Wednesday, March 30, 2016

More WE Practice

O's leg tonight was about 90% better under wraps. I slathered it yesterday with DMSO, but didn't need to repeat another application. Under plain wraps, it was well down this evening - so down that I decided to leave the wraps off for the night and see how she does. I may regret that, but hopefully she will be all right! If not, wraps go back on in the morning. But I am pleased with the way her cut is looking.

This afternoon and evening, I scrubbed my harness, cleaned out my trailer tack room, washed all my leg boots and towels, loaded water buckets into the trailer, and carefully put my completed outfit into the tack room. I still need to go over my dressage test, check over all the posted competitor info (soooo much info), load hay and put fresh shavings in the trailer, wash the carriage and load my spares kit, and check in with B2 about times. Along with a million other things. On Friday, I work in the morning, then in the afternoon I head out to Paradise to go walk the course and get my packet. Since we live so close, I'm trailering in for both days - no need to stable, especially since I need to come home anyway and feed the rest of the herd. I lucked out with a dressage time that is nearly at 3pm - I get to rest up, bathe her in daylight, load my carriage at my relative leisure, and head out around midday to the show grounds. Not bad! As usual I am starting to get the pre-show jitters. There is always SO MUCH to remember at an HDT. You have to remember to pack one million things, remmeber a complicated cones course with nearly 20 cone pairs, remember six marathon hazards and all the gates within them, remember all your times, remember to breathe!! 

It poured today, but Monday it was bright and Sunny, and I did some more rudimentary WE practice with Dylan. We're still not terribly good at anything but we're trying! In this video you'll see us doing sidepass poles (which he should be doing in renvers, but he barely can get over them at all so we're just starting where we start), double slalom poles, figure-8, carrying the garrocha, and a few other things. 

We're starting to get a bit better. I think! I'm not riding like a complete sack of potatos anymore anyway. 

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

MARE! Come ON!

O's done it again. She sliced up her OTHER hind leg, right before a show! WHY!

What the....

I lunged her yesterday and she was fairly good. It's interesting... she lunges easily to the right but drives horribly to the right, and lunges horribly to the left but drives easily to the left. She bends great driving left but goes around severely counterbent when lunging left, and bends great lunging right but goes around severely counterbent when driving right. She has always been this way and no amount of chiro, dental, massage therapy, craniosacral work, or vet work has actually done anything to change it. Ah well... we continue to work on it.

I didn't lunge her with hind wraps or boots on, so I didn't closely inspect the hinds until I was washing her off after she was done working. To my horror, I found a big slice right on the back of the right hind. It was fresh, but not so fresh that she did it while lunging - she must have found a small part of the fence to slice herself on. I scoured my fencelines and while I'm not totally sure where she did it, I think I have an idea. Nobody *else* has ever gotten cut up anywhere on my no-climb fences - they're pretty safe! - but I think she's just been in such flaming heat for weeks that there is no escaping her odd behavior. Literally she has been in heat for over three weeks now... it's that weird transitional spring heat, and she does it every year. There is a point where it gets frustrating, and we've definitely reached that. Just go out of heat already you spaz!

Of course, Sunrise Ridge is FOUR days. Naturally.

I gave her a gram of bute, clipped the wound and cleaned it, and wrapped her legs. Today the swelling is down about 50 percent, but is still tender to touch. The other leg was puffy too - I can't say that it's totally back to normal after the cut she received on that leg. That's how she plays though... gets a tiny scrape, legs blow up enormously, and the swelling takes AGES to go down. She's never lame when she does it, but she does it pretty regularly. 

A perfect C? What does that mean? C for crappy? C for crazy mare?

We're doctored and wrapped up again for the night. We'll probably keep that routine up until we roll into the showgrounds - if we even go. It's hard to choose in this case - she's fine, she's not lame, she just has a cut and a puffy leg because of the cut. If she was lame, it would clearly be an easy choice. I already pulled once from a show this year for a cut and a puffy leg.

