Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Moole School

School is perpetually in session for my horde of mooles. They're all in various stages of growing up and coming along in their training. In terms of general baby goals for their ages, they are all fully on track to becoming solid citizens, with a few quirks here and there and things to always be worked on. 

Uma is the same age as Pax, so now approaching 17 months. She is still TINY but filling out in her body. She's got that donkey haybelly which, as far as I can tell, is nearly impossible to get rid of on some of them. She came with it, and it looks much better but it's still there. Clean fecals, regular deworming, you can see her coat is good and shiny... she's just... full of hay. I asked the owner of the mini moole that comes to the driving competitions, because he also has a huge gut, and she said that even though he gets a tiny ration and heavy work literally 6 days a week, he just has it and that's that. Boo. 
She has really started to mentally mature a lot more over the course of her yearling year. She is still weird about a lot of things, like you can't just walk up to her in the pasture, nor can you put your hands on her body unless she is tied up, but I think that will continue to get better as it generally has been (slowly). Baby mooles are kind of like horrible obnoxious teenagers. You think baby horses are bad, try dealing with all of their crap but with a donkey brain in there!
Things she does well: halter, lead, tie, wear a flymask, flyspray, stand for hoofcare, stand more or less still to be brushed off, sort of stand for mane clipping, wearing boots
Things she does not do well: body clipping, trailering (haven't tried!), bathing (she likes water but not being sprayed with the hose yet), and not very fond of general touches from people if she wasn't expecting them - just needs more work on that!

This little dude is continuing to impress me. It just goes to show that it is SO IMPORTANT to get your hands on these guys as soon as they are born. It makes ALL the difference. He has no meanness in him whatsoever and he loves people and attention. It is very rare to get that sweet adorable temperament in a zebroid, and it has to be cultivated. He's a testament to his breeder's program. 
He's a million times easier than all of the mules, which is really saying something. It's all because of his early formative training - they were all feral or mishandled, and he was neither. He was handled straight away as a baby, and it makes a difference.
Things he does well: Easy to catch, halters, leads, ties, trailers (although he has not been in my trailer), clipping, grooming, flymask, wears harness, wears bridle (but still learning about the bit), lunges in harness, starting to long line and learn about steering, ponies, wears boots and wraps, stands for hoofcare
Things he does not do well: Not a fan of baths (although he loves water), or flyspray (but he tolerates it), needs to be a little more secure by himself (the world is scary when you're alone without your herd!) 

I long lined Lendri off the property for the first time ever the other day, and nobody died! She actually surprised me with how good she was. She has technically been hitched once, but I feel that she needs to be much steadier in the long lines before we hitch again. There is so much that can go wrong when hitching a greenie so the more I can do on the ground the better. I still am not compeltely convinced that she is going to make a perfect driving moole - she is still so reactive to things sometimes - but I am going to give it the full benefit of my time, because she has come SO far and I'm not ready to give it up just yet. 
Things she does well: Easy to catch (runs over!), halters, leads, ties, trailers, mane and body clipping, grooming, flymask, wears harness and bridle, lunges in harness and sidereins, stands for hoofcare, flyspray, long lines, ponies, wears boots and wraps, has been hitched once without issue
Things she does not do well: Hates baths! Tolerates it but is pretty sure I am spraying her with acid. Still can be quite reactive and flinchy to basically anything that touches her that she is not sure about. 

I ordered a new bit for Sriracha - it's a little butterfly mullen mouth driving bit that is mini sized. I should be able to use it on Lendri as well, as it is a 3.75" (standard mini size is 3.5"). For comparison, Lendri can go either in the 3.5" or the 4" that I use for Zu, but she does seem to prefer the 4", which is a single jointed sweet iron snaffle. I don't know that Zu will fit into it, but I might try it on him for giggles. I haven't tried the bridle on her since the last time when she stuck her tongue over it and cut it - it was only her second time wearing a bridle and I didn't want to repeat the incident until I switched bits. 
Things she does well: Halters, leads, ties, trailers, mane clipping, grooming, flymask, wears harness, learning to lunge in harness, stands for hoofcare, flyspray, happy to go out alone and do things, wears front boots
Things she does not do well: Not a fan of baths, still sligtly funny about her tail and back legs being handled (although getting better every time), having difficulty accepting the bit and bridle. She's only been not-feral for a few months so it's pretty good, all of it!

