage-type work.

It is extremely tricky to have a horse that is either 100% chill because they are doing the same repetitive thing in the same place, or 100% batcrap bananas because they are doing the same repetitive thing in the same place. You're never really quite sure which horse you're going to get that day. Doesn't matter what tack, what she has been doing before you rode, what you did yesterday, what kind of a mood you are in when you get on. There doesn't really seem to be a connecting factor, which is tricky.

The one place she is consistently good however is on the barrels. She never fights, never evades. She sees the pattern and heads right for it, and takes herself through it with no muss or fuss. She just gets it. And this is something I can DEFINITELY use to my advantage.

So therefore, I need to have a different plan. I can't just waltz into an arena on any given day and say, "we are doing dressage today!" I need to just let that go for now. We need to be doing things that give her enough confidence and relaxation that she becomes malleable. She needs to learn to be in control of her own body, that she doesn't have to haul on the reins or fall in or gallop off every time the balance changes.We need to take dressage and forget about the idea of making it dressage. It is, after all, just training the horse to carry itself properly, no matter what tack you use. We need to be doing something she enjoys, with a grander scheme in mind. We need to take dressage and disguise it as something else.

We need to do some barrel-ssage.

Because, let's be real... every time I look at this horse and the way she moves, all I can think is, "this horse is way too pretty of a mover and too cute of a jumper to not be an event horse."

Even when she's having a minor tantrum about something ("I SLIPPED AHH!"), she's still so pretty.

The day I can canter this mare quietly on a loopy rein in a circle is the day I start believing that anything can happen. I don't know how long it will take to get to that point... but that's where we need to go.

You wonderful wonderful blog readers are the best.... you're always there with words of encouragement even when I feel like I am about ready to give up. I'm NOT ready to give up on this horse eventually becoming an event horse... I need need to completely 100% change my tactics and go about this in a totally unorthodox way. The tried-and-true methods for producing horses in my past are just NOT working on this one. It is time to try something totally different!

Saturday, April 26, 2014

My Spirit Animal is a Spineless Cactus

Not because they are spineless.

Because no matter what happens to them, you can't #!%*ing kill them.

This thing looked DEAD after our harsh winter. The ice, the constant freezing, the miserable weather... it killed it, for sure. The entire cactus lost 2/3s of its paddles, and most of it turned a nasty shade of puke-brown. It was dead. Poor sad cactus, you had such a hard winter, you finally gave up didn't you?

Wait... what's what I see?


But, it makes me feel a little bit better about myself. Some real sh*t can happen to me, but somehow I just kind of keep getting up and going on with life anyway.

I had a really awful day yesterday. Rolex is going on, and I am simultaneously green with envy and blue with utter sadness. I'm still fighting with this depression monster thing, and it left me in bed crying for several hours yesterday about how nothing is the way it used to be. I miss eventing something fierce, especially on days like today. Rolex fever burns everyone up, even non-eventers. One glance at the live streaming video, and I'm like a shark when there is blood in the water. I'm in total frenzy mode right now.

I can't help it. I'M AN EVENTER! Deep down in my core, that's who I am and that is what I want to be doing. Trying other sports is fun (and sometimes, not fun at all), but I have nothing invested in them and don't feel like I am accomplishing anything special when I do them. For me, eventing still is - and will always be - the ultimate pinnacle of achievement between horse and rider. Watching the riders at Rolex going around always leaves me in complete awe... there are no horses and riders like them on the planet. I just don't look at other sports that way, just don't feel that way about them. There is just no other sport out there where you combine all of these elements together into one, and you have to be good at all of them when you do it. To me, it is THE ultimate test. 

And I miss it. I MISS IT! I miss it so much it hurts. I had literal tears in my eyes today watching some of the dressage... tears for the riders whose dreams came crashing down, tears for the beauty of the horses that absolutely nailed their tests. And some tears for myself - ok, a lot of tears - because I want so very badly to be back doing the same thing.

I spent a lot of time today thinking about what I am going to do in the future. And I STILL don't have an answer. I want to keep trying to make O into an event horse because I want an event horse. But as usual, I just don't know if she is going to be that horse or not. Our dressage is still abysmal - SO abysmal - and it never improves. She badly hangs her legs over half the fences we take. She shuts down when things get complicated. She bolts when she has had enough of being compressed. 

Despite all of that, I am in love with this horse. I love everything about her, even when she is being a psychotic nutjob. The things she is really good at come so easy to her, and she tells you exactly what she thinks about the things she doesn't enjoy. She makes no apologies for who she is. I love this horse, and I want her to succeed at something she loves to do. I'm not sure that it is fair to her to try and squash her into a mold that she doesn't quite fit into. Sure, I could hammer on her for awhile and smush her into the proper hole, but then she'll just be a square peg with broken edges. And what is the point of that?

