Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Pine Hill HDT 5/28-5/29/2016 - Part I, Getting There

Normally I would not need dedicate an entire post to just the journey to get to a show, but it was kind of completely insane, so in order to not put everything into a GIANT chunk I will separate it out!

If you've been watching the news recently, you'll have noticed a lot of reports on the EPIC FLOODING that happened in southeast Texas this past weekend. Images of 100+ head of cattle stranded on the freeway, several drownings, dozens of total road closures, people stranded, water actively flowing over the roads.
Yeah. That was all EXACTLY where we were all weekend. EXACTLY the town we were in.

On Friday morning, the day before the show, the TD contacted all of us to say that while  nearby Brenham had gotten literally 17" of rain - no, seriously, they really did - the showgrounds had at that point only gotten 1". The show was on, so we got ready to roll. It was also raining up here in DFW, so I had to wait to finish washing my carriage and putting out hay for the home horses, as Future Hubs is allergic to it and can't do it himself. I was on the road with O by 12:30pm, and B2 got on the road at about 3pm. This will come into play later.

Well, over the course of the day I tailed pitch black rainclouds the WHOLE way there. Halfway down, I got a trailer flat, and had to pull over to change it. I seriously am cursed with trailer tires... I change them ALL the time. I had literally just gotten a new spare two days beforehand. 


Double damnit

I was not feeling so good about the radar or the look of things. It looked as though it were raining heavily at the showgrounds. Immediately after passing through Navasota, I had to slow down and stare wide eyed at the trees and houses sprawled in broken pieces all over the place - a tornado had come through that area and shredded everything into toothpicks.

At some point, my nerves forced me to pull over into the nearest Discount Tire so that I could replace my spare. Since I clearly have fantastic luck with flats on my trailer, I decided that continuing on without a spare was the worst idea possible, so I went and replaced it. They told me it would be at least 30 minutes, which did not make me happy - O isn't a great traveler most of the time, and tends to fidget when the trailer isn't moving, as well as refuse to eat any of her hay for the entire journey. I don't know why she won't eat from a haybag parked in front of her nose for several super boring hours of just being in one spot forever but she won't. So, I stood in the trailer with her, stuffing cookies into her mouth, and waited for my spare to be replaced, which it eventually was. O was really quite good, and contented herself with just watching the mechanics work on cars. She's not afraid of things like heavy loud machinery, just interested in watching.

We continued on, following the black clouds. Rather amazingly, it did not ever rain on *me* while I was driving. I did, however, come across this right before I got to the showgrounds:

Ooooookay then

If you can't tell, that's water. That's ALL water. And some of it was flowing along at a fair pace too. I stopped the trailer while trying to decide what to do, then watched several tiny cars go through it without a problem, so I decided to go for it. Normally I am a pretty adamant turn-around-don't-drown advocate, but in this situation I was kind of stuck. I had nowhere to go. None of the little cars had any trouble, so my big heavy truck and trailer were likely to be all right. We made it through fine and the water wasn't deep. The road wasn't closed on my side, but they had erected a barricade on the other side of the road, which could not be seen from where I was. It was a pretty hairy few minutes. Don't do what I did. 

I made it to the showgrounds without further incident, unloaded O and her buckets and haybag, then dropped the trailer and unloaded the carriage. We all had dinner and a competitor's meeting, and then I started to get texts from B2. She was stuck - the road was flooded. She turned around, and tried to go a different route - it was also flooded. Then she got a flat tire too, and was stuck on the side of the road. Roadside assistance came to help her thankfully, but I think she was strongly considering saying screw it and going back to Dallas. 

While she was on her way, I went out to see the cones course. And oh man... the conditions were HORRIBLE. The showgrounds got at least 7" of rain that I know of that day alone, and it could have been more. Everything was literally underwater. Someone found an actual fish swimming through the dressage arena. A FISH. THERE IS PROOF.


Well, that wasn't terribly promising. The cones course was also basically underwater, which made walking very mucky but did give some specatcular views on the tail of the storm:

Lovely view, terrible everything else.

B2 eventually made it, and after making sure O was settled for the night, we got into my truck and headed back into Bellville. We were *supposed* to go to Sealy to where our hotel was, but we hadn't even gotten out of town yet when we were flagged down and turned around by a road crew. The road was closed, they said. Yes, flooded. To Sealy? Well, go that way and around.... for like an hour... and maybe there will be open roads somewhere. We weren't all that keen on that idea, so we went into Bellville and picked the only hotel we could find, a seedy Budget Inn. I've never been to Pine Hill before, so I didn't know about the *lovely* accommodations there. As The $900 Facebook Pony told us afterwards, "make sure you get checked for Ghonoherpasyphicrabs."

O says, I am not completely sure about this whole thing

The next morning, we were up bright and early for the show.... stay tuned for the rest of the story soon!

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Quick Pine Hill Recap

All right who is the mostest mare! You are, O!

We had a super amazing weekend, which I will truly not be able to do full justice to in just a quick post right at the moment. I am exhausted and there is so much to tell! Epic biblical flooding, almost killing my navigator 9573829 times, the best cones course we've ever had, seedy hotels, flat tires, the worst show conditions of ever, and so much more! It was truly a weekend to remember, the most fun I've had at a show in years. We are all home safe and sound, and even though I have fifty thousand things to do this week because NEXT weekend we go to Oklahoma for a back-to-back second show, AND I have a totally full workweek, I will make time to write about it as soon as I can. 