Tried the (sans bit, sans adjustment) blinkered bridle on Zu... as you can see he really cares. He was looking around for a minute though going, uhhh I can't see?

How not to wear your flymask

Monday, August 29, 2016

The Road to 4th Level

Show season is fast approaching. It has taken me an entire year of riding and getting my body worked on to feel like I might actually be approaching readiness for 4th level. This will be my first time going out that high, and I am understandably anxious about it, mostly because I still sometimes can't make my body do all of the things I tell it to do. Sometimes I see video of myself riding and think, good lord you couldn't ride your way out of a wet paper bag, but I know this is not really true. I see other riders much better than myself complaining about their own positions, and I see riders much less skilled than myself going along blissfully and happily bouncing away without a worry in the world, and I wonder where exactly I fit into all of this. 

I do know one thing. I have come this far. If I have done this much, then I can do anything. And I am going to do this, damnit. 

When I get nervous about a goal, I sit down and think it through, and break it down into smaller pieces so that I am able to grasp the task at hand. I'm poorly organized at best (and also very messy), but having things set out in front of my nose makes them easier to grasp. I have a particular goal in mind, which is to get my silver medal with Dylan. It's a lofty goal, but I believe it can be done. He got one with his mother, and I hope now that I can do the same.

Goal: USDF Silver Medal
Four scores at 60% or higher;
Two of these at 4th level from two different rides, under two different judges
Two of these at Prix St. Georges from two different rides, under two different judges

Okay, I think I can handle that. So where do we need to begin?

Fourth Level Movements:
Trot - Medium, Extended & Collected, Half Pass, Shoulder In
Walk - Extended and Collected, 1/2 Pirouette
Canter - Medium, Extended & Collected, 1/4 Pirouette, 1/2 Pirouette, Half Pass & Multiple Flying Lead Changes Every 4 Strides, counter canter on a 10 meter circle
Halts - collected canter to halt
Reinbacks - Reinback series four steps back, four steps forward, four steps back again

Medium trot

All of these things Dylan can do easily. We are already schooling all of them, and capable of doing all of them. The most critical thing now is the quality of work - yes, we can *do* all of it, but can we do it well? Can we do it REALLY well?

Things I am continually working on in all gaits:

Walk work: The main problem I ever have with walk work is when we stretch, if I don't loosen my curb rein maximally Dylan will curl down and inward instead of outward. He likes to stretch, so it is up to me to allow him to do it correctly.
Trot work: Mediums and extensions are now quite easy - once I was able to sit the trot pain free they became quite simple for me. Lots of transitions gives me the energy in the collected trot that I need - Dylan is very flashy with his legs but he can also fluctuate between way too relaxed and not collected enough, and way too forward and tense where he gets his front legs flying and the hinds trailing. Shoulder-in and half pass are uncomplicated and the only thing I ever have trouble with is that his tendency is to want to be too steep. Obviously that is all rider.
Canter work: Canter work was easier for me before I got the saddle adjusted. Now that I sit in a much better spot and am using myself much better, I have to actually do that... use myself much better! It requires a LOT of strength to keep a powerful horse like Dylan under control in the canter. He is capable of cantering on a dime but it requires an incredible amount of ab strength. Quarter pirouettes are easy, but half pirouettes are more complicated and if I am not riding him forward through them, he will swap behind and flounder through the second half of them.
Halts and reinbacks: Occasionally not square or straight. I will need to practice the reinback series more, seeing as I only just noticed it in test 3! You have to halt, reinback four steps, walk forward four steps, then reinback four more steps, then trot on. Pretty complicated for someone like me who can't ride and count at the same time!

For the most part, it goes very well.

Except for changes. Holy crap. I suck at changes so much.

