Saturday, January 31, 2015

End of January Analysis; February Goals!

January is leaving us in the same gloomy way that it showed up: with yucky, grey downpours. It's not cold out, just sort of dismal and blah. The horses are tucked into their stalls with giant bags of hay, and I'm sure will be snoozing the night away in the soft sand instead of out in the nasty mud. We need the rain, so it is hard to complain about it, but rain always makes me feel a little grumpy and house-bound.

I went ahead and told the driving ladies that I can't commit to helping organize their playdays. While I feel crummy for doing that, I really wasn't told all of what goes into it, and there really is no possible way for me to do what they are asking of me. Not surprisingly, I'm pretty sure I made them furious (even though telling them I can't do it is a whole lot better than saying I will and then just not actually doing it), and haven't heard a single word from them since. It makes things a bit awkward.
I don't know though, I'm just not a club kind of person. I want to show, and train, and be with my horses. I'm really, really not into the social aspect of clubs or organizations. In the past, I've always been a member of whatever organization fielded my particular area (like Area VIII or Area I), but never went to any of their banquets or functions. It sounds terrible, but I really just want to be a part of these organizations so that I can show. If you could accumulate points and win things without being a part of an organization, I'd totally do that, but that's not the way it works. In a tiny club where everyone knows each other, it makes it awkward, because I think you're expected to join and then partake in club-like activities. I know it takes club members to run club shows, that much is a given... but it's not something I have time for, nor an interest in. I'm not sure if this will affect my show season or not - I will be able now to show in all of the playdays, but do I even want to go to them if the people running them hate my guts for being a bad team player? I don't know. I just want to play with my horse and show and be left alone, but that is not something southern folk can understand. Northern folks leave you to your own devices... southern folks want in on your business, and then are quick to ostracize and shut you out if you don't indulge them. It's a gross oversimplification of Texans, of course, but I've been here long enough to know just how true it holds in a lot of situations. Up north, everyone just left me alone to do my thing... people down here just don't do that. On the flip side, southerners will be right there for you if you need them in a pinch, and northern folks are less wont to do the same, so I guess it's an even trade.

Anyway. Enough with the whining, onto the goals.


O-Ren January Goals:

1) Practice and memorize all Training level dressage tests (specifically ones needed for the two upcoming HDTs)
This didn't go as planned at all unfortunately. The pastures got seeded, and they still aren't useable. The neighbors have very kindly allowed me to start driving in their field, which is less rutted than the jump field and therefore useable, but it is quite hilly and parts of it have ruts and cactus, so there is only about a 30-40m area that is usable. I'll have to see if I can get exact measurements on it, but it isn't anywhere near actual driven dressage arena size. There aren't many arenas nearby that are either, at least not ones that I can use - not to mention the fact that I still haven't figured out how to transport both horse and cart simultaneously. Thankfully, I am familiar enough with dressage arenas that I will be able to relatively wing this one should I not ever be able to get into a properly sized arena before our first show. You do what you gotta do.

2) Cones work - practice cones in the new cart at show measurements
Well, we have done some obstacle work, and a small bit of cones work, but for the same reasons listed above, we've done very little of this. There just isn't anywhere to do it.

3) Whip work - teaching left-right cues
 This is going well! She is starting to understand the idea, although it is still very hard for me to handle my whip - and my whip is too short. I need a trainer to help me out with this one!

4) Steady transitions, always! 
Going very well! O is a sensitive beast, and you have to be very quiet with her. Downward transitions usually go quite well for her, but upward transitions she can sometimes be a bit jerky for - she is SUPER sensitive to voice commands, but not always in a good way. I usually preface a command with a very, very soft "aaaand..." which she usually takes to mean "OK NOW WE ARE GOING." If you cluck at her, or are too loud, or don't give her some sort of noise to preface the next noise, she tends to throw her head in the air in alarm and jolt forward. This is nothing new - she has always been this way - but finding a way to make this quieter has been interesting. We'll continue to work on it, as we always do - and as always with her, I know she has this tendency and it is deeply ingrained in her personality, so it's not something I think will ever be 'fixed'. Rather, there will be a way to prevent it from happening, and a way that will always make it happen. I just have to make sure it is always the first, and not the second.

5) Start to plan out show season, show clothes/tack/equipment needed!
Success! I have my show season more or less laid out, and I have a list of equipment I need. I need to whittle it down to a more bare-boned edition - sure I *want* new things, but do I *need* new things, or can I make due with what I have? - but I have a pretty good idea of what I need to get.