What a weekend. What a mare! She truly gave it her all for us. I am very proud of her. 

Turning for gate 20 in the cones, a skinny and the last set on course

Friday, May 27, 2016

And we're off to Pine Hill.... wish us luck!

I probably won't have any time to write about the show this weekend, so you will have to wait for results - but we are off on our way in just a few minutes! It's been POURING rain all morning which made everything suck. I had to go get and hang out haybags for all the home horses - can't do that in the rain - and also had to scrub down the carriage - also can't do that in the rain. When I did get it washed and loaded, it of course slopped through the mud and is probably going to be totally dirty from wet freeway spray by the time we get down there. Oh well... I'll just have to clean it again before dressage tomorrow. 

We are up against a bunch of veteran competitors and professionals again. Some of these we beat at Sunrise Ridge. Some of them are driving green horses, but I am the definitely rookie here compared to the rest of them - the nobody. Despite this, I am super excited for this show and am looking particularly forward to the marathon, which has fast become my favorite part (and O's favorite as well). Even with my eventing history, I have never been to Pine Hill so I'm not familiar with any of it.

Time to roll.... wish us luck!

Sunrise Ridge 2015

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

T-Minus 4 Days until Pine Hill!

Holy cripes!! Where did time go so fast?? How is Pine Hill already here? And Stillwater is only a week after that!

O at the Romp... I ordered the professional pictures so we will have them soon to share! 

I don't know about you, but before shows I start to get anxious. Especially with a horse like O, I really need to be careful about overdoing it. When she is tired, or a little bodysore, or anything of the sort, she is just all kinds of difficult to deal with. It's always been a habit of mine to never work my horses the day before a show - possibly this is partly due to my nerves (o god am I going to nitpick at my horse and piss them all off right before a show and then everything will be terrible and we all will DIE), partly due to the timing (so much easier to not have to worry about working them and instead focus on the million other things to do), and probably mostly due to the fact that literally the one and only time I have ever worked a horse at the showgrounds the day before the event, I ended up in the hospital with a severe head injury. Obviously that was just a fluke thing, but it leaves an impression on you, and ever since that happened I've never been able to work a horse the day before a show ever again - just superstition, I suppose.

I do also need to be careful about under-doing it. O works hard for a living, but a lot less hard than a lot of horses do. Gone are the days of working my horses 6 days a week, every week, forever. My stint in endurance, however brief, taught me that horses don't need to be hammered on if they know their job. They need to be fit and sound, absolutely, and their bodies need to be able to handle the stresses of whatever you throw at them, but you don't need to exhaust them. Unfit horses get injured for sure, but overly worked horses also get injured. (I mean, ANY horse can get injured, but still. You know.) O has several years of fitness under her belt and a good baseline there - plus she has been showing regularly and also getting worked during the week. When we move up, she'll need an increase in fitness and an increase in training, but as for right now she is well fitted up and capable of handling herself. But she doesn't work nearly as much as I have worked horses in the past, and sometimes I feel that I don't work her enough. It's a super fine line to walk with a mare like her - what is too much, and what is not enough? 

Thankfully, she does not ever need to be worked down for working down's sake. She's that horse that you can take her out of the field after long periods of doing little or nothing, and she's exactly the same. Hot and ready to go, of course, but exactly the same. She's not going to pull out the aerials at a show just because she hasn't worked in a few days. She has thankfully always been this way, even when I first got her. So, I tend to err on the side of caution before shows and just let her do nothing for a few days - keep her body feeling good, and focus on everything else I have to do. Admittedly, she'll be in a stall at Pine Hill for the first time in her entire show career, so I expect I may be doing a bit of lunging before I hitch up...!

My pre-show ritual usually starts the weekend before a show, especially if it is a big one or one where we will be staying overnight. It's pretty similar to what I was doing when showing Gogo seven years ago (holy crap, 7??), save for the fact that I definitely don't bother to wash and vacuum out my smelly stinky Patron truck anymore. I mean, I will actually bother to clean it tomorrow, because it needs it desperately and I can't exactly expect poor B2 to have to sit on top of mounds of random accumulated stuff in there (which tends to happen when you spend nearly your entire day in your truck), but as for shining up all the chrome polish.... nahhh. 

Anyway, for show prep, I make a list of all the million things I need to do, and sort them into days. I didn't get a chance to get anything started this weekend, so had to settle for starting yesterday with an email to the organizer to make sure we were solidly in and all was well, making a checklist of things that needed to be done, and... yeah, that was pretty much all that got done yesterday. As for today, after work I cleaned out and organized my trailer tack room, sorted through all my show clothes and packed them into the trailer, put all my feed and water buckets into the trailer, and washed O's leg boots. Tomorrow, I'll wash and pack my harness, pack hay and shavings and feed, put new bedding into the trailer, make sure I am stocked on Ulcergard and Pro CMC, go get a new trailer spare (and actually, probably get new tires on the truck too since it's about time for that anyway), clean out my rancid truck, and go get a massage for myself. One thing that has definitely changed since I was showing Gogo is the fact that I am no longer starving and poor, and can do things like go get a massage for myself and buy new truck tires without feeling overly taxed. I've worked super hard to get where I am today, and looking back over this expanse of time makes me feel proud. It hasn't been easy, and sometimes I feel like I should stop for a second and congratulate myself a little bit. I've worked my holy buttcheeks off to get here. I deserve it.