Part of this is because I seem to not be able to ride and count at the same time. I've never been one to count down my strides to a fence. I see a spot, I'm going for it. (Or sometimes, I don't see a spot and I'm still going for it. I was never very good at it.) So counting and riding together were never impressed upon me and I don't do it well naturally. Kind of like in the pirouettes, Dylan tends to anticipate or just sort of assume he knows what's happening, and if he isn't set up just right he will be late behind with the changes, or hop with his hinds both together in the changes. The canter has to be good, bouncy and uphill, and he has to be perfectly straight. Because of horses I've ridden in the past, I tend to get stuck holding him on the original bend for far too long, and if I do that he will struggle through the change and not be clean, because he's still bent the wrong way. It takes brain power to remember to STRAIGHTEN him before the change. No, all the way. No even more. JUST DO IT ANDREA.
So not only am I grappling with making sure I tell myself to do all of these things in preparation for a change, then I have to successfully make it through the change and not relax and go, "yay I did it!" Because then I'm 4 strides away thinking about how I did it well, but I'm already supposed to be setting up and executing a new change. It's so much more brain power than my little peabrain is used to having to deal with. (I lead a pretty simple life, let's be honest.)

But we will get there. As have all things, it is improving with every ride, a little at a time.

I am still deciding precisely what the show season is going to look like this fall. It's pretty solidified for the winter/spring/summer next year - working equitation shows as well as dressage shows, and some IALHA shows - but this fall is less concrete. It just depends on what else is going on! If I plan this far out for next year, then I can make it happen, but it's getting increasingly hard to just 'get away' for a weekend. There is petsitting, horsesitting, and client appointment to plan, which can all get very complicated. Not to mention the fact that Future Hubs has a surgery scheduled for literally the same week that O's baby is due in the spring...!

So what are YOU working towards for next show season?

Friday, August 26, 2016

When Mind Over Matter Fails

In my last post, I talked about using the power of mind over matter, and powering through some of my physical tiredness to get everything accomplished during the day. It's largely a mental game... I'd even say it's almost 100% a mental game. I make decisions about myself, about what I am going to do that day based upon how my body feels, and it's up to my brain to sort through those feelings and decide if I need to take care of my body, or I need to push through it and get it done.

But there is a flip side to this. Powering mentally through my days requires my mind to be strong, and healthy. I can make these choices, if my mind is fully functional. But like everyone, I fight my own personal demons, and sometimes these fully override my controls and take me for a completely unwanted ride. I often struggle to cope with utterly crippling depression, which is largely related to my poor stress handling skills, how much sunshine I get a day, and how hormonal I am. Throw these things together at one time, and it's not much fun. This past week in particular, it has been pouring on and off, and I barely saw the sunshine all week. As a solar powered human, this is crippling.

The rain also creates a secondary problem for me. It completely dropkicks my schedule into oblivion. When I am working in barns or in dry covered areas, the weather is not an issue, but there are many places I go that have nowhere to work in the poor weather, so we have to move appointments around. Doing the dance of a thousand reschedules, is what we call it. Last week alone, I missed three heavy days of work in a row due to the weather. We were supposed to be leaving for vacation in Colorado this week. I was frantic and overwhelmed, because I had nowhere to put these people and no time for anything whatsoever.

So, on the days when it was really bad outside and I couldn't work, I stayed in bed. Literally all day, sleeping. It rained for hours on Thursday, dumping a good 4" of rain on us, so I didn't ride. I didn't work anyone. I didn't do anything. I slept. Overnight, it dumped another deluge which brought our 24 hour total up to 10" of rain. Everything was flooded. Everything was a mess.

There was nothing for it. I cancelled my vacation. I opted to stay home and work instead of go enjoy myself camping in Colorado, and I've been full steam ahead ever since.

I've never had to do that before. I've never missed a real vacation because of work. It's a very weird place to be in and I'm not really sure how I feel about it. It was the only choice to be made, so there isn't much to be upset about. It's just... it's weird. I never wanted to cross that threshold, but now I have.

Finding the right balance to life is hard ya'll. I don't think anybody ever really gets there.... it is surely something you just work on, constantly, all the time, your whole life.