 Pangea January Goals:

1) Change diet
Success! Her diet has been tweaked to accommodate for her last trimester, including the addition of some alfalfa and a change in her vits/mins. She looks awesome.
2) Solidly make plans for vax/deworming dates up through due date
Success! I target deworm with fecals, and hit for tapes and encysted strongyles as well, so that is attended to, aside from the fact that she'll need to be dewormed when the kiddo arrives. She'll get her last rhino shot on the 15th, then will have all her vax updated in March (early-mid March, spread out - they crash her immune system if given too closely together). And then... baby arrives!!


 O-Ren February Goals:
1) Find an arena to trailer to - and use it for dressage work, cones, obstacles, anything I can set up!
2) Find a trainer if at all possible - and trailer out for some lessons
3) Solidify plans for cart transport - in truck bed! Get ramps, winch, ratchet straps, and padding
4) Make a purchase list for equipment!
5) Continue on all of the same training fronts as before - work on transitions, dressage work, cones exercises, etc

Pangea Goals:
1) Continue monitering food intake, weight, and comfort level
2) Give final rhino shot!


I sent out an SOS on the CD-L asking for trainers in our area, and I was not disappointed - within an hour I had three emails, two of which were very helpful and gave me some names of local trainers. What a great resource that list is. I NEED some lessons, I am desperate to get out for some! I am equally as desperate to find a place to actually drive, but have the distinct problem of needing to find a way to transport cart and horse at the same time. Buying a whole new truck and trailer is just ridiculously out of the question, so I have to get creative, and quickly. I measured the cart and my truck bed, and lo and behold, the cart will fit in there! It's a tight fit, but it's a clear fit. I also have done some research, picked out a set of ramps and a winch, and once this rain stops, I plan on purchasing them and having the winch installed in the bed. I don't need a particularly powerful one, just one sturdy enough to haul a few hundred pounds up a short ramp. I imagine it will take a bit of finesse to get it up there, but if I support the shafts while operating the winch (which has a remote control), I think it won't be too difficult to get it into the bed.
I also spotted this handy page and saved it for tips on how to secure the cart once it is in the bed. Resourceful cheapskates of the world, unite!
I also asked K if I could trailer to her arena to drive so long as lessons weren't being held. Being wonderful, she was quick to say yes. Her arena is general riding size, not huge but the footing is good, and I can set anything up in there that I like so long as I take it down. I can practice dressage tests (in miniature, sort of), do cones exercises, and even set up barrels and jump standards as simulated marathon obstacles. I just have to get everything secured for transport... that's the first step.

But I feel like this is all a step in the right direction. Get the winch and ramps, figure out how to get the cart loaded... email the driving trainers.... then start transporting cart and horse to the local arena and to lessons.

This week, we've had a few lunge days and a few driving days. Our lunging days were all very good, save for today's, when she decided at the end of the session that she had forgotten how to halt. I shooed her back off again, and she proceeded to gallop dead out for about 5 minutes - shooing her apparently was terribly offensive. I had her rigged up in the chambon, but after her fit I switched her to the Faux-ssoa and gave her a secondary light work in each direction. She was foot perfect for that. When relaxed in the chambon, she is lovely, super stretchy and great. When she gets her panties into a twist, she braces hard upwards against the chambon, and she'll keep doing it until she rubs her chest raw. She will NOT relent unless she is relaxed. Not only can you not tire this horse out (she'll keep galloping until she flat out dies if she feels like it will prove her point), but you also can't force her to comply with anything (she will brace against you and literally hurt herself rather than give into your whim if she feels like it wasn't asked for fairly - like rubbing her chest raw with the chambon. That CLEARLY has to hurt, but she'll never let on about it until you finally give up and stop her, and then go "oh my god what did you do!" Ergo we don't ever let it get to this point... better to just stop and put her back in the Faux-ssoa. She is the ultimate cut-off-your-nose-to-spite-your-face personality.)

And then, of course, on the opposite end of bracing upwards, she also likes to overachieve and get waaaay down low...

Sigh. Mares.

And yes, you did notice correctly - I did reclip her! She was getting WAY too sweaty with just her trace clip, especially since it had grown back in some. It has been almost 80 degrees here most every day for the past week or so, so something had to be done. Behold! Just like last year, I modified my trace clip into a blanket clip:

Pardon the awkward pose. I was literally running in circles around her, trying to get far enough away from her to take a quick picture before she turned to follow me.

We've done three drives since I last blogged, I think - one endurance day where we went about 3 miles down the road (and did some dressage-y bits as well, mostly just transitions and trying not to die while trotting past a No Trespassing sign that had come partially loose in the wind and was flapping evilly against the metal fence), one day of just walking around obstacles in the jump field, and one dressage-y cones-y day in the neighbor's field. I got videos of the last two, the first being the walk in the jump field. All I really wanted to do was just get some maneuverability and tight turns in with the larger cart, and she did well with that. The camera was poorly placed, and the field was super rutted and bouncy, so I sped up the very boring video and gave it some jaunty music:

Slightly more interesting. Slightly.