Thursday, I'll tidy up O's hairdo and feet, check to make sure which boots are fitting her at the moment, pack my clothes, get the hotel info, and make one last going-over of all the things I'll need to have packed. I work all day on Thursday as well, so there won't be a lot of time, and some of these things may get pushed to Friday morning. On Friday, I need to get hay and fill all the weekend haybags for the home horses, wash and load the carriage, hook up the trailer, load up the mare, and GO! 

The best part is - there is another great big show the weekend after, so I get to do it ALL OVER AGAIN next week! 

If any of you have nothing better to do next weekend (or the weekend after) and you live near Pine Hill (or up near Stillwater OK), come on down (or up)!

Friday, May 20, 2016

Moolies Gonna Moole

When mooles decided to go all Mad Moole on you, man they really go for it don't they?

Yesterday it was rainy and disgusting all morning. Everybody needs to be worked, but I only have a two horse trailer, so I decided that O was going to be the chosen one to go lunge in the indoor at WD. On a whim, I decided I better take Lendri along too, because she is ready to start going places and seeing new things. She has not trailered at all since I brought her home, so I wasn't sure exactly what she was going to think of this.

Well. This is what she thought of it:

Ohhhhhh my. 

It's funny - she walked right on without a moment's hesitation, both when we left the house and when we left the arena to come home. But as soon as she was in there, she immediately regretted her decision, and went to all kinds of flailing around. Mostly I think she is just herd bound (not surprising, she's been mostly unseparated from her herd since I got her in December). She'll have to go more places by herself now that we know this, but it was a good idea to take O to keep her quiet.

Both O and Lendri were chill and quiet when they unloaded. I mean, O is usually that way when we take her places anyway, but it was good that Lendri was also quiet and acting exactly like everything was normal. We went through our normal routine with no issues whatsoever - she acted just like she was at home.

What in the fresh bag of craps is this

Not surprisingly, when I took O into the arena to work, Lendri had all kinds of heehawing to say about that. I could see her little ears above the stalls separating us from the outide, when she would rear and walk around on her hind legs trying to see O. Mules make HORRIBLE noises, did you know that? Lendri makes a deep braying whinny, Sriracha sounds mostly like a whinny with some heehawing cadence to it, and Uma sounds kind of like an old man hacking up a lung with bronchitis is beating a squeaky rusty metal hinge at the same time. At 32" tall, she has the deepest and loudest baritone on my property. I have yet to catch any of mine on video but my god it's something else. Kind of like this.  Go watch that video, you need to hear it!

O is definitely feeling good from her chiro. She started off just a little behind the bit as you'll see in the video below, but as you can see in the picture above, she stretched out and went better. The footing at WD makes all horses feel powerful and floaty, so she was getting her zooms on in the arena. We made sure not to stay in one place and move all around to preserve the integrity of the footing, which the owner actually came down and thanked me for. 

As for Lendri, while she did try to get sticky towards the gate the first few times around the circle, once we moved away from that area she went like a little angel - like traveling to a brand new arena and lunging in sidereins (which she has only done a handful of times anyway) was something completely run of the mill. And she would whoa and stand completely immobile whenever asked - something she will absolutely need as a driving mule. Good girl!!

It's a big world out there, for a little moole

She looks so silly compared to O, who is so beautiful and such a pretty mover. But I can't help it - I just think she is awesome anyway! I have located a suitable breaking cart for her too - it won't be long before she is ready to hitch!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Insert Clever Title Here

I'm trying to figure out how to clump and categorize my writings about each equine. Sometimes I feel like I jump around from blippet to blippet without a lot of structure or lead ins, and it sometimes comes off as either confusing or as just a bunch of things thrown at a computer screen. How would you structure it, if you were me? A post per critter? That seems excessive, there are so many of them and several of them get worked every day if I can help it. A post per day? It would never happen every day. And how do you keep people straight on your particular goals for each, when they are all simultaneously going? There is a lack of structure in my writing and I need some suggestions as to how to order it better to make it a more coherent read!


Dylan and O saw the chiropractor again on Monday. This is their second visit from her, and I'm really happy with the progress so far. I've obviously been out of the saddle a bit this past month, so Dylan hasn't gotten the same work as O, but he was far more 'out' than she was. She had adjustments that needed to be made for sure, but not like he did. 

Apparently the chiro is working

Dylan on nightly patrol

We're working to build his back muscle up better. He has a big giant stallion neck and a well muscled hind end but he is really lacking right in the middle. Part of this is being out of work for a couple weeks (or well, it didn't help, he is looking kind of saggy), and most of it was the fact that he was so out all the way down his spine that he just never could properly use those muscles. These Spanish types really like to be upright and compact, and it's hard to get them to really go over their backs properly and use them correctly. So in addition to saddle time (when I get back to it, which should be soon!), I'm going to add in more trail riding and lunging in the chambon. While Dylan isn't exactly going to cut it as a back country mountain climbing type of horse, he is perfectly capable of doing some of our local trails, as long as I can drag someone along with us to keep him company. I know a few takers who would like to join me I think! On the lunge line, he's not been working in a chambon that I know of (or at least not anytime in recent history) but it will help him once he learns. 