Pax and Future Hubs: at 4 weeks, 3 months, 6 monhs, 8 months, and now 16 months. Currently going through an attractive wiener dog stage

Anyway. That's where I've been all week. Just been trying to slog through the mud and the rain and the creeping darkness that I sometimes can't escape from. I've barely done anything but work and sleep, just trying to survive and get it all done.

But the sun has been out for a few days. I dragged myself out of my torpid stupor this afternoon after work and hooked up my trailer. Dylan took his piece of carrot, and followed me back up to the trailer to be groomed and readied. Once there, I tacked up - saddle, bridle, boots, helmet, gloves. I left behind the baggage of the week - still waiting for me upon my return, but not needed for the time being. For now, it was just Dylan, and myself.

Dylan, like many horses, can either be extremely light or extremely heavy and strong depending on how well I am riding. If I am soft and light with the contact, he is soft and light in the bridle. If I get heavy, he leans right back as hard as he can. If my seat is sloppy and flopping around, he is more than happy to run around the arena on his forehand at high speed, but if you sit up and engage your abs, he is completely controllable off your seat alone. He truly has been making a much better rider out of me, because I am free to experiment with all of this, and he already knows and can respond appropriately when I get it right. I am at my best when I am free to think about what I am doing, and then try it and see how it works. Then I can take what worked, and try to make it better. And better. And better.

With Dylan, I am free to think. I have a better awareness now of my individual seatbones than I ever have in my life. I have a better understanding of my core. I looked in the mirror today when we were doing walk work, and saw my right leg, and it was just as pretty as it's ever been, sitting in the best spot it ever has. My left leg will never do that, but it can get close.... it can get better, and it is getting better.

We had an excellent ride. I'm still experimenting a little bit on how best to warm this horse up, and I don't have one concrete warmup I like more than others. Today I chose to walk on a loose rein, then pick up just my snaffle rein only and do some stretching and walk half pirouettes. He was so light and responsive after some back and forth repetitions of this, and maintained it when I picked up the curb rein. He maintained it in the trotwork, and in the canterwork. He felt so easy, and so light, even though he hadn't been worked in a week. I felt so much better.

I'll be riding a lot in the next few days, and intend to break those rides down into more detailed ride posts. I was feeling a bit dried out and uninspired to write over the past week, but a good ride was just what I needed to feel refreshed and ready to get back to life as I am used to. Sometimes you trip on your own feet, but as long as you can find your way back upright again, it's all right.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Mind Over Matter

Over the course of building a business, I have been through many phases of what time means to me, and what busy means to me. When first starting out and transitioning over from a full time job and some small time trimming, I had no time whatsoever, but I only had one horse. Eventually I had two horses, then three, then two again, and then one again, and back to two, and so on. I went from a full time job and small time trimming to a part time job and part time trimming, which inevitably opened up a large portion of free time. When I was not actively working on business building, I had tons of down time to ride and play and do whatever I wanted. I was broke then, but I did all right, and I knew I should enjoy all the time I had, because one day I would have the money instead of the time. The business grew over time, and my free time started to dwindle. I started to have to redefine what "available time and energy for pleasure horse pursuits" started to be. It used to be I would need a full day off to get some real horseytime in. Working days tired me out, and I didn't ride or work horses on those days for the most part. Then my time REALLY started to dwindle, and I realized that if I was going to have horseytime at all, I was going to have to just get over my tiredness at the end of the day and just do it. That was extremely hard for me at first, but I really put my mind to it, and now I get it done. It's not uncommon for me to go out and do 15+ horses, and then ride or lunge a few when I get home. My biggest limitations are daylight and drive time - if I have to drive all over the Metroplex, to get my quota of horses done, it takes significantly longer than if I get them all done in just one or two stops. Every day is different, which is one of the great appeals of my job. I get to see different people every day, take different routes, and have fresh things to work on and see. But I do have to spend some time planning ahead, so that I know for sure when I have time to work whoever needs to be worked. 