The dressage-y cones-y video is just about as boring as the obstacles video. The light was bad, I didn't catch much of anything interesting on video due to the camera angle, and ehhh... you know. I'm also going to hang the liverpool up for good for now... she just doesn't like it. Even though it is the SAME mouthpiece as her snaffle, she still hates it, and alternates between randomly tossing her head and curling too deep. She'll take a nice contact part of the time, but the rest of the time she is being evasive. You'll see it in the video - the moments when she is hiding/tossing her head, and the moments when she is good.

There is no reason to keep using a bit she doesn't like. Back to the snaffle we go - she is always good in the snaffle. Now I just have to decide if she likes the Bloo bit more, or the regular Happy Mouth. They are both Happy Mouths, but the design has changed somewhat inbetween purchasing the older one and the newer one. Only one way to tell - experimentation!

The weather might be crummy now, but just a few days ago, O was hamming it up for the camera as usual.... she plays like a wild thing almost every day!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

T-Minus 70-ish Days Til Baby!

Omigoodness. I really can't believe it, but my baby horse is now about the size of a large dog, and weighs about 70-80lbs. February is just around the corner, and the munchkin is due in early to mid-April. That's just a little over two months away!

So far, knock on wood, everything has been a breeze for old Pmare. Despite being almost 19, and the fact that gravity hasn't been particularly kind to her, P looks awesome. She caught on the first try, has needed no hormones or drugs to get her to this point, has been completely comfortable and happy, and is super shiny and plenty fat, still keeping easy as she always has. She gets her freechoice hay, her bit of alfalfa, her same tiny amount of hay pellets/fat supplement, and her preggo vits/mins. That's it, and she looks amazing.

Awkward family photo
Love me bring me cookies

Mostly I let her be a dirty beast, but I did wash her socks this week and trim her mane (badly). I run a brush over her most days, but she's not a fan of being clean, so usually she just luxuriates joyfully in her filth. Mares...

I think the baby is going to be just as food motivated as mom is. If you push on P's flank, you can feel the little kid kicking halfheartedly back at you, which in turn sort of annoys P (she'll turn her head and give you this look of general exasperation). Bring out P's alfalfa though, and the baby starts doing the alfalfa dance - you can see it jiggling and bouncing around in her flanks while mom is eating!

I have a list of foaling supplies I need to get - it's nothing terribly complicated, just the usual suspects. I've foaled out plenty of babies - hell, I have a degree in repro work - but it has been a number of years since the last one, and I am trying to make sure I remember everything. I have her shot/deworming schedules all set, but I still have to decide if I want her to foal outside or in a stall. I want her to be able to move around, but her paddock is quite rocky, and it is April so it might be muddy (which, of course, will mean inside for sure). We'll just have to see, I suppose!

But can you believe it is already getting so close???

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Book Excerpt: Training Harry by Meghan Namaste

Some of you very longterm bloggers may remember Meghan, who was featured along with her horse Sofie in the Sunday Success Stories series over at Eventing-A-Gogo! all those years ago. Meghan asked if I would share an except from one of her books with you all, and of course I am happy to oblige! Below is a brief description of Megan's book Training Harry, and following that is an excerpt from the book itself.

Training Harry
by Meghan Namaste

(Book Description)
Everyone needs a little training.

Erica Rimwork is an everygirl, fighting her way up the ranks as a hunter/jumper trainer. She isn’t gorgeous, or highly successful. Perpetually single, she’s focused on her goal - an Olympic show-jumping medal. Or moving out of her parents’ house would be good too.

When she agrees to help out her brother’s friend with a troubled horse, Erica is totally unprepared for what she finds. The friend is Lawrence Cavanaugh, a rogue polo player with intense eyes and tight-fitting jeans. Mind blown, Erica finds herself agreeing to help train his renegade polo pony, Harry. For free. She knows what she’s in for - Harry is a mess, rank, thorny, and maddening. But unlocking the mystery of Harry’s resistance is one thing. Getting the guy is a lot more complicated.

Perfect on the outside and devoted to his horses, Lawrence could be a great guy. But his personal life is firmly stuck in the gutter. The only lasting relationship he’s had is with his best pony, Eloise. When she sustained a devastating injury on the field, Lawrence left the limelight to care for her. Harry is his hope for the future. And right now he has no hope at all.