So the question now becomes, "what now?" If O doesn't want to be an event horse, that's ok! God knows Gogo would have NEVER made a barrel horse, a speedy jumper, or an endurance horse. Not every sport is made for every animal, or every person. I guess I look at O like my kid.... you know, that parent who knows their kid is a total genius and could absolutely be a doctor or a lawyer if they just put their head to it. But then your kid grows up and wants to open a smoke shop in Colorado or something, and you're not sure that you approve, and you think maybe their talents are wasted there, and what they're doing is for heathens. But then you see that they are successful and loving what they do, and you soften up a bit, because they're still your kid and you love and cherish them no matter what they want to do with their lives, so long as they are a productive good citizen of the world. I'd say that about sums it up for me. I want O to succeed at something she excels at, not be forced to do something she's not so great at.

But that still leaves me. What do *I* do about getting back into my beloved sport? I've spent a lot of time away from it, for the sake of my horse. I love my little red firecracker, and I'm not going to give her up. I've tried very hard to partake in other sports for her sake, and most of them are not things I am going to pursue beyond my partnership with her. I'm having a blast with her, but I am sorely missing the sport where I truly belong. I have other things to think about - buying a house, building my business - that take as much income as I can possibly give to them. My purse strings are tight and there's not really room for 3 horses. I'm not interested in getting rid of either of my mares. I'm not keen on catch rides or leases. So where does that leave me?

I still don't have an answer for that.

Edited to add: I'm not upset about any of this, don't worry! I'm just an adult ammy with a hobby, realizing that it is stupid to get all fussed and crazy about this kind of thing. Why not have some fun? There will be another event horse for me at some point in my life, even if the time isn't right now. I don't feel at all like I'm "giving up" on her or on any of this, I'm making a conscious decision to do something else about it instead, something we'll both enjoy, because why not? My horse is my hobby, and if I'm not having fun doing what I'm doing with her, well then why not try to find some fun elsewhere instead? Life is too short!

The one thing I do know is that it doesn't get me anywhere just sitting around and moping. If I want something to be done about this, I need to get my butt up and do something. Just like that cactus, it doesn't do me any good to just sit there and rot... I need to take what resources I have and make it work. I'm just not exactly sure how yet!

Also, how many of you have horses who also are completely cool with being ridden bareback with a halter in the middle of a giant field with loose galloping horses next door? O loves to go sans tack and so do I! It makes me smile when I look back and think about how a year ago I couldn't even ride in the big field at all without her losing her marbles. For being a hothead, she is one cool cucumber.

Poor lil' thing... I took a whole bunch of pictures of her standing there quietly in the middle of the field, and she got so bored with the whole process that she just went to sleep. Such a hard life!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Saddle Woes

(Thanks to everyone to sent me well wishes, inspiration, and some helpful advice over the past few days. I'm working on trying to figure out the best course of action, and all of your encouragement really helps. Right now I just have to remember to keep getting up every morning and just to put my pants on one leg at a time, and know that that's as good a place as any to start!)

Hmmm. I seem to have a small saddle fitting problem on my hands. I'm still trying to find the perfect endurance saddle... and it's not easy. The problem is not necessarily with the horse.... it's the fact that endurance saddles are made for Arabs. O is not remotely shaped the same way. 

I've been doing all my conditioning and rides thus far in the barrel saddle. It's super comfy, it fits her great, we both love it, but it is quite heavy. I feel like she really shouldn't have to tote 40 extra pounds of gear around... surely that will be fatiguing over time. Not to mention the awful ridicule and sneers that I've had to endure up until this point... Texans are extremely nice people, until you infringe upon something they feel like they know more than you about, and then they will make your life some real hell. I've been told that I'm going to give my horse ulcers 'with all that noisy tack' or injure her, that I have no business riding her in that saddle, and all of their usual horse abuser spiel. Honestly, I think it's just Texans... I hear that some of the eventers in Area 5 can be just as horrible, cliquish, and nasty. I'm quite sure this is true, having met some of the more awful ones - when I lived in New England and was showing at almost every single event there, I didn't know a single person and rarely had to interact with anyone. Down here, I'm not eventing at all, and yet I know dozens and dozens of eventers in the area - I can't walk into a tack store or go to a schooling or show without running across tons of people that I know. WHY? I find this terribly suspicious, and it's part of the reason I'm lukewarm about eventing down here... everyone knows everyone, and everyone's business is everyone else's business. I cannot for the life of me figure out WHY this is, other than it's a cultural thing... Texans are into other Texans' business, and they're not afraid to tell you all about how you're doing everything the wrong way.