We'll just have to see how she does over the next few days. UGH! Mare! 

As an aside, here she was this weekend doing her final drive before the show (was supposed to just lunge this week and rest a bit). She was REALLY hot and forward!

Monday, March 28, 2016

Mule Mondays: Adorable

In today's edition of Mule Mondays....

Ummmm that's adorable. Mules grooming each other. 

Friday, March 25, 2016

La Garrocha

Today I finally got to practice with a garrocha for the first time with Dylan. The other day, Future Hubs and I were at Home Depot getting some random assorted house related things, and I found a wooden 8' pole covered in vinyl. I had been thinking I'd have to settle for a PVC pipe but this is so much better! It's shorter than a regular garrocha would be - I think those are usually about 10-11' - but it's a good practice tool for me at home. And seeing as I'd never used one before, I figured it would be good to start easier anyway! 

It was easier than I expected. Dylan looked at it for a second when I first picked it up, then shrugged and went on without caring. I think K had said that they did a bit with a garrocha before, but I don't think very much - possibly for IALHA Nationals the year they did WE. I'll have to ask her and see!

My biggest challenge was getting the hang of riding with only one hand. Putting four reins into one hand is not easy at all, especially considering the fact that a) I'm not good at one handed riding anyway, and b) Dylan isn't broke to neck rein really. He will be within pretty short order, but for the time being his steering is quite good with only one hand, once we both got the hang of it. For Intermediate and below, you can use two hands in WE. You just need a free hand to do various things like carry the garrocha, ring a bell, lift a water jug, etc. Above Intermediate, it's all one handed riding!

If you're not familiar with doma vaquera, there are tons of YouTube videos of it. It's really beautiful stuff. (We do not look quite that awesome.) 

One of the great things - maybe the greatest thing, to me - about working equitation is the fact that you do all of these things through dressage. You're not just going roundy-round the sandbox getting bored to tears. Especially for a dynamic, quick-thinking stallion, this is really ideal - he has to focus on these tasks and use his mind. It's great for me too for the same reason - I don't sit there and get all nitpicky and hard on myself about why I'm not a good enough rider or why I can't force my body to do whatever it is that it won't do. I just focus on the task at hand, and suddenly I find I am sitting better, directing him better, being better for him. And when I am better for him... he is better for me. 

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Sunrise Ridge: T-Minus 9 Days!

Sunrise Ridge is only 9 days away!! Can you believe it? And as usual, right before a big show everything in my life turns into a giant comedy of errors. Maybe this bodes well for the actual show?

These two would make a great driving team... if Pax wasn't already nearly as tall as O at under a year old

First, the weather. It's been HORRIBLE. It's been raining, hailing, and tornado-ing for two weeks. The sun comes out and it dries just long enough to give me about one day where I can work in the pasture again, and then it storms again. 

Second, seriously screw you weather. Last night, I was chasing horses around in a hailstorm, trying to get everyone rounded up before the worst of the hail struck. In the chaos, freezing to death and soaked/pelted with large hail, my glasses broke. And I mean broke. Not salvageable. Today I had to cancel everything and spent the entire day to try and get the glasses replaced. It was complete chaos going from doctor to store to store to store, calling my insurance company and getting screwed anyway. It took out yet another day that I needed for so many other things!

Thirdly, O's leg. Thankfully this had finally settled and gone down. I lunged her yesterday and she was HOT and ready to roll. Not surprising given the amount of time she has had off this month due to the weather and her fat leg!


B2 is coming over this weekend to get one last practice drive in together before the show. We'll be doing dressage work and cones - the time for conditioning is over, and she is more than fit. Sunrise Ridge is set over two days this year (it's the 20 year anniversary of it this year, the longest continuously running HDT in the country!), so it will be dressage and cones on the first day, and marathon on the second. Since we live so much closer this year, I'll just be trailering in for each day instead of stabling there - this should lesson the stress on her, to not have to be away from home for three days. 

