Thursday, July 19, 2018

Our lesson recap and a show to prep for! Bad picture heavy!

It really sucks about the clinic being canceled but the lesson went well.  I also have a new show to get ready for, I think I said I am really focusing on non-event stuff this year because it is just too hard to find time to drive 6+ hours to go to a show for 2 hours. 

Warm ups!
2 hours to/from the closest venue and 45 mins one way to the barn, it really is too much driving for me at this point since I have so little time on weekends.  Things are way too busy to lose an entire weekend to showing :(

Trit trots
But that's okay, I am finding a couple of options. We had the jumper show, which was cool and I would do another one.  Up next is a new Prix Caprilli test in a dressage show. 

Some contact
What?!  I have heard of this only from Andrea  so it is cool to hear someone doing around me. 

Left canter getting better
It is basically a dressage test with a couple of jumps thrown in the middle.  How cool is that!?  I contacted the show organizer and got a copy of the test, I think I will try the 2' and 2'6" class and see how it goes.  Can't hurt right?  Has anyone ever done this before?  I am kind of excited!

Coming nicely!
The lesson went really well and it did a good job of kicking my butt, but the pics are horrible. Like seriously bad.
I swear M said this looked good
The look bad, the lighting was bad, ugh hate. So much hate but this is a documentation forum so here are pics!  M said I have improved so much in my outside rein since last time, 80% better. 

The trot is really coming along this direction
We worked on really forcing myself to keep it while forcing Mia to STAY there, apparently, I am really really good at dropping the contact as a reward to Mia.  Erm, not supposed to do that. 

When we went from canter to trot, for example, she loved the canter and as soon as Mia trotted, I stopped keeping her collected and on her hocks, letting her fall on her forehand and stretch.  So....we did a lot of that.

Contact dropping, bad rider
My pinched nerve in my shoulder is still not 100%, maybe 90%?  95%?  On Friday though, my arm became useless after all of the outside rein work.  Note to self, shoulder is not ready for that much of a workout still! 
The lighting omg
Thankfully it bounced back on Saturday and is back to about 90% "good".  Stupid getting older, why won't my body just hurry up and fix itself?!

So pretty when she wants to be!
The other piece of information that we gleaned from the lesson was that the left rein cannot be straight when it is the outside rein.

Shoulder in
Mia is using my rein as a blocking tool and not really bending her body, forcing her haunches to come in which also forces her neck to bend. 
Less of this please, ugh!
I need to open my left outside rein more to my knee for a while to help counteract some of her bracing. 

A little more of this
Once we can fix that, and we can keep the spring in her haunches that she had on Friday, we should be looking really good for a dressage test.  Fingers crossed?

More this and we may be ready for our show!

Monday, July 9, 2018

So disappointed, the clinic was canceled.

So many feelings.  I was super excited about my clinic tomorrow with Jim Wofford.  It would be the first time I had ever ridden in a clinic with a BNT (Big Name Trainer), I had put down I was going Training level and I actually felt like we were fairly ready!  Then I woke up last Monday with a burning pain over my shoulder blade.  Then it progressed to down my arm and making my arm go numb sometimes.  And the pain was a good, solid 6 to 7, and I have a pretty high pain tolerance.  I was able to do a trail ride on Weds but wasn't able to really use my left arm at all.  Whomp whomp.
From 2014

All this time, I hadn't heard about my ride times so I shot an email off to the organizer Weds to follow up.  I got a response back with approximate times, but that they were still waiting for some promised entries and the ride times would be sent out shortly. I finally went to urgent care on Thursday and was diagnosed with a pinched nerve and given Gabapentin and steroids.  *sigh*  At least that brought my pain down to a solid 3-4.  It made me giggle bc Gabapentin is what I gave App!  It just didn't do as much for him as it seems to with me.