Anyway. I digress. 

I set an Abetta on her just to see if that might work, and I didn't even bother putting a girth on it, the fit was already so visibly bad. Well, it's a cheap saddle, so that's probably why it didn't work.... right?

I tried my dressage saddle on her, a saddle I know fits us both well. Unfortunately, once you get moving at speed, the stirrup leathers pinch and rub me something HORRIBLE, and I ended up with saddle sores on my calves so bad that I could barely ride for a week. My nice soft leather dressage girth also rubbed her until she bled.... yes, the same one we've used for a year without fail. We did some vigorous galloping that day, and it was too much for her paper skin. The dressage saddle is also Italian made, which basically means there is some flex and rock back-to-front naturally in the saddle - the horse's back is supposed to come up to meet it as it naturally rounds over its topline. When you're out galloping over terrain, a nice round topline is just not something you're going to have... so there ended up being too much movement in the back of the saddle. I love my dressage saddle, and you couldn't pry it from my cold lifeless hands, but it isn't going to work in this situation... not even close. But, it's a kind of purpose-bred piece of equipment, so that's why it didn't work... right?

Blog reader Meghan sent me her amazingly wonderful Stonewall to try. It was SO SUPER COMFY. Unfortunately, it ended up being too wide for her (which was a complete surprise!), and tilted downwards as our test ride progressed onward. It ended up crushing her shoulder blades something fierce, and though she was pretty tolerant, she was not amused. I tried shimming the saddle pad, but it was not really to any avail. SUCH a tragedy, as I loved the saddle and thought it was super super comfy. 
The rules of the Stonewall were that if it didn't work for O, it had to be paid forward to another person in need, so it is currently with a client of mine who is an endurance newbie herself and is aiming hopefully for competition this spring. If it doesn't work for her, it will go to another person as a pay it forward, until we find a home for it where it works, with someone who needs it and couldn't otherwise afford it. Such is the magic of pay it forward! 
As for the fit, it just wasn't the right one for O, and that's why it didn't work.... right?

(Obviously, at this point I was running out of ideas.)

The client that currently has the Stonewall offered up her Specialized saddle as a kind of try-it-out trade for the Stonewall. Hey, now there's an idea! Specialized saddles are raved about, and they have these really unique foam panels that velcro on and off of the saddle - so basically you can create any kind of custom fit that you like with it. You can pad them, shim them, make them narrow, make them wide... whatever you want! This HAD to work for O. If I couldn't create a custom fit this way, I couldn't see how else I could do it without going full actual custom.

I messed with it for at least 45 minutes, trying and trying and trying to get it right. Finally, I had something that *seemed* perfect, or as perfect as I could get it.

I mounted up, and the second I touched down in that saddle, O's head went up and her ears went back. It felt comfy to me, but I started trotting, and she inverted and flattened her ears further. We cantered in both directions, and all she could do was cross-canter. She never cross canters, ever. Obviously, she was not a fan. 

I took it off, re-shimmed it, same response. Over and over, she told me that she hated it.

We both finally had enough, and I pulled the saddle and just jumped on bareback instead. My now very sweaty and hot fussy monster melted into a completely mellow little western pleasure horse, happy to jog along slowly on a light contact. Hmmmm.

Three strikes for purpose-made endurance saddles. My dressage saddle, barrel saddle, and jump saddle all fit her with no problems, no special fittings required. My conclusion here is that endurance saddles are made for Arabs, not warmbloods. Beyond that, I got nothing.

I figured I should end with something productive today after our super crappy test ride in the saddle, and spent a few minutes walking the barrels bareback, which she knows well and likes to do. We did walk-trot pattern work on the barrels the other day, and she was so slow and peaceful that she broke to the walk around every barrel, and gave me this very enjoyable little smooth trot between the barrels - that happy little disengaged pokey joggy trot that meant she was about ready to go to sleep, she was so relaxed. She loves to run, and she is a fast little lightning bolt, but the flip side of her is that she also loves to do slow easy things, and will do slow easy things all day long with no complaints. (We joke about the fact that she has one googoo crazy white sclera eye, and one very soft deep brown eye - it must make her Jekyll and Hyde!) She understand the barrels and likes to do them, and that makes her very mellow and easy to work with. When she doesn't like something (ahem, dressage), she'll let you know in no uncertain terms that she thinks it isn't worth her while.

For extra funsies today, I decided to see if I could do some sort of bridle-less work with her. I took her into the small pen, put a lead rope around her neck, and found that yes, I have reasonably good steering and brakes with just a neck rope. Her expression at this point says it all: "ugh, well, ok sure why not, I suppose." You can see her get annoyed with the backing, which is not her favorite thing to do anyway, but she gets it!