I'm sad to say the rain has struck down another event for us, this time a driving clinic that was supposed to be held this coming weekend. We are supposed to get flooding rains tomorrow, and nothing will be dry by Saturday, so they cancelled. It was a good choice to make, but a real bummer as it was supposed to be both a private dressage lesson and a group lesson on cones and marathon obstacles - something I want to soak up as much information as I can on. Crossing that off our list, we now only have two shows left in the spring season, both back to back. They are the really big spring HDTs around here aside from Sunrise Ridge, so I'm getting excited and nervous. So much to do still! I need to get a new spare for my trailer. I need a health cert for O for the out of state one. (It will be my first trip to Oklahoma!) I need to work the mare should it ever stop raining. I need to make sure everything is in order with hotels, travel, and feeding my nag-ivator B2. We are staying with one of my college professors in Stillwater for that weekend, but need a hotel for Pine Hill. I can't remember the last time I stayed in a hotel for a show - usually I just camp it out in my truck - but if I'm dragging B2 along with me I have to take good care of her after all!

Look at little Sriracha. How good is she being!

 I've had her for just about two weeks now and she has come along SO well and so fast for what she is. I really think Lendri was mishandled because it took her so much longer to come around, months and months and it was gentle and slow progress. If I could walk near her without her running off it was a success. Sriracha is very different in that while she was never handled by humans before, she also had never had a bad experience with them that I know of, and therefore while she is still watching me to make sure I'm not actually a predator, she doesn't necessarily expect bad things to happen like Lendri did. She is curious and gregarious, and it helps that she loves carrots just as much as the rest of them do. Carrots really help to leapfrog their abilities, from "I really am not sure of what you're doing right now and I'm highly suspicious of this" to "hey if I just let you do this thing I get a carrot, now I want to let you do all these things because I might get carrots!" It sounds like a cop out training method, and I'd agree with you that it is with horses, but it really does seem to help the mules learn that there is something in this for them and if they stick around and give it a try, good things will happen. God knows you can't force them, just teach them that they really do want to give it a try. She walks up to me in the field and follows me around, and stands to let me pet her face and neck while out loose in the field. While she is still a little weirded out sometimes by hands, and still completely freaked out by having her legs and belly touched, she was completely satisfied to let me brush her neck, shoulders, and back with no issues. She's letting me stand next to her more comfortably as well - sometimes being that close to them makes them uncomfortable and they scoot off, but she is learning that it's all right. We'll continue on with the brushing and the petting, eventually getting to her legs and belly and tail - all bits they don't like touched. I was able to brush her belly a little and legs a little today, but had to hang onto her in order to keep her from pitching a huge fit. It's going to take awhile before she is comfortable letting me touch any of those parts. She needs a trim but I'm not willing to wrangle her just for the sake of it and set her back. She'll get there. 

Speaking of grooming, Pax is going to have super amazing locks. Her tail is already past her hocks and is thick. Her forelock is suddenly all kinds of wavy and it's long too - longer than any other horse on the property aside from Dylan! 

So much HAIR

As compared to P, who has barely any forelock at all:

Maximum derp

Lendri is just like, stupidly adorable. How cute is she?!

We tried a bit to do some double lunging yesterday but that concept is kind of beyond her still. She would get going fine, but would then would try to use it as an evasion, scoot sideways against her reins, and find herself turned around. She is so very round that the saddle will slide if the reins pull a bit too hard, which sort of doesn't help anything. So, we worked on me walking on either side of her instead of her going around me in a circle, which went better. She is fine about letting me jog along behind her when she is trotting, although she can get a little strong sometimes. Overall, for a feral little mule who knows nothing, she is really coming along!

Saturday, May 14, 2016

NTW Romp in the Willows 5/14/16

Well, that was about as bad at the last Romp in the Willows. Meaning, not the worst show ever, but it very prominently highlighted what happens to O when she is faced with things she is really good at, and faced with things she is really not good at. She is really, really good at going fast, having endless endurance, and tight turns. She is really, really bad at precision work that requires a lot of careful, slow maneuvering and frequent stops. 

There are three parts to the Romp - an obstacle course, a cones course, and a XC course where you have to pick up ribbons along the way and return them to the timer at the finish. O is really good at two of those things. The obstacle course? Oh man. It was total carnage. It was a different course than the last Romp, but we did just as horribly as we did last time. And came in the same place too - dead last.

Since the map looks confusing, I'll explain the course. The first obstacle is a big board bridge which the horses must go over. The second is a narrow wooden channel - you have to drive one wheel into the channel and drive through the entire channel with that one wheel still in it - which is way harder than it sounds. The third was a narrow raised obstacle that you had to drive through without knocking anything down. The fourth was a push through gate made of a pool noodle that was elevated and set between two standards - the horses had to push the gate with their chests and walk through it. The fifth was an alleyway made of flutter flags. The sixth was a tiny little board, like 12"x12", that you had to stop one wheel on and stay there until the judge told you to proceed. The 7th and 8th were a barrel that had mail on it, and a mailbox that you had to put the mail in and raise the flag. The ninth was a back up knockdown U-shaped obstacle where you had to pass it, turn, and back into it, knocking down the back rail (but not the side rails) before proceeding on. The final obstacle was crossing the bridge again, and exiting.