The babies take hardly any time at all, although they always take mental energy. The Zoodle Himself is doing extremely well, and continues to be incredibly friendly and kind. He loves people, loves scratches, and will always come over for a snuggle. I've ponied him twice off Pmare, and he continues to get even better at it - he tends to resist for a moment when we start something, then his second answer is generally always "yes" and he proceeds without issue. 

Get a pedicure lady

Dylan is the one who gets the most work, 4 days of riding a week if I can squash it in. This would not be ideal or workable if he was an event horse or a horse who needed a higher level of fitness, but for the time being it's completely achievable in my schedule. It requires me trailering out to ride, which is a rather timely affair. I also have the trouble of not being sure when I will have access to the arena lights at WD, as I tried to use them the other night and they didn't go on. Not good! I need those, and will really need them as the winter approaches. 

I think as I continue to get into more detailed things with Dylan, I'll start fleshing that out better in blogposts. I used to write so much in detail about the rides I would have with Gogo, and have done so much less of that now that I have a bunch of babies who are doing extremely rudimentary and simple things. There is only so much description you can go into when you say, "Groomed the baby. Picked her feet! She was good." But riding an upper level horse when there is SO much in the way of complicated and subtle communication going on... that deserves more fleshing out. 

I bit the bullet this week and rejoined all of the major organizations that I will need for showing - USEF, USDF, and IALHA. The 2017 season in our area starts in the fall, and we go through basically the entire year with shows on the calendar, although the majority of these are jammed up into the spring months when our weather is the best. It's a bit of a circus, trying to get all the paperwork together for this - these organizations all require notarized copies of our lease, which meant K had to go print them off, mail them to me, then I have to go get them notarized, and then send them in with fees paid. Dylan is thankfully lifetime registered with all organizations, so that's taken care of. As for working equitation, I'm a member of WE United and WEIAUSA, and intend to show, but probably my biggest goal is trying to get my silver medal with the USDF. I'll clinic this fall and possibly do some WE schooling shows - and next year, if all goes well, I have my eyes on much bigger prizes, like Pin Oak, Haras, and maybe even the Andalusian World Cup in Las Vegas, as well as the possibility of IALHA Nationals. There is a LOT between now and then, but the possibility of these looming in the imminent foreground is tremendous motivation to get my butt up and go ride, whenever I have the spare time.

Half pass left

Ugh he's so perfect I just love him so much

This doesn't mean I can't take a little down time to have some fun through. On Monday, I did something very different - I rode Dylan bareback and bridleless. I left a halter and lead rope on him, just to be safe in case we coudn't stop, but mostly I rode him in his neckrope. He steers beautifully, although stopping was not quite so easy. How many stallions do you know that somebody can just jump on them bareback and bridless and just go for a spin? He's a special dude, that's for sure. 

Ummm excuse me you're not paying enough attention to me

On the same day that I rode Dylan bareback, I also worked both Sriracha and Lendri. Lendri has basically been off for two months in the summer heat, and has had one lunge this past weekend. I long lined her on Monday, and then this happened...

She's hitched!

She wasn't fully hitched in this picture. The breeching is not on yet. But she is hooked via the traces and pulled the weight of the cart by herself. I approached this way differently than I did with O, who I first dragged a tire with, then put her in drag shafts, and then hooked her to Janky The Training Cart. With Lendri, her intelligence and reactions made me approach this differently. I think I'll approach it differently for every one that I break to drive. I certainly didn't just stick it on her and go - not at all. There was a lot of careful introduction, of leading her and rolling the cart next to her, and behind her, of placing her between the shafts to feel them, of pulling the cart along behind her with her in the shafts but not hooked. She did so well that by the end of everything, I had her pulling the cart by herself with full weight in the breastcollar, although not with breeching as I think that needs more desensitization - she might speed up and get fast when she feels it for the first time. As you can tell by her expression, she was not terribly bothered by the entire ordeal. 

9 months ago, she was at the kill pen and so wild that I almost couldn't wrangle her onto my trailer. I can't believe how far she has come!!