Oh yeah, and by the way, while I was spiraling into the ever-deepening madness of my depression, I forgot to tell you - I re-roached her mane! So don't be shocked!

Oh, and also don't judge her level of filth. She was literally coated head to toe in crusty mud, and I scraped off enough to put a saddle on her and that was it. Filthy beast!

Oh, also, don't laugh too hard at the end when my phone fell off the fencepost and crashed to the ground. At least it stayed up while I was riding!

 The hair was getting out of control. It was looking more or less terrible, was constantly getting crimped and clogged with mud, and had taken on this enormous flare to both sides that was no longer a tameable option. It had to go.

So much floof, what's a girl to do? (Hack it off. That's what.)

While I am horribly missing her spectacular mohawk, it truthfully doesn't look too terrible. Actually, she look very serious and militare again, which is kind of a nice bonus - I like that controlled look, versus a wild scraggly feral animal mane. 

Very serious about lunging, she is.

She is pretty darn cute, any way you look at it. She rocks the barrel tack well. I will have to admit, this look is a lot better than the endurance tack, any of it... she looked like a ridiculous pony mule wearing those saddles. I'm not sure why, but all of the endurance saddles and pads were really LARGE... aren't they supposed to go on dinky Arabs? They looked ridiculous on her! 

Oh well. What can you do. We'll figure something out. Or maybe we won't figure something out, and we'll keep on attempting to do endurance in a barrel saddle, enduring the painful jeers and taunts of the local endurance crowd. Or we'll give up on that idea entirely, and do something else. I don't really know at this point.

If nothing else, at least the bluebonnets are fantastic this year.... even if it is deathstorm season....

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Thinking The Thinks, Part II

A little more introspection tonight, and I've come to realize a few things. Mainly, my biggest problem in ALL of this nonsense is just... ME. I'm the real issue here. And now I need to figure out what to do about that.

This post is probably going to be horribly depressing and boring, and also largely about me and not horses, so skip over it if that's not your thing.

I'm a little upset to see that I recognize this kind of strange state I'm in, when I really clear away the excess and take a good hard look at it. I was 16 when 9/11 happened, and I had such horrible PTSD from that experience that I spent a few years in a terrifying spiral - honestly it's a miracle I'm still here, I tried to kill myself so many times that statistically I should have succeeded at least one of those times! 
I got better eventually. I'm not really sure what fixed it, god knows it wasn't all of the therapies and doctors and hospitalizations that did it. Mostly I think the horses did all of the heavy lifting for me emotionally, and eventually I just sort of got better. And I was good for a very long time.

When Gogo died, everything changed again. Everything that I thought I knew - every pattern in my existence - completely fell apart, and I was cast out into the strange vast unknown, into a world I didn't understand and had no idea how to navigate through without my best friend there beside me. And I'm still, 2.5 years later, just not right. I'm not a fighter anymore, I'm a complete defeatist. I throw my hands up after every mildly bad ride and say, "she hates to do XYZ thing, I don't want to do this anymore, I can't do this!" I don't strategize and mull things over and learn better ways and tackle things again tomorrow, I just give up. I throw myself randomly at other sports and try to see if things will stick, but they never really do. I eat garbage food and sit idly on the couch for hours, because I just don't care. I gained probably almost 20lbs (I'm not fat but I'm definitely not the muscular, fit, trim little bird that I used to be). I'm stagnant and lifeless a lot of the time. I panic about trying to get back into the sport that Gogo and I once loved so much, largely in part because of the success she and I had together, and how I'm so terrified that it will have lost all the magic for me now. I can't even do a 20m circle without feeling defeated some days, or even trot a crossrail sometimes. More days than not, I find myself wondering why the hell I'm even on this planet, and what the point of it all is.

I'm not anywhere near as bad as I was when 9/11 happened, thank god, but it's a very similar state of being lost in this shocky kind of state following a really tragic event. I feel like I've completely lost everything that I once knew about myself, and now I still have no idea who the hell I am, where I'm going, or what I'm doing here and why.

How do you get your motivation back when you don't see a point to anything? It's not a very fun place to be in. And I don't have an answer for it really.

The sole consolation here is that I know a lot of you know largely what I am going through - you've lost heart horses too, and have new horses who you love and adore, but you just kind of feel like you're floundering and not picking up where you thought you were going to. I know you know how I feel, and I know how you feel in turn. And it sucks. It sucks a lot.