It’s set to be an eventful summer for Erica, between the frenzy of the hunter/jumper show ring, battles with her mother over her nonexistent personal life, forced shopping excursions, and a truly challenging lesson kid - a spoiled, superrich seven-year-old who can’t ride her impeccably trained Welsh pony. And then there’s Harry. Erica throws herself into his training with her usual determination, and Harry begins to respond to her intuitive touch. But his problems come to a head one stormy night, and even Erica is stuck on how to help Harry. Worse yet, she’s fallen hard for Lawrence, and he might be seeing her differently too. But it can be hard to take that step, and let go of your past.

When the training is over, questions remain. Will Lawrence and Erica become something more? Or is Harry the only thing keeping them together?

(Contains strong language and adult content)

Lawrence’s place was pretty close by, but off the beaten track. The route veered gradually, taking me away from the prestige and uniformity of my neighborhood. The scenery shifted from white-fenced Thoroughbred palaces to hay fields and small family farms. Lexington’s natural beauty was more evident out here, and I gazed out the window as my truck wound its way through narrow two-lane roads and eventually made the turn onto an unmarked dirt road.
I knew the place where he was living, vaguely. It belonged to a family friend. She’d inherited it when her husband died and it had stood empty for a long while. I guessed Lou had helped hook him up with it.
I pulled in the drive and shut down my vehicle. Looking around, I could see the old stable was still in good shape, wearing the patina of age and slight neglect. There were several paddocks nearby, but no horses were turned out in them. The footing in the outdoor arena had been harrowed recently. But the farmhouse drew me in the most. It was small, just the right size for a person or two, with windows all around. That is a house I could live in.
I climbed out of my truck and slammed the door, piercing the quiet. I heard a horse call out and then the door of the house opened. Before I knew it, Lawrence Cavanaugh was standing in front of me, shaking my hand. "Hi there," he said warmly. "You must be Erica." I nodded like one of those absurd-looking bobbleheads. I couldn't speak. Hell, even breathing was difficult.
He stood no taller than I did, just under six feet. He was lean but not skinny, and he carried himself like a Thoroughbred in the post parade, all taut, controlled, dangerous energy. His hair was jet black and it fell haphazardly around his face, the longest of it ending below his jaw. His eyes were unbelievably dark and so intense that it both thrilled and terrified me to be so close. I tried to comprehend how I had missed him before, when he used to hang out with Lou. Was I blind?
Slowly, I became aware that I was staring at him. I knew I needed to stop, but it seemed an impossibility. Feeling embarrassed, I pulled at a stray thread on my shirt. Don't panic, I told myself. He's probably used to this. All the same, I hated my lack of self control. I could almost hear the seconds go by.
Fortunately, Lawrence threw me a lifeline. "Harry's in his stall. I left him in this morning so as not to waste any of your time. He doesn’t like to be caught."
I smiled gratefully. "That was good thinking. Well, I'll get started with him then."
Almost surprised by my newfound ability to form words, I followed Lawrence to the barn, noting that the back view was as righteous as the front had been. Well, that's not going to help you concentrate, is it?
We stepped through the barn door. My stomach was floating unnaturally with anticipation.
I saw Harry immediately. He was black with a bold white blaze on his face. That was all I could tell at first. He was straining against his stall door, weaving slightly. At the sound of our feet he turned his head and focused on me. The weight in his stare was shocking. There was more behind his eye than there should have been.
I stayed back, watching, as Lawrence clipped a lead to his halter and brought him out. “Meet Harry,” he said.
I could see the potential my brother had spoken of immediately. Harry was athletic and muscled, yet streamlined. His legs and feet were well built and clearly up to the rigors of polo. He stood up as if on tiptoe, poised. The whites of his eyes were prominent, like an Appaloosa. My heart was suddenly very loud in my ears.
We moved Harry to the cross ties so Lawrence could tack him up. Harry stood well for the process, but I could see his mind working overtime.
"So. What kind of problems have you been having with Harry?" I asked, like this was just a normal training gig with a normal owner and a normal horse.
Lawrence stopped what he was doing, a stirrup leather frozen in his hand. His eyes went even darker for a second. “He…” Lawrence seemed to be doing a lot of editing. “He has no work ethic,” he finally said.
“What do you mean?” I needed more information than that.
“Harry could easily go along with what I want. I’m not asking for much, at this stage. But he won’t. He works himself into a lather fighting against me. He’d rather fight himself ragged than walk in a straight line when I ask him to.” Lawrence stared dimly at Harry. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”
I walked around to Harry’s near side. “I assume he’s been vetted?”
Lawrence snorted. “Flexed, poked, prodded, x-rayed, scoped by the finest vets in Wellington. He’s had a bone scan, an MRI even. There’s nothing wrong with him.”
I didn’t bother asking about saddle fit. I could see the saddle was a match, and even if it wasn’t, horses are adept at tolerating a little pain. This issue went way deeper. Whatever it was.
Lawrence went to Harry’s head, fastening the noseband and throatlatch. I realized I would have to ride soon. Harry seemed to realize it too. His head came up, and his calm demeanor vanished. Staring at his twitching muscles, I felt my confidence retreating. Lou said he’s not a rogue, I reminded myself. Lou said he’s not a rogue.
Oh, hell, what does Lou know? My brain rebounded. Lou hasn’t even seen the horse!
Lawrence handed Harry's reins to me.
I looked into Harry’s quivering eyeball, then back at Lawrence. He was waiting, ready to take Harry’s reins back. He thought I was going to bail. I turned back to Harry with resolve. He wasn’t any different than the young, fractious ex-racehorses I started all the time. He was smaller, too. I hesitated for a brief moment, then fastened my helmet. "Come on, Harry," I said in my best fake self-assured horse calming voice, "Let's have some fun."
I led Harry to the arena, pulled down the stirrups and mounted up. He stood obediently. Encouraged, I gave him a long rein and brushed him with my leg.
When I got on a new horse, unless they were totally jazzed up and ready to buck, I always gave them a minute to just walk out, and I followed them with my seat and hands, asking nothing. It gave me a chance to get used to their rhythm, and I found it made them more agreeable in the end. Horses didn’t subscribe to the same social standards as people did, true, but it seemed to me that it was rude to jump on a new horse and immediately start demanding things.
Harry did hesitate. I let him have that moment of uncertainty, and then he picked himself up and walked on. His neck was upside-down, and his head floated above the contact I offered. But he walked dead straight.
I patted him, turned him in the other direction, and gave his sides a light squeeze. He burst into the trot, skittering around in a quick tempo. I controlled my posting, lingering in the air each time I rose, and Harry slowed his gait to match the rhythm I’d set for him. Encouraged, I picked up the contact, wrapping my inside leg against him and fluttering the reins, reaching down to touch his neck whenever he softened.
I changed direction a couple times, bending him different ways. Harry was melting, answering me, giving me the power to shape him. That was a big deal for a horse like Harry. But I could see, from the glimpses I caught of his eye as I rode him, that his mind was far from quiet.
Gently, I brought Harry to a halt. I patted his neck, which wasn't even sweaty. And I looked up from the black curve of Harry’s neck, right into the equally dark and deeply-set eyes of his owner. He was smiling.