I have everything together for my dressage/cones outfit - now I just need shirts for B2 and I to wear on marathon! Sterling sent our new custom ear bonnet which should be here soon... can't wait to see what it all looks like together. 

Getting nervous!!! 

Monday, March 21, 2016

Mule Mondays: Rear

In today's edition of Mule Mondays:

Uma could be a trick mule, with the amount of time she spends on her hind legs. 

Sunday, March 20, 2016


SprinklerBandit recently posted a fantastic compilation of all of her Ultimate Fails. The post had me cracking up, and also thinking of all the times I've been in the same position - majorly, incredibly, humongously, blatantly, hilariously failing. 

And most of them were, naturally, with Gogo. 

(I have plenty of fail pictures of O and Pax but, for the sake of this post we'll stick with just Gogo!)

Failing to not have a broken nose 

Failing to go in a straight line

Failing to behave at her first ever event

Failing to not bolt during rehab

Failing to dressage

Failing to rehab

Failing to keep four on the floor

Failing to stand still in the ocean for pictures

Failing to canter along the beach
Failing to sensibly jump down banks

It wasn't just under saddle though. Gogo also failed to ever be friendly to other horses:

Failing to be nice to the other mares

Failing to be nice to this innocent gelding

Or that innocent gelding

Or that innocent gelding
Or that innocent gelding

Except for when she was in heat. Then, she was continuously failing to do anything except pee all over everything:

She also constantly failed to keep both herself and me intact... one of us was always injured in one way or another! ...

Despite all this, and even when we'd fail big time........

... we always managed to get it back together and make it work.

I miss her, always.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Battleground Fencewalker

I decided to go ahead and scratch O from the drive fest that was going on today in Burnet. Her fat leg is about 70% better than it was, but I didn't want to chance it and risk anything happening. I'm pretty sure all would have been completely fine, as she was never lame, but why risk it? She means more to me than just a silly schooling show. Not to mention the fact that Sunrise Ridge is now *gulp* just two weeks away. Where did winter go!? 

O seems to be out of heat now, although it's not clear if P is (admittedly I can never really tell when she's in anyway). Unfortunately this blazing flare of hormones has triggered Dylan to start up his favorite vice again - fencewalking. If you remember, when he arrived he was literally the worst fencewalker I have EVER met - and I've met some real addicts. I actually had the fencewalking completely cut down to nothing for the last several months, aside from the occasional prancing and screaming that went on when the neighbor's stallion was turned out in their arena across the road. I had taken away most of the little barricades that I had put up against the fence to stop his walking. I thought we were doing very well.

And then the mares came into heat, and not surprisingly he lost his mind a little bit. He was right back to stalking the fence. I certainly can't blame him, it's just in his nature to be worried about them when their hormones are raging, but still. It's very hard to keep weight on a walking horse, and it's also very hard on my fencelines. 

So, we created what I like to call Battleground Fencewalker.

You can see where he was just walking around the barricades and ignoring them. I change up the pattern a bit every time I see him making a habit out of one certain path, so that he has to alter his course again. As long as the mares are standing around just eating or hanging out, he is content to just eat and hang out himself. But if they are running around, or go up the hill, or do anything that he hasn't approved of - he's not happy about it. He's that Stage 5 Clinger boyfriend who gets all freaked out when his women make a decision without him.

Vices like this are annoying and super hard to break. If you have a confirmed one that comes to your place, you're already on the losing side - it's so much easier to prevent habits from ever starting in the first place. You can get them to stop, if all the cards are in order, but if one card slips back out of the deck they can start up all over again. It's like the default back to their chosen drug. Or, if you prevent one habit from happening but don't change any of the environmental reasons why it might be happening - like putting a cribbing collar on a cribber but still leaving it in it's stall all the time and not giving it adequate forage, time outside, etc - then it might manifest itself into new vices, like weaving or walking or whatever. Putting Dylan out 24/7 with forage, and having Zuul there to keep him company.... that really helped him. Really, REALLY helped! But, I can't change springtime hormones... I just have to work with what I have. Thankfully, nobody else on my property has any vices whatsoever.