From 2018
Then Friday afternoon, at almost quitting time, I got the dreaded email that the clinic was canceled and it may reschedule in the fall if there is enough interest.  Which tells me there weren't enough entries.  Damn it!  I did respond back letting them know to keep me on the list to notify if they do reschedule it. I mean, I was seriously on the fence on if I could even go myself, but I wanted to be the one to cancel, not them cancel on me!  Fri night SO and I went grocery shopping and walked for about 2 hours through various stores, on the way home I realized my pain had dropped to a 2.  Apparently I needed to go for a long walk!!

The good news is my arm/shoulder has remained at a solid 2-3 in pain, sometimes even a 0 to 1.  Being at the desk working makes it worse, but that is my day job so....  I have a chiro appointment tonight to see if that helps any more.  I was able to ride yesterday and while not 100%, I was good enough I COULD have ridden in my clinic tomorrow.  I am seriously bummed about the loss of my clinic but I am looking forward to the dressage lesson on Friday.  There is a tentative show on July 28 and then again on Aug 11, so fingers crossed things go well.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Jumper debut and success

Overall I was really happy with our Jumper debut.  It is no surprise that an eventer would have no issues with going over jumps at speed, it should also be of no surprise that it is hard as hell to remember the ever changing courses.

I left the house at a respectable 545a and got to the show right at 745a for the 830a show.  They were letting people go in the ring and jump things (?!?) so we took the opportunity and did the same.  Mia couldn't have possibly cared about any of the tiny little jumps, 2'3" did not impress her at all.  The first class turned out to be a speed class, the fastest won.  I was so very grateful for friendly competitors helping this stupid eventer in the classes.  I read the rules but I still wasn't super clear and it was very helpful to have someone clarify! 

Mia did well in the first round, until *cough* someone forgot the course and cut a jump way to close and knocked the jump standard over with their freshly polished boot.  It was a jump that had to be jumped again so as we were going along, people were scurrying to put it back up. Which totally distracted the rider *cough cough* and I went off course.  Ha!  Go figure. 

The second round was weird in that you did the first 6 jumps as a H/J course and then you did the last 5 jumps as a speed round.  Got it!  Again Mia did very well, she was quite adjustable and listened spectacularly, but at fence 9 she didn't half halt, jumped flat and knocked the tiny 2' jump over with her hind fetlock.  Really mare?!  Really.  It was a big canter stride and you still knocked it down?

The last class was the only one I cared about, it was a stakes class with a payback.  For this class they raised the fences to 2'6" and it helped so much.  Mia FINALLY started actually jumping the fences and taking it seriously.  For this round we did our 11 fences, stopped until they blew a whistle and then jumped the same course through the first 8 fences.  Mia put the pedal to the metal and we were clear, resulting in a nice 2nd place finish.  I really would have liked to have seen the scores and timing, I have a hard time believing someone went faster than us but hey.  2nd place was great as I got more than half of my entry fees back AND got back to the barn by 1030 AND got home before noon.  Fabulous! 

They aren't having any more shows this year, at least so far, but it is a venue I would go to again. I am actually looking at other shows around that are closer even though they are not horse trials.  I am so burned out of driving 6+ hours just to go to a show, it may not be ideal but it should help scratch the itch and not take up all of my extremely rare free weekends. 

That said, I have some big stuff coming up.  On the 10th I have a clinic with Jim Wofford, on the 13th I have a dressage lesson with M that comes to the barn once in a while.  On the 28th I have a possible local show and then Aug 11 I have another show that is at my barn.  They aren't horse trials, and I am not schooling training level xc, but it does give me something to work towards. 

We are currently melting (for PA) in high 90 degree temps, I rode Mia last night and she was not amused.  My plan is to ride first thing tomorrow morning (since I am off for the 4th) and make sure my jumping position is on point for our clinic.  Does anyone else have a case of the showing blues like I do?

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Fitness and a show

The blog may be quiet, but life is not. I am at my free-time breaking point and am doing nothing but treading water right now.  What I need is a good 8 hours of free time to do a bunch of menial tasks to get caught up, does anyone have 8 hours to lend me?