I thought for sure O was going to have a way better time than she did last time. She was feeling zen all morning, taking a nap while we waited for our turn. I thought for sure we were going to be fine. And it did start off fine. O crossed the bridge with no issues, approached the wooden wheel channel, and actually successfully executed it on the first go. It was great! And then, at the very end of the channel, she just stopped dead of her own accord. All I could think was, ohhhhh no here we go. That is her default when she is about to get all kinds of fried. Sure enough, we got into obstacle 3 and made it halfway through, but when we tried to turn to exit, she stopped dead again, backed up, jackknifed the carriage, and would NOT move again. I actually reached out and patted her butt to tell her it was ok, because it was all the way over to my right side and I could reach it. We continued on, went very successfully through the pool noodle gate (which creamed SO many people - I saw SO many horses either freak out or actually jump over it, complete with airborne carriage... not good!!), went through the flutter flag alley fine, stopped right on the square fine, picked up the mail and put it in the mailbox fine. All went fine. Then we tried to back into the U, and.... nope. Unfortunately with the 4 wheeler, it is SUPER easy to jackknife and not back up straight, so we couldn't get it straight. Just couldn't do it. I tried to get her in line, but kept having to walk her forward and straighten her out, which just did absolutely nothing for her brain. Finally, we backed into the wrong portion, knocked down the wrong side, and I just gave up and decided to go on. Unfortunately, she was still completely sulled up and wouldn't go forward again. Eventually after FOREVER I got her going, got her over the bridge, and then tried to get her to trot forward and exit - but halfway between the bridge and the exit, she just stopped dead again when I clucked at her to go forward. She started to back up, jackknifed the carriage again, mowed clean over the entire bridge complex and all the cones and numbers associated with it, and then again wouldn't go forward. She just stood there. Forever. Completely unresponsive to anything I did. Finally, she moved on, but I actually had to get someone to lead her out of the gate because she would NOT go forward. 

It's just her thing. It's why I bought her for $500. She was so fried when I got her that she would not. Go. Forward. You would sit on her to ride, and she would just stop dead and refuse to move every time you would put your leg on. You could thump her in the ribs, whail on her with a crop, or even just pet her and tell her it was all going to be okay. None of it worked. And, none of it works now. When she checks out, she is just DONE and that's the end of it. I can't do anything about it - physically there is just nothing. I just have to sit there and wait for her to come to her senses, and then she will move on. 

This really annoyed me for a long time. I gave you a command horse, you need to listen and do it. I felt for a long time that just letting her stand there was letting her get away with it. But it did not take me long to learn that there is no physical way to manhandle her into compliance. If you try, she is going to rearflail and completely unravel. And you STILL won't get anywhere - you'll just have an even more upset horse. And what good is that?
So, when she checks out to No Brains Town, I let her stand there and completely take the pressure off. I let her try to come back to her senses. And *then* we try again. There is just no way to train a horse whose brain has completely shut down. The only thing that can come of forcing that checked-out horse to do something it doesn't understand is someone getting hurt. 

And, it's okay. I understand that these things are very hard for her mentally, and mental overload just shuts her completely down. I know this about her, and I accept this about her. It's something I don't believe can be changed. She finds precision work super mentally challenging, and she always has. She is who she is, and she doesn't make apologies for it. And I can respect that about her, because she is always 100% honest with me. She doesn't misbehave just to misbehave - she misbehaves when she truly and honestly can't deal with something. She is SO very good at the things she is good at, and just SO very bad at the things she is bad at. There isn't really a middle ground for her.

One thing she is great at - total immobility when waiting our turn to go. I could probably take a nap up there

Right from the exit of the obstacle course, we cantered down the road and then trotted right into the cones course. She zipped around it like it was a piece of cake, not terribly fast but completely compliant and willing. She finished 2nd, and then we untacked for lunch and hung around, everyone commiserating about how hard and crazy the obstacle course was.

After lunch was a rather abbreviated XC course. Most of the property is currently underwater; the organizer had to change the location of the XC course and had it significantly shortened. I borrowed the owner of the carriage to ride with me, and O cruised around it like it was no problem, stopping obediently at each ribbon stop (we had to pick up a ribbon at checkpoints and then give these to the timer at the end). She did well, finishing 2nd and being extremely compliant - she listened to every command, everything I had to say. See what I mean? She is totally happy to listen and obey when she understands things - she is all about straightforward concepts. She is such a straightforward cut-and-dried kind of personality herself that I think she is just attracted to the same kinds of ideas - you go fast in a straight line here, you turn fast here. Simple, easy to understand, and completely clear. As soon as you get to nitpicking her, she doesn't take it well - too much sensory overload. Even a jointed metal snaffle is too much sensory overload for her - she needs her Happy Mouth mullen mouth, which is about as straightforward and simple of a concept as a bit can be. In anything else, she gets to rattling and clacking her bit, short-circuits herself, and takes off. I'm sensing a common theme here... 