Does your horse have a vice that you just can't stand? What is it? And how to you go about preventing or helping it?

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Deathstorm Season is Here

Texas Deathstorm Season has arrived here in earnest this year, and early. Last week I had all sorts of blogging plans, yard plans, riding/driving plans.... aaaaaand then it rained solidly for a week and a half. Literally every day it poured and/or stormed. We had 5 tornados last week, and then another one this morning. Trust me, getting jarred awake at 6:15AM on your only day off because of the tornado alarm isn't really a fun way to wake up. Not to mention the fact that crappy satellite internet dies every time it rains two drops, so I've not been able to do anything important like blogging or, you know, taxes or silly things like that. 

Instead, I rode. I rode the pants off Dylan last week, I rode all week long and it was awesome.

Since my pastures are basically underwater at the moment with all the rain, I've been trailering to WD a lot. Last week in particular, we worked on trying to put together the dressage tests for Novice and Intermediate working equitation. I feel like I am actually starting to look like I belong on a real horse instead of a carousel one now... like my body is FINALLY starting to cooperate. I am finally starting to be able to sit the trot again without feeling like my ankle is going to break in half, our changes are coming much cleaner (since I am better able to sit them in all their enormity). The Intermediate tests have walk half pass, leg yields at the trot, flying changes and simple changes through the walk at the canter, and circles of varying sizes - all things we are capable of. Now it just needs finesse. 
I've been seeing my physiotherapist about every two weeks, which is expensive but effective. It's a slow process, but I am starting to feel like my body is actually working properly, and riding has become a lot less painful.

The first WE show around here is in mid-April at the Texas Rose Horse Park. It's just a schooling show, but the following weekend has a B-rated show somewhere else. That's not very far away! Entries for the first schooling show close on March 28th, so now I am left with deciding which division I want to choose. I need more practice with the obstacles, which will require either building them or seeing if I can trailer out to use some of them. I think it's perfectly doable to build several of my own things - putting down sidepass poles and the like will be super easy, and it won't be that hard to construct a gate, a barrel with a garrocha, a table with a jug of water.... etc. It's just finding the time to do these things which is proving to be difficult. Hell, I barely have time to blog much less do anything else! 

Muddy beast

It's been Hormone Acres over at my house this week. The mares are in heat, so Dylan is naturally going absolutely bonkers about it. He's back to stalking the fence and screaming instead of eating, which is driving me insane. He's dropped a bunch of weight in an extremely short amount of time, so I had to triple his feed in order to try and get ahead of it. I totally get why he was shut up in a stall all the time - because he literally does walk the weight right off of himself when he's in that kind of a mood.

Looking suddenly more svelte today, although the angle of this photo thankfully hides it for the most part. Shall we name it Fencewalking Fit?

To make matters worse, not only has it been pouring rain (which means I've been unable to work O at all), but yesterday O scraped up one of her back legs doing god knows what. She's in blazing, roaring, flaming heat, which also means she has been on a hunger strike (she literally can't function like a normal horse when she is hormonal). The scrape on the leg exploded today into a HUGE fat sausage leg, which is blazingly hot and super tender. Aaaaaaand we have a show on Saturday. Naturally, right? It figures. 

Are you kidding me

I'm about 50-50 on the fence about scratching from the show. She's not lame, and the only reason the leg is huge is because this is exactly what happens EVERY time she gets the most minor scrape or cut. I'm convinced this poor mare is made of paper and glass, seriously. A lot of the marks you see on the leg are old scars from previous small injuries, but you can definitely see the fresh ones. BUT, Sunrise Ridge is only two weeks away, and that's a big and important show. I don't know if I want to risk taking her, but I also feel like if I don't take her we will never get a really good warmup before the show. This small show was meant to be a warmup! Just like last year, I feel in no way prepared for Sunrise Ridge. Same as last year, she has scraped her leg up this month and given herself a fat leg, and had to have time off. Same as last year, it's been pouring and I've been unable to work her at all. It feels like deja-vu all over again!