Despite the lack of free time, Mia is still being ridden 4+ times a week.  She is really developing good muscle under that heavy layer of fat (thanks spring grass).  The pasture turnout was shaken up again as three horses left the barn (App's friend was put down, one sold, one moved) and Mia's super annoying pasture mate went to his new home.  A pretty 4 yr old palamino colt is really nice to look at, but he was super mouthy, super disrespectful of space, super destructive and wanted to play with everything all of the time. I lost Mia's halter for 4 days before we FINALLY found it buried in weeds in the pasture, pretty far away from the gate where it had hung on a hook.  I've lost all tail bags as he would grab her tail and yank and play with it, resulting in holes in every bag I have/had.  The bites, scratches, and scrapes should significantly decline now that he isn't around.  As a result of the shakeup, Mia is now out by herself (for now) in a pretty big, very grassy pasture. Which is great, it is just adding to her bulk lol.  I keep reminding myself she is quite slender in comparison to the other horses lol.
We may have legit chased down a hot air balloon as it landed at the local airport
We had a couple of good rides where we really focused on our outside rein.  When I can really focus on it, we seem to have some good moments.  Keeping the focus though, well we know how that goes.  This past week we have done fitness because the trails were finally cut, Mia required a few rides before she would w/t/c fairly politely.  She was pretty certain there was no way she should be just trotting up a hill when she could gallop! It took some pretty severe rein yanks at times to stop the antics, cantering sideways, small dolphin hops, yanking on reins, she was really having fun being able to go outside of an arena.  On Sunday I actually did a conditioning ride with someone else (gasp) and not only did they survive, they said they had fun! And they apologized for being afraid to ride with me, apparently they only saw the rare occasion I did gallop sets last year and thought that I know knew how to go fast.  I worked hard to not be offended, despite being the only person/horse in a training schedule of any sort and the only horse at the barn that competes. I mean seriously.  Grrr.

In other news, since Plantation was a lost cause and my backup show was moved to July, I was thinking of signing up for a HT in New Jersey but then a hunter jumper show popped up 25 mins from my barn.  Twenty five minutes?!  I've never been to a show in PA that was that close outside of the ONE time a show was at my own barn!  As a result, Mia is going to make her Jumper debut on Sunday.  Why not, right?  It is a max of 2'6", if she can't get around a 2'6" course without taking rails then we have bigger problems lol.  She has been jumping 3' to 3'6" without even trying.  

So many jumps
We actually did a legit jump school last night, with a grid and bounces.  There was a 5 stride on an angle, a 3' panel, a pair of 2'6" bounces, a line of 3 jumps with a 1 stride between them and a 4 stride.
Mia was really awesome.  There were a couple of times she was fast and required some correction, but for the most part she was amazing and handled everything like a seasoned pro.  I am going to jump again tonight, bigger, and then tomorrow is dressage.  We have a lesson scheduled again (!!!) for July 13 so I am hopeful we have real progress to show for it.  We also are signed up for a Wofford clinic, I am SUPER excited about that!  Lots of jump schooling in our future.

Monday, June 4, 2018

All the updates

How quickly time marches on.  You blink and your horse is 25.  You blink and it is already June.  It is absolutely crazy how fast the year is going.  So with lots to catch up on, here are the highlights.

I missed the first HT of the season thanks to having to go back to MI for a friend.  Had a great visit and really missed the friends I had developed while there.  It was odd to go and have so many people want to see me despite my having so very little time.  One person came at 8a and almost 50 miles to see me at the hotel, another had me come over at 930p just so I could say hi.  Awww!  I saw TWH and he is fat thanks to great grass, but is doing so very well and is spoiled beyond belief.  I wish I had a quarter of that network here in PA.  I keep saying one day.