If you are interested in more of Meghan's work, please check out her author's page!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Tentative 2015 Show Schedule

We've had a weird winter so far in Texas. The first two weeks of January were nothing but grey, cold, wet, and miserable, day in and day out. This was followed up with a week of amazing, gorgeous, sunny 70 degree days. For whatever reason, Mother Nature has decided to retract her taste of spring, and it is currently hovering around freezing, pouring with a howling wind. What happened??

Luckily, I was able to get three good workdays in a row before the weather tanked. After our great drive on Tuesday, we added another lunge day yesterday - I knew the bad weather was coming in for today, but I didn't want to drive her two days in a row, as she is historically never great about doing the same thing two days in a row. She was lovely, buoyant, pleasant and quiet yesterday, working in a longer outline and stretching out well.


And by longer outline, I mean she has lots of loose rein, but still likes to canter along in show-off-able self carriage. Because she's a boss like that.
(She has a very nice canter when she is quiet and balanced. Out of balanced, and it becomes very flat, lateral and counterbent, not to mention super zoomy. She was definitely in lovely canter mode yesterday.)

Tomorrow I will be super busy all day - not to mention it will be wicked muddy - but Saturday and Sunday she is back to work! I have to make due with the days I have, especially when the weather tanks.

The bad weather has given me a bit of time to sit down and gather up the tentative show schedule. Included in the schedule are seminars on the ground (no active drive time), clinics (active drive time), and of course shows, which include fun games days as well as actual ADS sanctioned shows. This is a whole new thing I am tackling here, so this entire schedule is subject to change - it all just depends on how it is going. This is the full list of stuff available to be that I'd like to be able to attend - it is a LOT of stuff and O has not ever had a really full schedule like this, so we'll be largely going on her level of brain-fried-ness. If she starts to get a little fried, we back off. Making a success out of a first season (for both of us!) largely has to do with laying the groundwork for getting good experiences out of everything. The pressure comes later, the good experience is the first thing you always need to go for.