Speaking of wild, Sriracha was not terribly good this week, but here she is lunging with harness and bridle: 

We need much work with acclimating her to the bridle. It took her two seconds to figure out how to flip her tongue over it, which then pinched her tongue and made it bleed. That's not exactly the best way to teach a mule that the bit is not a bad thing. This snaffle is an eggbutt with a double jointed copper alloy mouthpiece, so it's about the nicest thing I could put in there, but I may need to look for something else. 

Despite all that, she sure is fancy isn't she? 

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Baby School

The babies are all doing well in baby school. Working babies is one of the most fun things ever.... I'm not sure which I enjoy more, working my schooled horses or playing with the blank slates. Sure, the babies do dumb baby things with regularity, but the feeling of developing them just the way I like the is super rewarding. I wish I had gotten my hands on the mules when they were newborns - the difference in their reactions and Pax's reactions to new things is 100% different. Obviously part of that is due to their mule-ness, but Pax's completely trusting nature and total relaxation about basically everything I throw at her definitely has something to do with being reared from a little tiny tot. The one thing she can be slightly weird about is the inside of her ears, which I attribute to me not working with them enough. I think I've moved pretty far beyond stripping the hair out of ears... they need that hair, even if they are showing. I'll snip off the old man hairs or put on an ear bonnet, but I don't think I'll ever clip ears again unless it's for a HUGE show somewhere. 

Pax has been wearing saddle pads with regularity since she was little (and once, a saddle and girth!), but she wore a bridle and bit for the first time the other day. She opened her mouth to pick the bit up by herself, and then was completely unphased after her preliminary baby-mouthing of it. She went and just kept on eating hay. 
She'll need to wear a bridle for the 2 year old in-hand FEH classes next year, should we choose to do them, so no time like now to start getting her used to it!

Everybody loves the sweet iron snaffle

Sriracha continues to get better and increasingly friendly. She also has developed a bit of a spicy attitude that matches her name - she's pinned her ears and snapped at me once or twice in the field, when she comes over and doesn't feel like she's getting the attention she deserves. That doesn't fly around here, which she is also learning. 
She now picks up all four feet, and I've trimmed all four as well. She wears a harness and is lunging and learning her walk-trot-whoa commands. I like being able to teach them lunging myself, as they learn to actually walk and whoa on the lunge. She has also worn a bridle once, which she'll do more of in the near future. 

Look at this creamy ear.... what a funky color! 

He might be smokey black... his mother was a buckskin and his father was a zebra, so who knows really? 

Fun fact about donkeys and a lot of hybrids: they don't have rear chestnuts! Some of them do, but many don't. Out of my four, only Sriracha has tiny rear chestnuts - the rest do not, and their front chestnuts are wide and fat like a donkey. 

He's so easy for a zebroid! He definitely has some zebra moments, but he's more like a horse than anything for the most part. He's even easier than the mules - he takes corrections really well, and figures things out ridiculously fast. I know he has been lunged in a roundpen, and worked in long lines, but I do things a little differently in that I don't turn my horses when lunging - I stop them, manually turn them, and then send them off again. He tried several times on the lunge to hit the brakes and turn himself around, but it only took a few corrections until he got the point, stay on the circle! He is completely fine with the harness, and has worn a bridle three times now. 

What is this crap in my mouth

I still can't get over how friendly he is. Here and there, he'll show a little zebra, but for the most part he always comes right over for scratches and kisses. He likes people and he wants attention, which is so rare for these guys. I intend to keep fostering that in him, because I don't want to lose it! 

Alas Pax is still the boss.... nobody can oust her as top boss B. 

The Zu won't do much lunging, as he's just a babe, but wearing a bridle is important as he'll also be learning more about long lining and steering with a bridle. And look who got back to work yesterday - Lendri! She's been off for two months, seeing as it's just been way too hot and I've had too many others to work. She picked up right where we left off with no problems whatsoever. She's about ready to start dragging a weight!

Friday, August 12, 2016

Saddle Fitting and Pilates

It's been a very busy week over here. Dylan is back in work and doing great, I'm up to my armpits in clients this week, and I also have the babies to all work! Oh, and did I mention it's been nearly 110 degrees every day this week? 