We had our 1st of 2 car races of the year and did well.  It was a 14 hour endurance race split over 2 days and like endurance racing with horses, to finish is to win. The first day we placed 36 of 108 and the second day we were 16th of 89 when we had a mechanical failure and spent 20 mins fixing it. We dropped to 74th before climbing back up to 46th to finish the day.  Not bad at all for people that do this for fun.

Mia has had lots of trail riding and some fitness work, but not a lot of real work.  Dressage on Tuesday went pretty well though.  One of the barn owners (who is very rarely there at night) asked to hop on and liked her but said I should focus on relaxation first.  Okay, yeah, sure I get what you are saying, but that isn't the only road to get to the goal.  The trainer that comes (very rarely) agrees that teaching her how to do it should be first because relaxation can always be taught later. It totally depends on the horse and rider.  Oh well.

I DID actually have a lesson on Friday.  The first in 4 months?  5?  Despite being a little out of shape, we had a fabulous lesson.  The instructor, M, really nailed me on my outside hand(s).  She said I have a very following outside hand which is great for the H/J ring.  And is horrible for dressage so stop it now.  LOL.  With really working on having a very firm, solid outside rein, something happened that has never happened before.  Mia's right lead canter was BETTER than her left?!?!? How the hell does that even happen!?  It was really crazy, did you know if you seriously plant your outside rein, you can keep Mia straight in the canter?  And if you let the inside rein be long, it can cause the inside seat bone to move, the outside seat bone to not be planted and can cause crookedness?  *mind blown*

She did suggest cantering over small cavalleti or ground poles to help Mia get the "why" of dressage.  She agrees that Mia couldn't possibly care less about dressage and thinks that poles may help her "get it" and enjoy it a touch more.  Adding to things to try!

We were originally going to go to Plantation on Jun 10, however, apparently they close entries 3 weeks in advance so I missed it.  Then the HT on the 10th, which was my backup, moved to July due to ground issues.  At this rate I *may*  have a show in June??  I do, however, have stuff planned in July.  I am planning on going to the backup HT that is now July 8th.  I am also planning on going to a Wofford clinic(!!!) and have the entry in an envelope to go in the mail today.  Fingers crossed!

Lastly, I had the vet out on Saturday to look at App.  He has had a small hard spot by his elbow for years, he had it in MI for example.  I noticed it was significantly bigger a few weeks ago, it is now the size of a large grape and feels tumor-y.  The vet said she thinks it is a sarcoid and doesn't want to even biospy it due to its location. She thinks if we biospy it, it could very likely get very upset and angry.  Since it is 1. in the dark, moist location of his armpit 2. fly season 3. is attached by some tissue so it would likely require extensive invasion to remove, she doesn't want to risk it oozing, seeping, rupturing, or refusing to heal with the biopsy. We are going to watch it and if it gets bigger faster, we will address it then as we would have all of those side effects anyway.  She did say, however, that he looks fabulous. She said his muscle condition is great, his legs look amazing to the point you wouldn't know he had issues if you looked only at his lower legs, his weight is fabulous and he is walking much better than last year when we had talked about possibly putting him down bc he was so uncomfortable.  Overall, a very good visit indeed.

Here's to riding, doing REAL fitness work and maybe even some jumping this weekend.  Time to refocus on riding for a while.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

The happiest of birthdays

Once upon a time, there was a long yearling brought home in a stock trailer in February 1995.  The mother had lied and said it was furniture, forcing a young 15 year old to stay up way past her self -imposed bedtime to see this furniture.  Even enlisting the brother to ensure she stayed up despite needing to be awake at 5a to catch the schoolbus.  Turns out, furniture was actually a 1.5yr old stud colt.  I always considered him my belated Valentines day present.  Would you like to take a photo journey?  Be warned, photos of photos coming so lots of quality has been lost to make this post.