The good thing about all of this is that I know full well that I can't sit around and say, "oh well, O just hates to do dressage, or she has bad jumping form, or her tummy is going to be too sensitive for endurance, or she's too slow for barrels," etc etc, all the things I tell myself after a terrible ride... those are all excuse that *I* make in order to be LAZY. I am just giving MYSELF a reason to mope around at home when I say those things. I can't blame her hotness, or her past experiences, or anything else, because she is a product of her environment and training, and that means that I haven't been giving her the kind of rides she really needs to improve. This is a talented, fun, wild little mare, and if I work hard enough I know I can get there with her. But I have to look myself in the face and ask the hard questions of what I am going to do about this weird funk that I am in. How exactly am I planning to get out of this, what steps do I need to take.... how do I get my listing ship back upright before it sinks?

It's a weighty kind of thing to think about.

But, it is reassuring to understand, "it's not the horse, it's me."

 Dressage *is* for every horse. Every horse can do dressage. And every reasonably sound horse should do it. It may not competition-worthy dressage, but all basic dressage is is making a horse supple, responsive, and able to carry itself lightly and easily through its work. It doesn't have to be in a dressage saddle, or in a snaffle, or in an arena. Dressage can be in jeans and a barrel saddle and a hackamore and out on the trail - and we do that often! And that to me is quite satisfying, because I feel like we can really get some quality work in that way.

One thing is for sure though. I recognize this pattern in myself and I will not fall down the slippery slope again. I know where it leads. I'm not doing it again. I'm getting out of this funk before I slip any deeper into it.

The question really is, where do I begin...

By the way, I found some more pictures of the hunt, and O being of course perfect:

Can you find us in these shots? Look hard, we're in all of them!
And yes, that is a barrel horse in a western saddle with his owner in jeans and a sweatshirt, and a rope horse in a rope saddle. Because that's how we do in Texas.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Thinking The Thoughts

 I know I've gone over this topic ad nauseum, but I still need more time to put it on paper and try and wrap my head around it. What am I, and what is O, and what are we, and what are we doing, and what are we going to be doing in the future?

I know what I need to help me redefine myself. I need some goals. I feel adrift in the ocean and unless I know which way to point the boat, I'm just going to be floating out here forever and I'm never going to see that island on the horizon that needs to be reached.

I've had a lot of time lately to think about All The Thinks, and namely they are all about what my specific long-term goals are for this mare. I have still been struggling a lot as of late with the neverending identity crisis I am going through (am I an eventer? What am I? Who am I? WHAT IS LIFE ALL ABOUT) and I am still trying to squirm my way out from under the Eventer label that I can't quite seem to let go of. I don't know what I am if I am not an eventer... until now I have never known how to do anything except event, really. I've never wanted to do anything except event until now. If it wasn't for O not really wanting to *be* an eventer, I think I'd still be carrying on eventing without a hitch. And if I really think long and hard about it, if O's riding career were to end anytime soon, I can't see myself continuing on in any one of these chosen new sports that I have been dabbling in. I'm not going to go out and buy a barrel horse after this, or an Arab for endurance, or something like that. You know? I think I would go right back to eventing if I could, although some days I can't stand the idea of ever doing it again. I don't know.

Basically it boils down to whether or not I am more vested in my horse or in my chosen sport. Plenty of people have told me to just get rid of O, to find a horse more mentally suited to the sport, and I do get where they are coming from. But when it comes down to it, I'd rather have this mare over any other... I care about her way more than I do eventing. For whatever reason she came into my life, she's here to stay.

In short, this journey is exclusively about this horse and I, and what all we can achieve on this planet with the time that we have together.

 And really, if all of the stars stay aligned and we both stay sound and happy, I think we can achieve quite a lot. I really do.

(Further introspection: it kind of feels completely right to have a horse with no particular label. I'm the ultimate 'so, what are you?' label-less kind of person, as much as I had no intention of being this way. I *want* a label, labels are comfortable, labels are relateable. I spent a lot of my youth floundering around trying to assign labels to myself, but nothing really ever stuck and I never was at home with anything really. Even now, into adulthood, I don't have any good terms to assign to myself, and I feel naked a lot of the time. I'm not a lesbian, I'm not straight, I'm not bi, I'm just kind of into transguys, and girls... what does that make me? Dunno, there's not a label for that. I'm into performance barefoot horses, but also into synthetics, and sometimes not even adverse to steel... what does that make me? Not really a trimmer, not a farrier... there's not a label for that either. Queer folks don't welcome me, farriers don't welcome me, trimmers don't welcome me. Once Texans find out I am not into Jesus and don't want a gun in every room of my house, they don't welcome me either. And on the horsey front, endurance people want nothing to do with me, barrel racers keep asking "so, you ride English usually I assume?", h/j folks look at me like I just escaped from XC/a zoo... and so on. You get the picture. We just don't fit in anywhere.)