I have a few things left to prep for Sunrise Ridge. My ear bonnet isn't finished yet, although it should be soon. I need to find an appropriate colored polo shirt for myself and for B2, who is navigating for me. I have gloves ordered that aren't in yet, and I also have ordered a wicket basket that is supposed to 'dress up' the carriage a little bit for dressage and cones (and also carry my spares). 

I have more to write about all of it but as usual I should really be in bed instead of sitting up writing! I have a full day of work tomorrow - really, really super full - and then when I get home I have to decide about the show. If I am going, then I'll need to stay up late trimming O, unloading my truck box, winching the carriage in, cleaning harness, cleaning horse.... then leaving my house at about 4am on Saturday to get to the show. It sounds a bit less fun when I write it out like that...! 

Oye. Between Dylan and O's hormonal problems, being tornadoed away every 5 seconds, working until I'm exhausted, and not ever being able to catch up with everything I need to do... I think I need a vacation! 

Monday, March 14, 2016

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Working Equitation Practice 3/5/16

Well, I can say I'm officially hooked on working equitation. We had SO much fun this weekend at the practice!!

The North Texas Working Equitation Club, which is not actually an official club (more like a group of interested folks), put on a free practice day at a local trainer's facility for anyone who wanted to join in. There were a LOT of people that came - 48 riders in all!! There were tons and tons of western people, some h/j people, some endurance people, and some dressage people like me (but not many). Breeds of all kinds were there - Mustangs, Arabs, Andalusians, Gypsy horses, Paints, QHs, and more. The great thing about WE is that anyone can do it, wearing any tack - if you have endurance tack, you can show in that! The only rule about attire is that is has to be clean and safe, and also consistent the entire time (i.e. if you wear dressage tack in the dressage, you have to wear it the whole time. If you wear endurance or reining or trail tack, you have to wear it the whole time. Etc.) There seems to be a really large western contingent around here in particular - I suppose that is because of our Texas tradition of the American cowboy versus the Spanish or Portuguese cowboy. The system of working cattle is extremely different - WE is modeled off of the European way of working cattle, with the garrocha instead of the lariat. There seems to be some kind of drama with creating an overarching US organization because in order to compete internationally, we would need a team outfit and tack, and nobody seems to be able to agree what that should be. I suppose they'll figure it out eventually, it is a very new sport in the US after all!

Caveat: I have no pictures whatsoever. So, I will supplement with pictures of other riders doing WE obstacles instead!

Anyway. So there were nearly 50 horses there in all, which was great. We started off the practice by all meeting in the barn aisle to discuss what WE is and watch a few videos. I was a bit anxious to leave Dylan at the trailer while there were a dozen other stallions about all screaming and acting up, but the nice lady next to where we parked said she wasn't going up to the meeting and was staying down to watch the horses, so thankfully someone had eyes on him. Dylan's great with tying, the second he feels the pressure of the halter he immediately gives to it - so I don't have much fear of him breaking away and getting loose, but you never know. He was extremely upset by the stallions, as he usually is, and spent basically the entire time dancing instead of eating his hay. Thankfully I had the foresight to give him Ulcergard before we left, and dosed him with Pro CMC before we rode (and force fed him some hay too, although he was too wound to eat much).

We started off in the dressage arena and he was his usual super hot headed self. He appears to be this way the first time you take him somewhere new until he settles... he jigs, goes sideways, and dances around like a maniac. I put him together and we cantered around for awhile in the arena, did a bit of trotwork, and then tried to go back to the walk. He was not having it.... still jigging and prancing around like a goon. I decided to throw caution to the wind and take him over to the obstacle course to put his mind on something other than all the other horses galloping around the arena - I figured that was my best chance at quieting him down.