Picture from the next afternoon, Feb 1995
A friend of a friend had ridden with me and a neighbor and knew of someone who was looking to rehome this yearling. He had been bought at the Sugarcreek stock sale as a weanling and they didn't have the money or resources to take care of him. He was really skinny, really wormy and didn't know how to drink out of a bucket. It took him the entire summer to drink from a bucket instead of searching out puddles.
In late 1995, my 110lb self started breaking this 2yr old stud colt. By myself. We did really well together except for his tendency to buck at the canter. One day he flipped himself over when he bucked and stepped on the reins, he never bucked again.
1995, recently gelded
Summer 1996
Sometime in late 1996, there was a big argument at the step-grandparents farm where we lived and I had to start boarding.  I rode him the 3 miles to the new barn where he stayed for about 7 months until I realized the old man was hitting horses with a 2x4 to make them stay back when he was feeding.  That was my first foray into working at a barn and there are a lot of not so great stories from there.
1996 or 1997
I borrowed a stock trailer and my mom and I trailered App over to a new place that I spent all of my high school and even some after-college time.  It had an indoor and the horses were well kept for a such low key place.

1997 or 1998
When I went away to college, I couldn't bear the thought of selling him like everyone told me I had to do.  The barn I boarded at ended up free leasing him until I graduated. I am forever grateful for them doing that for us. Apparently, he would be so ornery that they would tell him I was coming home for the weekend and he would suddenly behave. They said it happened enough times they said it couldn't possibly just be the coincidental timing of his behavior changes, he obviously missed me and simply understood when they told him I was coming and behaved. Ha!
Once graduated and I started moving, I had to find new barns and realized not all barns were good like the one I left. We had the one that didn't call the vet or even me when their horse attacked App and had a literal gouge running down his spine and a puncture in his knee. We had the one that encouraged smoking/drinking while in the barn and riding. And the old man would hit on me. We had the one who put ducks next to App and didn't care that he dropped a LOT of weight over the week bc App was so stressed over the ducks. They wouldn't move him or the ducks. We had the one who didn't care that App was standing in a literal puddle as his stall was partially flooded.  For over a week.
With age comes wisdom and I ended up finding some really good barns as well.  I ended up switching from western/trail/barrel racing to english because that is what my new friends did. I had outgrown my tiny 14 inch western saddle anyway and had been riding bareback for the past 1-2 years so it worked out.

App had his very first ever show and got 2nd place in dressage
We started playing with eventing and App loved jumping. We also started doing 90% dressage, 10% jumping however because App needed a lot more training. As did I. I started taking lessons in 2002 (yes, for the first time ever) and was told I was a very good, uneducated rider and it should be taken as a compliment. As we both received education, we both got better.

He then earned a 1st place at his 2nd ever show
From there, we jumped up to 3'6".  We went cross country.  We installed some badass dressage skills. The only times App did not place at a show was when we would do a HUS or English Pleasure class and they would canter.  Because, exciting times and all lol.  Any other time, App was always, always bringing home satin.

2005 ish
App was partial leased from approximately 2003 - 2008, at that point he required to be ridden 6 days a week in order to be productive and my time was getting less.  He loved it. He was ridden 6-7 days a week until he had his spiral fracture in his front leg at the age of 16. Thankfully, he was in such great shape that the vet said App had the bone growth of a 10 year old and App fully recovered with 6 months of stall rest.

Relaxing in MI 2013
From there we competed at BN and N only out of the abundance of concern and moved to MI where he eventually became a lesson horse and you have read our journey from there. 

Nom nom grass
After we moved to PA, my goals of bringing him back to show condition where smashed when we found that his intermittent lameness was significant bone remodeling of the shoulder joint and, at best, he would be pasture sound.
May, 2018
Last year was really hard because over the spring and summer, he was moving so badly and seemed to be so uncomfortable, I was seriously considering putting him down.  He was certainly not even pasture sound. I switched farriers and either the switch or simply time made a miraculous difference.  I think it is a combination of both. He went from so uncomfortable that he was laying down more than 50% of the time and standing under himself like a foundered horse, to his normal self again.  He even started trotting and cantering on his own again, which I hadn't seen since he left MI.