Last Saturday, I finally (after months) managed to wrangle down the closest Schleese saddle fitters, who thankfully were already coming to WD for the weekend to do fittings. The Schleese is not mine, it belongs to K and was custom fitted for Dylan many years ago, so it came with him when he came to Texas. It took me 6 months until I could ride in it without feeling like my legs were going to break off at the hip (I need a SUPER narrow twist to accommodate my issues), but have grown fond of the saddle over time. Dylan has changed a ton since he has been here, so I wanted to make sure everything was suitable for him still.

The fitter herself is actually an alum from my college! She graduated a year before I started and we knew the same horses and professors... how about that. They took a million measurements of Dylan, watched me ride in the saddle, and then took it to change the tree and reflock some bits of it. The technology of Schleese has changed a lot in the past 10 years, so they of course wanted to sell me a new $5000 saddle... I politely declined. 

That said, after we put the saddle back on and went back in the ring, there was a HUGE difference in both the way I was sitting and the was Dylan was going. He felt so much freer in his shoulders in the canter - and he has tons of freedom up there already - and I was sitting in a better spot. Everything felt so much better! It was amazing how just these little adjustments changed everything so much. 

I'm pretty sure that guy knew I was creeping a picture

Also, I think it's safe to say that Dylan is a very good boy, because people continue to do things like lead their horses right up to him or next to him, despite every saying "that's a breeding stallion please don't do that!" He of course talks to them and wiggles around but does not flip out or go for the other horse, thankfully. Good boy. 

He feels really, really good. His leg is staying down, he is sound, and he is getting his fitness back. 

My plan is to take him out at 4th this winter. I am extremely anxious about this, as it's my own 4th level debut and I also haven't shown in a rated USDF in nearly 10 years. I don't really have any interest in doing schooling shows - if I'm going to spend my money on showing, I'm going to make it count by god. 


Speaking of fitness, on the same day as the saddle fitting I tried something new - a pilates class geared specifically towards the dressage rider. I've done a lot of yoga, but never pilates and I wasn't sure if my body could handle it. To my surprise, I did better than I expected I would! I have more strength than I realize. The class's main objective was to bring awareness to the core, and how to specifically isolate and use the lower abs. I REALLY learned a lot in terms of engaging those lower abs and lengthening my lower back. My seat sometimes alternates back and forth between sitting well in my truck but then rounding my shoulders and slumping up top, to sitting ramrod straight up top but then getting a bit swaybacked and off my seatbones. Getting both of those things together at the same time is hard ya'll. But applying this new knowledge to my saddle time is going to be super helpful. 

I have a lot more to catch up on with the babies... but that will take another blog entry for sure! In the meantime, here is the one and only looking completely perfect and excellent and beautiful: 

I miss working her, but she's enjoying her downtime for sure. 

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Hybrid Fascination

My newest little kiddo is here!! As usual, there is quite a long story behind why and how he ended up in my herd. 

Handsome child with a fresh haircut

You're probably thinking, "you're kidding, she brought home yet another critter?"

You're right. I totally did. But this was an opportunity that I just could not pass up, so let me explain.

You all know my love of hybrids is VERY strong. I could almost see myself never getting another horse again, just continuing on with hybrids - that's how into them I am. I love my horses of course, more than anything - but the hybrids are just incredible. I LOVE them. 

My interest in hybrids is of course not just limited to mules. I'm equally as interested in zebroids, but with more skepticism. I love donkeys and if I had lots of land would certainly have a few. I think zebras are pretty cool but I never, ever in my life would want one. Many zebra hybrids inherit the nastiness of their zebra parent - they can be aggressive, bite, kick, strike, and be generally disagreeable. Zuul was not any of those things, but he was completely unfriendly unless it was on his own terms, and the less handling he got the less friendly he was. Again, if I had many acres I would have kept him, but I have limited space and if they are here then they need to have some kind of redeeming quality or usefulness. Sounds kind of mean when I write it down like that, but I just don't have the space for useless hayburners unless they've earned their uselessness, like Darby. Zuul was also not social and I did not have room to fairly keep him housed alone, so it was a good thing to rehome him to someone experienced with his stripey kind. 