The obstacle course was somewhere between a modified WE course and an actual trail course. There were two different gates to open, a million bridges including narrow elevated ones that traversed muddy ditches, several banks, several log jumps, slalom cones, cloverleaf barrels, figure-8 tree stumps, an L shaped corridor to back through, several obstacles which were filled with logs and rocks that made the horse look down and watch where he was stepping, and a livestock pen. The livestock pen is comprised of a very small circular pen which you must enter and circle around. They are only about 6 meters wide with a 3 meter enclosed pen in the middle of them, so basically an extremely tight volte with a tiny entrance! There was not a garrocha to practice with, and a few other obstacles were missing too, but they are things I can make at home and practice here.

This one is way bigger than the one we used

I made Dylan go through several of the log-and-rock obstacles to get his mind back onto his own legs instead of everyone else's. He about fell down tripping over the logs and rocks the first few times, but then he started to pay attention and pick his way carefully through. This is also when he started to quiet down and mind himself a bit better. We tried a few of the bridges, and to my total surprise he just walked right up and over them. He wasn't keen on the bridges that traversed open air over the ditches (I wasn't either, really, so we didn't push that issue), but he hopped up and down all of the banks without any hesitation whatsoever. He jumped the little logs at a trot. He did magnificent little canter voltes around the cloverleaf and figure-9 barrels with perfect canter-walk-canter departures between each one. He did all of the slalom poles in the same manner, perfect canter-walk-canters. (You are also allowed to do these with flying changes but his changes are SO huge that you're twice the distance away that you expect you'll be after you execute them, so I'm not sure I'd want to do that at the moment between these things). He cantered through the livestock pen in both directions with no problem at all. He was even super well behaved about the gate - I am not very good at gates myself but he was quite good. I know he did WE once with K at Nationals, but I think that's literally the only time he ever did any of this stuff! It was completely fun and Dylan's really made to do this kind of thing.

I stopped and chatted with one of the judges who was there as well as a few of the trainers. They had watched us practicing and strongly recommended that we try going right into Intermediate instead of Novice. Apparently our local WE contingent at the lower levels is full of rodeo Barbies who can really haul ass in all of the speed stuff, and the thought of competing against like 30 of them at every show is not terribly appealing to me. The problem is, if we start out at Intermediate, we can't drop back down a level unless we REALLY suck. Intermediate level dressage is somewhat complicated, with half pass and flying changes, but that is all stuff he is capable of. (Whether or not I am is another question.... I can do it all but I'm not sure I look all that great doing it!) He is also capable of all the Ease of Handling stuff, especially if we practice it. I have the rest of this month to continue practicing and think about what I would like to do.

It took me really a year before I figured out what all of the local/natural driving organizations are and what they are about (and which I need to be a part of, and which I do not). I figure it will take that long to figure out which WE organizations I need to be a part of. There are several ones and they all operate under different rules. There is the WEIAUSA, which is the Working Equitation International Association of the USA.... there is the USAWEA, which is the USA Working Equitation Association... there is WE United, Working Equitation United.... then there is something called the USFWE, the United States Federation of Working Equitation, which may or may not actually be a real organization. And who knows, there could be even more. It's all very confusing. To make it all even more complicated, the folks at the North Texas club were talking about starting their own damn organization. It's a new and growing sport in the US, so naturally there are disagreements with rules and whatnot... I get it. But it is very complicated and the only thing I can really tell is that you just need to know which organization your show is operating under, so you know whose rules to follow. Some big shows like the Haras Cup are run under organizations like the WEIUSA, others like Pin Oak don't appear to be run under any sort of organization at all (although they did say something about the IALHA... who knows). My head is spinning a bit trying to figure it all out!

But I think I am hooked. It was SUPER fun!!

Monday, March 7, 2016

Mule Mondays: Chomp

In today's edition of Mule Mondays:

I don't think she likes that, Uma.