Here we go with the break down... breaking things down into bite-sized chunks is kind of my specialty... or else I think I'd choke on it all.

So, we've already established that with A Horse That Does Everything, you should Do Everything, right? I love having a horse that I can literally put on whatever tack I feel like putting on and going and doing whatever I feel like doing that day. That is really awesome. And looking back where she was a year ago - unrideable and borderline dangerous - we have REALLY come far.

BUT, for the sake of progress, for the sake of bettering myself and bettering us as a team, I need some overarching long-term types of goals to aim for. If I don't have some real, concrete goals, I flounder. I've always operated on goals, and now I don't have any, simply because I just don't know what I want to be doing. This leads to a lot of tire spinning... a lot of me feeling like I am wasting time and not getting anywhere at all.

Things I want to do with this mare: Endurance, barrels, jumpers, foxhunting, maybe some team penning, some poles and some breakaway roping. Maybe some combined driving, some eventing, some dressage, if we ever really get to that. Maybe anything else that looks interesting and we decide to try (hunter paces, polocrosse, hell whatever we want really.... this horse can do it!) 

Things I want to specifically focus on: jumpers, barrels, endurance. (Which is interesting, because those are all disciplines that I once would have written off as some combo of stupid, abusive, and pointless. Different times, different times.) Those are things I think she could particularly be good at. While it is fun to play around and do All The Things... it's really fun to do Some Of The Things and excel at them. Or at least, work very hard and better better at them. You know?

I need to come up with some goals (i.e. what do we want to accomplish long-term within each sport, and why). This is going to take some more introspection.

 I'll think on that some more.

Pretty thing isn't she! A cloudy grey day doesn't keep a muscular little mare down... days without sun are annoying to me for multiple reasons, one of which being that the sun brings out her super glossy coat and the yucky grey clouds hide the shine.

But, she's still gorgeous.

Pmare is looking much better too... varying in degrees of soundness, but her weight has improved. She is just as much of a crotchety old goob as always... I lucked out catching both her and one of the kittens making goofy faces at the same time:

 I'd really like to get her back under saddle and going on short trail rides, but she's just not sound enough for that right now. Her stint away from home really worsened her ringbone... if she hasn't been moving around before I go to pick her feet, she has trouble picking up all four legs. Once she gets moving, everything warms up and she does better, but she still has quite a lot of pain in her left stifle and that is definitely worsened with work. She's quite fine and healthy for a pasture pet, and gets around great, but probably isn't a candidate for much more than that at this point. Poor old gal.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

In Which Andrea Decides Not To Drink For Awhile

This story is partly about the amazing, incredible, mind-blowing generosity of total strangers, and the incredible things that can happen when you least expect them.

And, partly about being drunk.

A week ago, I got an email in from blog reader Meghan, who had read my laments about not having a proper endurance saddle and not being able to afford one. I'm about ready to make the leap to 50s, but I had no intention of doing so in the big clunky barrel saddle if I didn't have to... but my budget is shoestring at best. There is just no possible way at the moment that I can afford to buy a saddle, ANY saddle, even the crappiest ones out there.
So she told me she'd send me her Stonewall. Yes, her Stonewall... the very kind of saddle I've been drooling over for years, even back when I had Gogo and was oogling at them over at The Barb Wire. That was at LEAST six years ago, WAY before I ever considered endurance at all. She told me she'd send it to me as a pay-it-forward.... try it out, keep it if it works, if it doesn't work, then pay-it-forward to someone else.

To say I am completely and utterly overwhelmed by this kind of selfless generosity is an understatement. I don't even have the words to describe what I am feeling right now. It's overwhelming. Completely overwhelming. And totally amazing.

Thank you Meghan. Thank you from the very bottom of my heart. Truly, thank you.

It might not work out (I DESPERATELY hope it does), so I can't get my hopes up *too* high until I set it on my horse and get some rides in it.... but that didn't stop me from celebrating its imminent arrival.

With some wine.

Ok, maybe a lot of wine.

Hey, that's what I do.

A group of my local endurance friends was bantering on about leaving this weekend for Post Oak, which is a local ride that I had originally been planning on attending as our last 25 before our first 50. I recently had an extremely disastrous conditioning ride in my dressage saddle, in which a stirrup leather rubbed a hole right through one of my calves (why was I not wearing my tall boots? What was I thinking?? Wine??), and since the Stonewall was coming anyway, I opted to give myself some time to stop bleeding on my tack and let the huge wound heal. I told them good luck, and that I wasn't going to be there, but that I would see them at Bluebonnet (which is the next one).