So, it wasn't a *bad* show per se. The cones and the XC were of course fun, because O is good at those things and does them well. The obstacle course really was rough though. It was just as rough as the last time we attempted it. And I can't say it will be less rough the next time, if I choose to do the next Romp in the fall. (Although maybe I will have a moole to show next time!) To be completely honest the only reason I went to this one was because I am point chasing this year - I want Horse of the Year points, and this is a show that counted. We unfortunately probably were knocked back several pegs after this show, which kind of sucks. I've complained before about the organizer showing in her own shows, but of course she once again was Champion in our division at this show. Again. As usual. The only thing that made the placings less crummy is the fact that the Reserve in our division went to a lady who works really, really hard but has a difficult horse and she always gets beaten by us at every show. Today she beat us, and she looked like she was almost going to cry because she was so happy. The organizer doing all the organizing and then winning it all is annoying as usual, but the other lady getting Reserve gave me the warm fuzzies. I can totally get behind her beating us for once, because she really does deserve it. 

Next weekend we have a clinic, which I am really looking forward to. Then comes Pine Hill and immediately after is Stillwater! Holy crap time is flying by! 

Friday, May 13, 2016

Tiny Things

Are you tired of hearing about my tiny mules yet? No? Good, because I'm going to write more about how completely adorable they are.

I've been writing a lot about Lendri lately, and with good reason really. Not only is she stupidly adorable, she just one day decided that work is fine, things are good, and we can all just proceed along as easy as you like. I guess that is just how it goes with mules though - they have to decide that they like you, and then all things can proceed smoothly from there. If they like you, they'll give it a try for you. If they don't like you, well... good luck to you. A horse that isn't overly fond of you will still be compliant, although ideally of course you want to bond with that horse and make them your friend. I don't think there is any way to force a mule to be your friend. Or force them to do anything, really. 

It's just amazing to me that this mule, who just a short time ago still wouldn't let me anywhere near her in the field, now RUNS to me every time she sees me and stands there for scratches and pets. And it wasn't because I did anything other than just handle her. She just honestly decided of her own accord that she likes me. I don't think I've ever had one that completely changed personalites on me like that before. She was so skittish, and now she is so decidedly not skittish. 

We are still long lining and lunging, now with the addtion of TINY TINY SIDEREINS. Holy crap, tiny tack is so adorable. Functional, yes, but adorable at the same time. There isn't a lot in the way of miniature tack around, but I always keep my eyes open for it, and whenever I find something really good I snatch it up. These sidereins are elastic and nylon, with lots of clips to make them adjustable. 

From her first session with the sidereins. She actually did really well! 

Dressij moole... kind of
Ummmmm SO CUTE

She has come a long way from this hairy little beast that was still actively trying to flip her lid a short while ago:

The hair doesn't help anything

Sriracha is coming right along, easy as you please. Well, except for when she isn't easy. Yesterday, I had her out and was petting her neck and back. She had a moment where she felt too pressured, zipped away to the end of her rope, completely lost her balance, and flipped right over onto her side. She stood up, looked at me, and didn't do it again. I'd say "mares" but she's not one... so I'll go with "redheads." But other than that, bit by bit we work on getting more comfortable with handling. She is letting me stand next to her shoulder while petting her, which is a big thing. Gradually, she'll become more comfortable with being touched all over, and having me stand close to and in her space without getting upset about it. 

She is engaging of her own accord when out in the field, which is great. She comes right to me and follows me around, letting me pet her face and neck while loose. I think this is really important - she knows she can leave anytime she likes when she is out loose, but she chooses to stay. 

Not related to Sriracha, now we're back to Lendri, but..... how adorable is this:

Ladies and gentlemen, the world's tiniest polos and tiniest no turn bell boots ever. Does she need them? Nope. But does she NEED THEM? YES.

Aimee says I need to do a Tiny Tack photoshoot with comparisons to Big Tack. I totally agree with this.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Mule Mondays: Out

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

Uma was passed out cold this morning, wallering around in the mud like a pig. With her head like that and everything. It was very, um... special. 

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Getting It All Done

Some days, I am jealous of those of you who only have one horse to fuss over and worry about. Those days are long gone from  my life, and I wouldn't have it any other way - but it makes it hard to get things done with everyone every day!