2015 Schedule:
March 7th: Beginner to Winner seminar*
March 21st: Day of Dressage (?? Maybe)
April 12th: Sunrise Ridge HDT
May 3rd: TCA Carriage Classic
May 16th: NTW Playday
May 24th: Pine Hill HDT**
June 12-14th: Cowboy Country HDT
June 27th: HACA Driving Trial
July 23-25th: Clinic
October 25th: NTW Playday
November 7-8th: Black Star Farm CDE

 *Non-riding seminar
**There is conflicting evidence that says Pine Hill may or may not be an HDT this year - it may just be a pleasure show


It's a bit confusing, trying to sort through the schedule. There is very little information on each thing at the moment, so it is hard to choose what to go for. The seminar on the 7th makes sense, it is just a bunch of lectures all day long, but the Day of Dressage is confusing - it isn't clear if this is something to trailer your horse to, or if you just go watch, or? I don't know. I am also disappointed to learn that I won't be able to participate in two of the NTW playdays - I was asked if I could help out with organizing them this year (kind of a large task for a noob, but since they asked, I said I would help out). Turns out that means I can't show in two of them at all. Pretty disappointing and I wish I had been told that right off the bat before I had agreed to help out, but hindsight is 20-20. I'm pretty sure that they knew I'd say no if I knew ahead of time what the thing entailed... but ah well. I agreed to it, so I'll do it. Serves me right for not asking ahead of time what it all meant.

Here's hoping it dries out soon... and that my Monster Dog heals up quickly from her surgery. She went in Tuesday to have her eyelid repaired, and she is now living temporarily in the Cone of Shame 24/7. It took her a little bit to figure out how to do Life while in the Cone of Shame, but now she has fully accepted it as part of her body. She has also weaponized it, smashing shamelessly into everything in her path, scattering cats, dogs, and people alike. My thighs might be bruised and sore after all the full-on smash time, but at least the eye looks great?

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Back in the Box Seat

Boy it feels good to be back in the box seat once again. After nearly two weeks of nothing (aside from a few errant lunges, including one super zoomy one yesterday), our weather and my schedule have magically combined to allow for some actual drive time. Hooray!

In order to try and make up for time lost, I am going to have to get creative in our workouts. I might not have enough drive days in a week right now to allow for a dressage day, a cones day, an obstacles day, an endurance day.... but I might be able to do some dressage and cones in the same session, or some endurance and dressage in the same session. Today I was able to do three things at once - some dressage work, some whip training, AND was able to toodle around the field across the street going around obstacles. Previously, the field across the street was kind of driving taboo because a) something about it spooks her to death and I risk her killing us, and b) it's super bouncy and rutty out there. All of our lunging over there seems to have paid off, and I was able to take a loop around the field today with no problems on a loose rein. I can't go faster than a walk, and I can't do it for longer than a short session, but there are a lot of jumps and logs out there that will be great for hazard training. The neighbor's idiot galloping horses are still spook-worthy, and the dogs rustling through the very tall grasses are still scary, but I think it's just one of those things she is going to have to get over. I can diffuse just about any spook she has under saddle, but learning how to diffuse them while driving has been harder. She's not spooky, and not a big spooker, but she is looky and likes to visually take everything in. If she looks at something for too long without her energy being redirected elsewhere, she tends to blow things out of proportion in her mind, and they become scary. And, admittedly, rustling predators that you can't see in the long grasses ARE actually scary, so it's hard to blame her for that.

She was perfect for her small bit of dressage work - just taking a contact and working on smooth transitions, which she was lovely for. I was also able to do a bit of whip work with her, which went super well. She can be whip shy, especially if you are carrying any sort of emotion when you are holding a whip, so the blinders are really beneficial for her - she can't see the whip twirling about behind her, she just feels it on her sides whenever I use it. I'm pretty sure I will rarely, if ever, need to use the whip to get her to go forward, but it is helpful with isolating side-to-side work. All it takes is a light brush with the long lash, and that's it - there is no need to tap or use it any harder than that. 

The trip around the field was the icing on the cake. No spooking, no problems, all on a long rein. Not bad!

After that lovely drive, she had a bath, and then she proceeded to pitch an enormously huge fit in the barn while on the Theraplate because she was wet and she wanted to go outside RIGHT NOW. Mares...

I am also SUPER EXCITED because I managed to get my nice camera working again. I love photography and I am terrible at it, but I will absolutely shamelessly take millions of photos of my critters to endless spam you all with.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Ever wonder where O got her name?

I'm still feeling very winter dol-drummy. O hasn't been worked since the weekend - although I hope to finally change that tomorrow. I haven't felt much like writing either... just haven't had the energy, or the subject matter. Someone asked while back where O got her names (show and barn), and so for fun I thought I'd give you a few little video clips explaining the names.