"What?? Why!! Noooooooo!!" was the general consensus. "Come ride with us!! You have to!!"

"No," I told them, "the Stonewall is coming and I want to get some rides in that first!"

"Oh come on," they said. "Come with us! Ride in the Stonewall! You'll be fine! Just bring your other saddle if it doesn't work out!"

The wine said this was a Great Idea. Totally, I'll just bring my other saddle, just in case!

"Come do the 50 with us!" they said. "We're doing a slow one on unseasoned horses! We'll take care of you! Ride one saddle on the first loop, and the other on the second! You'll be fine!"

The wine said, that is such a Great Idea! They'll take care of you! You'll be fine!

I burbled out yes, that I was totally game for that, and that I would go. In a saddle I had never ridden in. I needed to find some britches and boots for that, so probably wearing clothes I hadn't ever worn before long distance. With a huge bleeding saddle sore on my leg. 

What could possibly go wrong? I'll be fiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiinnnneeee!

My friend The Wine high-fived me and told me to go fetch another glass to celebrate. Liquid courage, my friend, you need that!

Obviously, that was not actually a good idea at all. Once I sobered up, I passed my story around, kind of staring at the idea blearily and wondering what the hell I had gotten myself into. Thankfully, Aurora was the one to finally go, "are you stupid??" You're going to go to your first 50. In a saddle you've never sat in. Wearing clothes you've never worn before. And you're trailering in the morning of. The hell are you thinking!?

Oh. Hmm. Without my friend The Wine telling me what a wise and grand decision maker I am, it occurred to me that maybe this wasn't such a fantastic idea after all.

Maybe it's time to take a break from my relationship with The Wine. It's not you Wine, it's me. Ok, no, it's you.

(No redheaded monsters were harmed in the making and unmaking of this bad decision. Don't worry, I would have come to my senses at some point and not actually done it!)

The Stonewall goes for a test ride tomorrow.... stay tuned for that!!!!!!!!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

The Great EasyShoe Fail

If there is one thing I know in this world, it is that O is the most frustrating horse on the planet when it comes to footwear.

Her feet are SO much better than they were when I first got her. They used to be paper thin, completely flat, and had her totally crippled even just on surfaces like pavement. Now, a year later, she is SO much better, but our terrain is still covered in rocks. Her living area and our riding areas are full of rocks. Big rocks, little rocks. Gravel, boulders. Rocks. 
So we need some help.

The problem is threefold: 
1) She has very crooked legs/feet and is toed in
2) She is a short-backed big mover, with some side to side fling of her legs, and is full of random erratic movement
3) She is made of paper and everything in the world rubs her, even just saddle pads and girths on everyday rides

All models of Easyboots rub her raw, and she rips them off. Renegades don't fit due to her crooked feet, and they spin and come off. Cavallos stay on, but rub her until she bleeds no matter how broken in (have had some success with Elastikon tape for dry, short rides). Every single model of synthetic glue-on that I've tried, she has stepped on and ripped off within a day. EVERY model, even just a rim of Superfast she ripped off. She doesn't step on herself until you add just that tiny little bit of extra weight on the foot, and then you can hear her vigorously clack-clacking along on every ride. (She does that in boots too, but not bare.) Every ride always ends up being one ride, because they always get ripped off anyway. I'm 100% sure she'd rip off steel too, if I chose to go that route, and god knows then she would take half her foot off along with it.

I've had my eye on the EasyShoe ever since it was announced last year. I've been eagerly awaiting it's arrival, and in February I pre-ordered a few to try. I made the discovery that she had sized out of the size she used to wear (which is good!), so I ordered the next size up and tried again.

And this time, I was determined NOT to let her get the best of these extremely pricey bad boys. They were gonna STAY damnit. They were gonna stay.

I glued them on with meticulous prep. I put a layer of casting material over the finished product. And then I added bell boots. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, that would be called Overkill. That was me desperately going "stay. Please stay. Damnit, you shall stay. You have GOT to stay."

Surely, she can't rip off a well-glued shoe with a cast AND bell boots, right?

She looked ridiculous, but I was not taking ANY chances that these bad boys were coming off ANY time soon.

I applied them yesterday morning. 
I rode today. 
You want to know how long they lasted?

8 miles.


8 miles.

EIGHT STUPID SLOW MILES, and she had ripped off both casts, torn a bell boot, and then ripped an EasyShoe off. I felt her snag up on it (we were seriously just slowly trotting along), and then a few strides later I saw the dental impression material go flying off, so I had to turn around and go find the glue. I found some strewn bits of cast as well... looks like she systematically stepped on it enough times to slowly shred it over the course of eight miles.

I hope you are proud of yourself.

"Oh, I am."