I try to set a goal of working two horses every day. Sometimes this means driving O and riding Dylan. Sometimes this means grooming Pax and Uma for 5 minutes each. Most days, it is working one of the "in work" horses, and grooming or playing with one of the "not working" horses. Pax, Uma, P and Zuul are all basically just getting played with once or so a week, to keep everyone groomed and tidy. They of course get their daily flyspray, flymasks, feedings, cookies, etc. That to me doesn't count for anything other than daily care. They are all in different places along the training scale - Zuul is the wildest, P at nearly age 20 is the most dead broke. Speaking of Zuul - there is a local guy around here called the Zorseman, who has 5 zorses and 4 zonkeys of his own already. He wants Zuul for his own - he wants to teach him to pack and carry a cooler full of beers along on his epic trail rides and chuckwagon races that he goes to. As I think it would be a great match - who better to take on a zonkey than a guy known as the Zorseman? - I am happy to let him go there. I think Zuul is great and I've done a fair bit to make him a handleable zonkey, but I don't believe I can get any further than I have. Without a stout pony horse to basically drag him around with, I can't teach him to lead without bolting. I'm just not physically strong enough, and if I can't even lead him anywhere, his training isn't going to go any further than where it alraedy is. As he has shown aggression towards the other horses and minis (although thankfully never towards people), I think it's a fair life to let him go be somewhere where he will get proper handling and more than just a boring isolated life here. It's kind of a mixed bag with a kill pen rescue, much less one that is half zebra - you don't ever really know what you're getting, and you can't always predict the outcome. But I'm glad we saved him, I'm glad he didn't go to anyone else (god knows he would have been dumped again), and I'm glad I ultimately linked up with the Zorseman who can give him the best possible life for what he is. 

So, my herd is in small shakeup mode at the moment. Zuul will be leaving in a few weeks. Pax should be leaving mid-summer. Sriracha is of course new, and O is for sure bred. As for P, we shall see what happens. If we don't get a successful breeding out of this, she'll probably go back to a light duty trail horse, something which she enjoys as much as I do. I've been craving hitting the trails, and am even thinking about finding a good western saddle for myself like the old Corriente I used to borrow. I miss that thing. I want something old, and worn in, and deep seated and high backed, like a barrel saddle or old ranch saddle. Something that is comfy to sit in for plodding up the trail. I have this entire battery of nice trail horses and am not currently using any of them for that!

My leg has still been bothering me, which is really unfortunate. While I try to sort that out, Dilly is on short hiatus, which isn't tremendously ideal but also works out well with O's upcoming show schedule. She is right about to plow into the heat of things - there is the Romp next weekend, a clinic the following weekend, Pine Hill HDT the following weekend, and Cowboy Country HDT the weekend after that. Four busy weekends in a row, bam bam bam! Then the show season abruptly stops until September, when it flares again. There is another Romp in September, an HDT in October, a Games Day in October, and Black Star HDT in November. Now, at some point she is going to be too pregnant to continue on, and I'll pull the plug on that. I'll let her tell me how she is feeling. By all means I'll call it early if I feel that I should, and will make a mandatory cut off at some point as well. But I think it is good to keep pregnant mares fit and going, so long as she fits in the shafts and the work is not too strenuous. Again, we shall have to see.

I'm going to be missing the next working equitation event, which is this month, as well. AND I'll be missing the next two to boot - we will be in Austin for one weekend, and Colorado for the other. I refuse to let this get me down any further than it already has, and have doubled down on being diligent with my stretches and therapy. By god, I will not let this defeat me. It might sideline me here and there, but I refuse to let it get me down.

I also have been putting a lot of increasing focus on the mini mules. I just adore them and love working with them every day. Lendri has become SO agreeable, even when she is acting like... well, a mule. And Sriracha is coming right along in terms of friendliness and handling. Currently, Lendri is getting long lined about every other day or so, and lunged here and there - she knows how to lunge pretty well now, but her steering still needs work, so that is what we have been focusing on. She trotted today in the long lines for the first time, drove in circles around the house for the first time, and wore blinders for the first time (or well, minus the bit). She didn't mind them at all, although I will not likely work her much in them until she is further on. Not that I'm any kind of mule or driving expert, but I like my guys to see what is going on behind them, and to understand and not be afraid. I'll start her in an open bridle too, when she gets broke to the cart. She is *almost* ready to drag a tire, but not quite. She needs to steer better first, although I think she will not mind dragging anything. She might be flinchy about the shafts though - she can still be really squinchy on her sides. It's hard to say if she was mishandled, or not handled at all, but it was surely one of the two. 

So, it boils down to that. In my most ideal week, my equines get this kind of work:

Dylan: 2x dressage rides (with obstacles, sometimes), 1 obstacles specific ride, 1 hack
O: 1 lunge, 1 endurance drive (4+ miles) with dressage work interspersed, 1 dressage/cones drive
Lendri: 2-3 long lines/lunges
Sriracha: Handling every other day - leading, touching, petting
Uma, Pax, P: 1x week grooming and handling

So technically, per equine, it's not that much. O gets worked 3x a week and no more, and sometimes less. She is very fit and doesn't need a ton of hammering on, but it's a slower progression than if we worked 6 days a week in terms of our dressage and obstacle work. I'm pretty sure though that of all horses she would be the LAST to tolerate a 6 day a week work schedule. I used to work my horses that hard, every day, but all I ended up with was a lame horse and nothing to show for it. I moved away from that, and think this works better. I might not get along at quite the same speed, but things get done all the same and the impact is less on their bodies. Things go more slowly, but we all stay more relaxed and happy for it. The pressure is on when it counts, but it's not on 24/7.

Next year, when I am down a show horse, it will be much easier to pour my riding focus into just Dylan. Lendri should be driving by then, and Sriracha should be about ready to start working (I hope anyway), so I will still have that to work with, but it should be a little less work for yours truly.