If you're not familiar with Kill Bill, you should be. Both Gogo and O-Ren got their names from this movie. Their namessakes are ruthlessly amazing superbad bad guys. I was having trouble naming Gogo when I first got her, and then my internship boss at the time (who is still a friend today) happened to be talking one day about the Big Boss' kids' pony named Gogo, and I immediately loved the name. Kill Bill happened to be on TV that night, and it solidified the name for me. When Gogo was turned out to pasture, I briefly toyed with the idea of adopting a super crusty ancient old mare to be her companion, figuring the mare would probably die long before I ever had to move the mares away from where we were all living, and I could give her a nice ending to her hard life. I had randomly decided that the mare, who was bright chestnut, would be named O-Ren, to match Gogo's comrade in Kill Bill. Unfortunately the mare keeled over and died before I could pursue that adoption any further, so the name died out before I ever got to use it. When I got O, who is of course bright chestnut, it was immediately the first name that popped into my head, and it stuck.

Not to mention the fact that O is just as much of a total badass as her namesake. Watch and see (warning: much language and decapitation):

Yep. That's her, in a nutshell. She is perfect compliant and nice, until you bring up a subject that she doesn't like... then she will cut your head off with a katana. 

So where did The Reeling come from? It's a song by Passion Pit, one of my very favorite bands. I picked the name one day, randomly, when the song was playing on my iPod. Much like all of the names I give my animals, they usually just explode into my head and they are perfect. The longer I sit and think about names, the more I can't come up with the right one. They almost always have to organically spring out of a situation that feels like it matches the animal. Pangea, for instance... I had a whole bunch of names written down, and couldn't force myself to like any of them. One day on a trail ride, the word Pangea just popped into my head out of nowhere, for no particular reason at all. I loved it, it matched the enormous size of her head, and it stuck.

That's a level 5 shroom trip right there. Not that I know what that's like or anything.

I picked it because that song and video pretty much describe what it feels like to ride O - complete and total chaos that leaves you feeling very confused and dizzy and reeling about a lot of the time. Most of the time it is very fun, but sometimes she makes your head spin and you just have no idea what the hell is going on.

So what did you name your horse after? 

Friday, January 9, 2015

The January Blahs

I've been in the throes of the January dolrums as of late. I set out a very strict schedule for O and I to follow for the month, and largely the entire thing has been thwarted. I had scheduled 3 (or sometimes 4) days of driving each week (and a day of lunging and/or groundwork), working on the specifics of dressage tests and some cones exercises, as well as some fitness work, but our weather has not been cooperating whatsoever. Rain, ice, mud, frigid temps - you name it. On top of that, the fields were seeded, which is great and needed to be done, but that also leaves me with nowhere to drive temporarily until the grass grows a little, aside from roadwork. I'd rather not risk doing more than one day a week of work on the pavement, and I'd also rather not spin her in circles on the lunge more than one day (MAYBE two days) a week, so that limits my options quite a lot temporarily. It won't be forever, but it does change a lot of the plans I had originally set up.

So far this year, all we've been able to do is go for one drive down the road, do one short ride, and do one lunge. That's it. That's just sad.

Excuse the annoying rattling noise... my metal whip handle was vibrating in the metal whip holder. I need to make sure I carry it more than I normally do - I want to have the muscle memory. I had the great thought that even if I couldn't drive much right now, I could do whip training on the ground - and alas, I realized my whip is actually too short! I need a longer one. Damnit! January, you thwart me yet again!

To make matters worse, O had her first *kind of sort of* very small tummyache yesterday. I hesitate to even call it that because it was so small that it probably would have been overlooked by anyone other than my neurotic self, but I knew it was there. I haven't had a colic in over 5 years! I jinxed myself by saying it outloud. It was extremely minor - when I fed her dinner, she looked at her grainfoods sort of morosely, which is not like her. Then I offered up some alfalfa, and she still turned her nose up - that was when I knew something was up. She stood around and did a few lip curls, and I figured I had better nip it in the bud before it got any worse. 10cc of Banamine in, a short walk, a load on the trailer (wherein she dove into the already hung hay, and took a big poo), and 30 minutes on the Theraplate brought her back from a sort of quiet and meek mare to a raging, screaming harpy who was ravenously hungry again. She is quite fine as of today, eating and drinking and pooping as she should be. My best guess is that it is just really, really cold, and even though she is quite hydrated and drinking well, she is probably just not as hydrated as she could be. To be on the safe side, I'm upping her gastric support and will be keeping a VERY close eye on her hay/water consumption. 

I am determined not to let our tremendously crappy weather and lack of structures schedule get me down though. Even if we can't work for XYZ reasons, there are a whole lot of indoor-type things I can do to prep for the warmer months:

1) Window shop for show clothes/tack!
2) Continue to read everything I can get my hands on!
3) Clean tack over... and over... and over...
4) Lay out our 2015 show/clinic schedule
5) Do an anti-rain dance

I mean, I *want* it to rain, but I would like it not to be sub-zero temperatures anymore.