This 25 year old certainly doesn't look 25!
He is doing well now.  His hooves are balanced. I think his shoulder as fused or mostly fused. His weight is good, see above. His attitude is good, see below. He is only on Buteless Pellets, Equioxx, 20,000mg of MSM and bimonthly Pentosan.

Happy 25th birthday you goofball!
One of my favorite things is his color, he changes every single year.  He goes from really white to really red and stages in the middle. He also has stripes on his ribcage so he always looks ribby when it is literally his stripes. He has went from super dark red and black with a distinct blanket at his shoulders to a very roaned out color and most of his black is now grey.  His face went from super dark red with a star (see first pic) to almost completely white with a red streak on his nose. I think this year will be a really red year.

The bestest horse
Here's to many more years App, happy 25th birthday.  We have spent over 60% of my life together and I hope we make it many more years.  Happy Birthday!!

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Catching up part 1 - The saddle fitter

I am a horrible blogger, I know.  I have tons of media to show for K3DE but I just can't find time to make a post highlighting it.  My hope is I will have time this weekend, fingers crossed?

What's been going on these past 2 weeks?  Insanity lol.  Let's see, let's start with the week after KY.  I had a new saddle fitter out on the 3rd and OMG.  Mind blown.  Seriously.  He is in his 70's and was the saddle fitter for the US Olympic team in the 90's and the Canadian team in the 2000's.  He also does a lot of bodywork and he seriously impressed me.  First he put both saddles on Mia and showed me how they are rocking a bit, though just barely with the jumping saddle.  He felt Mia and said her left TMJ was really out and that he thinks 95% of my saddles fit can be fixed with adjusting the TMJ. Cue the skeptic in me, like seriously?

He washed his hands, grabbed Mia's lower jaw and wiggled and massaged it.  He kept doing it for well over 3 minutes.  He said she was giving lots of mini-releases but hadn't given the big one and he was about to give up and stop when she gave the release he was looking for.  She lowered her head down and yawned.  He was all "Good mare!" and she looked baffled.  She seriously had a look of complete confusion on her face and eyes and she turned her head to watch him as he went and washed his hands.  I don't know if I've ever seen that look in her eye before!  I've seen it in TWH when he had his teeth done, and I've seen it in App, but never Mia.

He said TMJ pain causes them to hold themselves differently, more stiffly, as it is like a low grade headache all of the time.  That he has taken horses that have been through 10+ medical therapy procedures and fixed them with basic bodywork.  It was sooo strange for this true skeptic to agree that there was actually something to what he did.  He then threw the saddles on and said "Look, no rocking.".  Because seriously....there was no rocking.  *slow blink* 

He then wanted to adjust my Wintec Isabell a little and put some flocking in the front.  I looked at him suspiciously, I have had two saddle fitters look at my Isabell and they both said they can't adjust it because it is a Wintec with the Cair panels.  They can't adjust air panels.  He said "Of course I can, they are made from the factory to be adjusted just like a normal saddle. A lot of fitters don't seem to realize that".  Uh, ok?  And yes, there is a slit under the flap, by the stirrup bar.  I've always seen it but didn't know what it was for.  Apparently, it is for saddle fitting adjustments. 

He put a handful of wool in both front panels to help bring the front up a little and adjusted the billet points, suddenly my girth is now about 4 inches too big.  I wrote a VERY small check and he said to call him out in about 6 months to make sure all was good.  Uh, YES I SURE WILL!  I hopped on Mia and it was weird.  She immediately took up my right rein like it was no big deal.  She never takes up my right rein like that!  The saddle certainly sits a little higher in the front and Mia seems to like it, what an absolutely fabulous, positive experience.  I will gladly pay this guy money to come out again and again.  Have you had an experience like this?  It made a believer out of this hard core skeptic.