And of course, the schedule RARELY pans out that they all get that much work anyway. I LOVE to relax, dawdle along, take my time, lay in the hammock, and take long naps. I think relaxing is just awesome, and behind my workaholic nature, I am completely lazy by heart. Today, Derby Day, I was of course supposed to go to the Trec, but it was cancelled due to the recent flooding. All I did today was hang out in my PJs, watch Derby coverage all afternoon, and long lined Lendri. Lendri got picked because she is the one I am currently most excited about in terms of progression. And I think that's ok to do this here and there. There is a limit to it though. I might love to lay around in the grass and do nothing all day, but then... nothing gets done!

I've definitely changed a lot since I first started blogging with Gogo. Back then, I was extremely driven, almost to the point of being maniacal about it. I lived for nothing but my mare. Every day had a plan. Every week had a plan. Everything was planned, drilled, and evaluated after the fact, everything. I do wish I could get some of that back - but there are so many other things to worry about as we all age. We need a new hot water heater. We have hail damage on the roof. My truck is getting old. I have the business to attend to. And so on.

So readers, how do YOU get it all done in a day? Are you regimented, or more laissaz faire? Are you anxious about it, or relaxed? Does it all get done all the time, or does it hardly ever get done at all? How do YOU find the balance?

Thursday, May 5, 2016

So Many Vet Visits...

I don't even want to look at my vet bill from this past month. Or well, I have looked at it, the first half anyway... we're just not going to talk about it. I've been for breedings, preg checks, heartbeat checks, an eye ulcer... ah well, you do what you have to do!

I'm disappointed to report that that P is not pregnant. I didn't think she was - Dylan has been hanging around a lot near the corner of the fence and talking to her these past few days, so I felt that she was probably about to come back into heat. I wasn't wrong. We checked her on Monday for a 13 day preg check, and found a cyst that we thought could possibly be a pregnancy. We checked her again today, and found nothing to report except a follicle that is approaching breedable size. I left her at the vet again for the weekend ($$$$), and we will try again. 

O, being a younger mare with fresh semen from a stallion right at hand was easy to get pregnant. P, not so much. We have a lot of factors working against us this year. She turns 20 this month. She has a lot of new cysts in her uterus. And we are using frozen, which has a limited supply and not fantastic motility. It's decent enough, for frozen, but it's not very good. The motility of good frozen is probably about 30-35% and we definitely don't even have that. When we bred her with fresh, we had about 95% motility. She took so easily and carried with no issues whatsoever, so I figured the frozen was worth a shot. But there is a very real possibility that we will not get her pregnant this year. We have a few more breeding doses left, I can't remember what Dr. H said but it's a few. But, a few is not a lot. We are working against the clock too, as I don't want her to be bred too late in the year and have to suffer miserably into the heat of summer with a pregnancy, not to mention a neonate in the 100 degree weather. Should we not get her pregnant with the frozen, as per our contract I do have a live foal guarantee to the farm's other active stallion. He's a decent enough stallion but he's just not what I want. 

If anybody can get her pregnant, my vets can. But there's a very real possibility that it can't be done at all. Time will tell.


Ah well, at least today when I took P back to the vet, I took Sriracha along too to check her ulcer. She has completely impressed everyone with her behavior, myself included. She led right out of her paddock, loaded right onto the trailer with no fuss at all, walked off like a lady and stood tied alone while P was getting checked, went into the foal stocks fine, let the vet poke around, and stood fine for it all. The eye has done great all week, and I could no longer see any kind of blemish. When we stained the eye, there was nothing in there whatsoever. Hooray! No more 2x daily eye meds and no more tiny pen. She was ready to go out with the others. 

Naturally, the mules and Pax went bananas over this tiny new friend out loose with them, even though they have all met her and spent time with her. None of the others cared, but the littles and Pax all went rampaging around together for quite a long time. 

Uma and Pax... new team? 

Taken yesterday - I had her up to work on handling. The other mules were super excited about this

Pax looking mighty fine and grown up

Mules on the rampage!! Pax is an honorary mule due to her giant ears. 

If you're wondering if my filly can move - yes, yes she can. 

And so can my moole!!

As usual, it always amazes me how dull looking the coats of new equines are when they come to my farm. Not to brag, but I'm pretty good at making my critters all shiny and glossy. Even Uma, who is the last to shed, is this incredibly rich red underneath her wooly winter wear. (I did try to bodyclip her when I bodyclipped Lendri, but there was a lot of rearing and flailing and eventually I just said nevermind!) Sriracha will be glossy soon enough though. 

I left the drag rope on her for a few hours, just to make sure I could still catch her. She came right to me when I went in there, and I switched her out from the drag rope to a short catch rope about 4-5" long. It's actually a sheep lead that I cut - they are a loop, so I cut them to knock out the risk of catching a leg, and then put a few turns of duct tape or vetwrap around them to close the ends back together again. I stuck one on Uma too, because sometimes when you go to catch her, she freaks. I do leave halters on my little mules, put on tight enough that nothing can snag them. I would not ever do that with a horse, save for Dylan who wears a breakaway leather halter for both his safety and for the safety of anyone that has to handle him. But mules are kind of on a completely different level! I do a lot of things for them that I would not do with my horses, and vice versa. 

So, at least we had one bit of good news today at the vet. Now if only we could get the other pregnant...