Sigh. What do you all do when you have the January blahs and everything under the sun is keeping you from time in the box seat or the saddle?

Saturday, January 3, 2015

2015 Goals

There isn't a whole lot of recap I can do on my 2014 goals. Basically every goal I had set up for O - namely training her as an event horse, and doing endurance - all got shut down in the early part of the year. By June I knew I wasn't going to do either. Some days I really miss eventing - and riding in general, since I haven't been doing much of that at all - but some days I don't. For instance, today I decided that I REALLY wanted to ride for some reason. I really just had the itch! I got out my tack, hopped on O - mind you, I haven't ridden her in 6 months - and off we went. And... it sucked. It was awful. My leg was screaming in pain. My horse was every bit as difficult and irritating as I remembered her to be. She was thoroughly annoyed with me, and I with her. She was much better than she could have been, for sure - we stayed on a 20 meter circle and just trotted around for awhile, and she stayed quiet and relaxed. This horse usually can't even keep her brain together on a 20 meter circle at all, so this was an improvement of sorts. But she was not happy, I was in serious pain, and while it was somewhat fun, it was absolutely not remotely something I'd like to do again tomorrow, not on your life. There is no way my leg can hold up to this kind of stress at the moment, and for a horse as tricky and complicated as O, if I can't be the best rider I can be, it's not fair to try and insist that she be the best riding horse that she can be.

We might not be riding more anytime soon, but driving is all kinds of amazing fun, and is super hard and challenging and complicated - all things that keep me interested and thirsty for more. I think O will do really well in this sport... it really suits her, and she is a buttermouthed dream to drive.

The only 2014 goal that I really, really succeeded in was letting go of my guilt. I used to operate on guilt - feeling guilty for not riding/working my horse every second I had the chance, feeling guilty for not spending enough time with dogs/cats/people/whatever, feeling guilty for spending money on this thing but not that thing... you get the picture. My whole life was ruled by it, and it was unhealthy. There is a certain amount of pressure you need to put on yourself in order to succeed, but there is definitely a level of taking it too far and bullying yourself about things. I don't really understand how I did it, but I let it all go, and I've never felt freer. It's okay to hang out and sit on my butt on the couch sometimes, the dog aren't going to die if they don't go for a walk every single day, and given my schedule I am very happy to get O worked 4 (and maybe sometimes 5) days a week. There is no reason to beat myself up over things I can't control, and there is no reason to feel bad about the choices I make, so long as I try to always make the best one that I can for the situation.  It's very liberating - between that and eliminating the things that stress me out most, I've done an awful lot towards making my life very enjoyable. And I do enjoy it, every day of it now! 2014 was great, and I think 2015 will be even better.

My horse-related goals are a lot more specific and goal-driven this year than they were last year. I'm not including personal or business goals here, but I have a number of those too, all of which will be achievable if I put my mind to it.

2015 Horse-Related Goals:

1) Have a healthy, happy, bouncing baby horse!
Obviously, fate can play a huge part in whether or not your baby makes it through the first year alive and in one piece - or any year, really - but my goal is to have a happy, healthy munchkin. We are officially at 240 days today and I am so excited!!

2) Compete in the Three Amigos Challenge
We don't have a lot in the way of combined driving down here, but we do have the Three Amigos Challenge. This consists of three different driving trials - two in the spring, one in the fall. The fall one is an actual CDE but I believe the two spring ones are just HDTs or ADTs, it isn't clear which (actually I even saw one listed as a pleasure show... I hope not!) I'd like to do all three at Training level, if possible. As a sub-category of this, I want to be able to put together a nice dressage test, a clean cones course, and a confident marathon - I just need to learn more about all of these things to make more attainable goals about them!

3) Compete in local pleasure shows/NTW Games Days
The calendar is again unclear on how many pleasure shows we actually have in this area. Driving just isn't that big of a thing down here... we may only have one ADS pleasure show the entire year, and nobody seems to know if there are schooling shows. I do know for a fact that there are four NTW Games Days like the two I competed in during the fall - and you can bet I'll be at all of them if possible!

4) Hone and improve my reinsmanship and general driving knowledge, all year long!
Driving is still very new to me, and there is so much to learn! I plan on spending the year soaking up as much information as possible, taking lessons and classes anytime I can, and trying to make myself a better whip.

I think I will alter these goals along the way, and see where we are quarterly throughout the year. I may want to add some things as we go - I need to have goals beyond competition ones!