She's an efficient mover when she is bare - she never hits herself, catches herself, or does anything questionable when she is totally bare. (Most rides or workouts, I don't bother putting polos/bells/brushing boots/whatever on her, because she doesn't need them.) And it doesn't matter if I push her hind toes to the absolute limit of how far back they can go either, as soon as I put something on her fronts she is stepping on it.

But when your ho-hum not-forward trot looks like this....

.... you're pushing it to the limit when you start to add some more impulsion. The be-bopping slow trot is already cutting it prettttttttttttty darn close to the interference level.

Mares. Back to the drawing board, again, for the millionth time.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

End of March Analysis; April Goals! (Sort of.)

Is it really the end of March already?? Seriously, the older I get, the faster time goes. Wasn't it just Christmas?

March was an interesting month, and it went pretty well all things considered. I had some triumphs and some fails, some deep thoughts and some interesting introspection. And I celebrated my birthday AND celebrated having this crazy little red horse in my life for a whole year now!


O-Ren March Goals:
1) Dressage work - back to walk-trot, and add in canter gradually! Get to it!! High priority!!
We didn't do *nearly* as much dressage work as I had wanted to, but near the end of the month we buckled down and got to it. I've gotten some very nice canterwork in - some of the best we've had - but it has been at the expense of the trotwork. If we don't canter EVER, then we can do trotwork. But if we canter at all, any day of the week, all she wants to do is canter during everything that we do. It's very, very hard. She wants to run hard, and fast, and all day long... or she wants to mosey on a long rein at the walk. She doesn't have much in-between and that makes things very difficult. It is hard to make something so frustrating (for both of us) a 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!
This did not go according to plan at all - one schooling got totally rained out, I opted to go foxhunting instead of go to the second schooling (which I don't regret one bit), and the third schooling got moved to next month. Oh well, that's how it goes!

3) Install Easyshoes and see how they go! 
Another fail - I went to install and discovered that she had sized up since I last measured her (which is great! But also, a pain in the butt.) I just reordered them in the next size up, so we'll see how it goes when they get here. They are freaking expensive.... I'm sure EasyCare will be rolling in the dough after the preliminary rush to get them.

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?
 We've been doing a little bit of everything as of late! I did rope desensitization with her this month as well as practiced on the dummy myself, did some more work on the barrels (and ran her, and won a check in the 4D!), and did more endurance type conditioning. There were no locally close endurance rides this month, so I didn't go to any, but there are some April ones upcoming. At this point, I think we need to be done with LDs, they're not doing either of us any favors. We'll be aiming at 50s - SLOW 50s - next. I have no interest in speeding through 50s!
5) Look at show/ride schedule - what will we be doing in the next few months?
Well, looked it over, got ideas, scrapped the ideas, looked more ideas over, and scrapped those ideas too. I'd say this goal didn't exactly get accomplished!


O-Ren April Goals:
1) BAH. Give me a few days to think about this. I keep changing my mind on all of my goals and can't come up with a solid set of them.


I know, I know, that was extremely anticlimactic. But I keep changing my mind over and over on what I *really* want to do with her. I want to event! Well, no I don't, too much money and dressage is a mental challenge. I want to do endurance and get to Tevis one day! Well, how am I supposed to make this horse a real endurance horse when she is such a spoiled picky eater and drinker? (Good eater, who is on every ulcer preventative that I can think of... but if there is stuff to look at, she'd rather look at things than eat. She doesn't eat on the trailer, EVER, and if the hay in front of her isn't perfectly to her liking, forget it, she looks at you and talks to you like she is starving but she won't eat it. I feel like endurance horses need to be garbage disposals, and she's just not. About the only thing I can solidly think of having her do long term that she'll be good at is run barrels, and I kind of feel like any idiot monkey with a hot horse can run barrels. It doesn't feel like it takes any particularly strong skill set to do it, which is why you see so many goobers doing it I suppose. It doesn't give me that "yeah, we can do this complicated thing because we are awesome!" kind of feeling.

She will probably be pretty good at it though, admittedly, once she gets faster and tighter:

 She is SO BEEF. It's almost all muscle, and she has short thin little legs.... it makes her look a bit like a pork roast up on toothpicks. Seriously though, she looks like one of those old school bulldogging type QHs - even though she's a warmblood! The mohawk is the cherry on top... it makes her neck look EXTRA freakishly huge. Most of this is sprinting type muscle... we've been doing lots of short burst of speed lately, just to give her brain a break. I clocked her top speed at 38.5mph the other day... yes, 38.5mph. THAT IS SERIOUSLY FAST.

 I have lots to write about, but am tired and feeling a little funky today. Lots of things to think about though, lots of things indeed.