But that did not dampen my interest in zebroids. In finding Zuul, I also got dropped right into the middle of the fairly small zebra/zebroid community, and became acquainted with many good people. One of these is a breeder in Michigan, not too far from where I grew up, and not long after I got Zuul I mentioned to her that I might be interested in one of hers one day, since I didn't think Zuul was really going to be capable of what I was wanting to do with him (drive). I happened to notice that one of her clients was selling a little zony, one that she had bred and raised, and I commented that he would be a really nice little driving prospect. 

And that started the ball rolling.

I had special specific criteria I was looking for in a zebroid. I was not out to just get any old one, not by a long shot, and I was prepared to casually peruse for as long as it took to get everything I wanted. I wanted something I could specifically break to drive and show. As it so happened, Zazu had all of the things I was looking for.

1) I wanted a small size - something pony size, small pony if possible. I did not want a big riding size zorse. 
2) I wanted something built suitably enough to withstand sport, not just be a cute pasture pet.
3) I wanted something specifically temperament bred - something that was bred on purpose to be friendly. Friendliness is not common in zebroids so it takes a special zebra to pass that on. 
4) I wanted something that had been raised carefully and started the right way. 
5) I didn't want outrageous, outlandish stripes. I wanted something subtle but still eye catching, just not totally shocking. I have a feeling that outlandish striping might be a negative when it comes to conservative judges - if they're biased, it won't help anything. You hope it doesn't matter, but you know that sometimes it does. 

He had all of those criteria. He was bred specifically from good friendly stock, and raised carefully and correctly. He is little - a bit over 11 hands. It's impossible to say what color he really is - zebras pass on their own funky genes, after all - but he's very dark and shiny, and up close you can see those stripes really popping. It's very hard to capture the stripes on camera. In many of my pictures, he looks just pitch black - but you can see them in person really well, or if they're highlighted with a photo filter. 

The original plan was to have Pax sold first and foremost before I made any commitments to anything. I told them I couldn't make a decision about anything until that happened, so I understood if he sold to somebody else in the meantime. 

Several people made offers. Some of them even looked up shippers and committed to buying him, then vanished. The breeder mentioned more than once that she thought it surely was destiny that he end up with me, because time and time again the buyers would fall through. 

Then my buyer fell through too. I told the breeder that there just wasn't any way it would happen, because the whole thing was contingent on that sale. But the breeder and owner wanted this to happen, so they made me an offer that was more than generous, in order to make it work. 

And now, he is here. My cup runneth over. 

The haybelly is strong with Uma. Don't worry she's had 592059593 clean fecals and dewormings... she just gets to get older so she can go into work and lose the gut.

Hybrids, hybrids everywhere!

She deserved it

Future tiny dressage prospect!

Could she be sassier. What a moole!

He is beyond what I could have hoped for. He is super friendly, quiet, and social. He is easy to catch, ties, leads, and does quite a lot of other things to boot - all the basics any 2 year old should do. He comes over for scratches and petting already, which is so much more than any of my mooles did when I first got them. He's a complete cakewalk in comparison to them. 

And he loves to drink out of the hose. How cute is that!

Inevitably, when I start talking about my beloved little hybrids, I usually get a small assortment of "why?"s. People tell me they don't get it, they don't really understand the point and they don't know why I do it. Really, I only have one answer to the whys: Why the hell not?

I don't really care what people think of my interests. I'm pretty stone now when it comes to defending the things I choose to spend my money on - they bring me enormous joy and they are useful to what I want to do, so what is even the question here? It used to upset me when people would be negative about it, but not anymore. I don't get hunters, gaited horses, or western pleasure, but people do it and enjoy it, and it isn't my money paying their bills, so why should I feel like I have a say in their joy? (Well, except maybe western pleasure. I'm pretty sure there is no joy in that discipline.)

So if you're sitting there going, why? That's basically the only answer I have for you. Because they're great, because I can afford it, and because I love them. And life is too short to not enjoy yourself, so get out there and just do you. Just do you people! Do whatever makes you happy, because in the end that's all that matters anyway.