Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Cross Country Recap Part II - The TWH

When riding the course on Saturday with the App I kept my eyes open to the jumps noticing, with dismay, most of them are pretty challenging and not level appropriate for the TWH.  I chatted about this with the instructor and she didn't seem nearly as concerned, she thought there were plenty of jumps that would work. Saturday night was a blur of chores, seeing the boarder off with a new owner and falling into bed exhausted and wondering where the heck the day went. 

Sunday I awoke without near the enthusiasm as Saturday morning and found nicely sore shoulders.  Stretched my legs, just fine, stretched my arms, fine but those shoulders.  Every move was painful so down the hatch went an Aleve and some Advil.  Loaded up and headed out right on schedule.  SO was  nice enough to let the TWH graze on lush green grass as I checked in and got set up, he was gobbling that grass up.  We headed to ride and I realized not only are the shoulders sore, it appears as though my seat bones took a beating too and are voicing their protest.  Ugh!

We did a lot of warmup work, both for him and myself.  The instructor said I was painful to watch because I appeared to be so stiff and sore, blah!  Worked on stretches and relaxing and stretching and stretching until things were finally loose and we were ready to go.  The instructor set up a vertical at about 2'3" and said to pop over it.  I admit, I didn't actually see the height of the jump until the approach as she was setting it up as we were making a ginormous circle to the jump and I should have checked it.  We always start really small for the TWH and his tiny little brain and then move up.  We approached the jump forward and confident and then IT happened.  My boy who has never refused and is so honest pulled up at the very last second and refused.  First time in his life, to say I was surprised is an understatement.  The picture of it shows my face saying "WTH?!?".  After some very bad words and some pretty big frustrations vented we popped him over a crossrail and then back to a vertical and had a good warmup.

Too bad I have to work, there is GREEN grass!
We went and looked at a promising jump to start going cross country but I dismissed it as too big.  The instructor wanted us to jump a big ol log that the App and I had started with the day prior.  We walked over to it and showed him the jump and while he was slightly spooky he wasn't bad.  I picked up a nice forward canter and approached the log.  I rode very defensively with lots of leg and he did IT again.  He refused and tried to run out to the right  The picture?  Well my face shows a bit more of "WTF you MF'r" this time instead of total confusion.  We tried it a second time with even more leg and some growling and again he refused.  I told the instructor I was not going to present it a third time, I have a horse that hasn't ever refused and I am appalled he has started, we were going to find easier, smaller things as I was not going to let this refusing become a habit.

But mom, the water is cold!
We went and played in water, he found he could not only trot but also canter in water.  We were also successful in getting him to jump both in and out of water from a small bank. (Yay!  First xc jump!)
Big boys can jump in and out of water.  I am a big boy!
 We moved on and popped over a small log and then a small ditch.  He was being rock solid again so we decided to try jumping over a bigger ditch that the App had done yesterday.  After some intense encouragement he "jumped" it, landing feet first resulting in my ALMOST coming off.

Are you crazy lady?!?
Success however, working on my position this past week I think saved me as I was able to stay on.
Phew that was scary
We did it a few more times and while he would stop before jumping, he did in fact go over it so that made me happy.  We meandered over to some steps and I was curious if we could get him to go up and down them.  Steps are things you normally only see in eventing and I think they are damn cool.  When the App went up them yesterday the first pass he jumped the first one and then stopped.  He forgot he had other things to jump, it was funny.  A swift kick and he jumped the other two steps and then we didn't have an issue.  I brought the TWH to the steps and walked the zig-zag up them and then pushed him down the tiniest part of them to get him to understand what I was asking.  Finally got the nerve to point him at the stair and he jumped it!
Love this pic.  A little awkward but you can see he is giving a great effort
We were able to go up and down all of the steps, I was quite proud.

I guess I will be an eventing horse yet!
We were finishing the day over some small hay bales and subsequent wood pile, including trying again to get me to fall off by tripping immediately after the wood pile jump, when I decided we were having a good day.  Why don't we try that log again.  That one he refused.  He hasn't offered to refuse since, I want to end on a good note but I felt pretty positive his confidence was where it should be to jump it.  We looked at the log again and went to it and soared over it.  He jumped it like it was over 3 feet high but there was no thoughts of refusal.  I have no picture of the actual jump, this is the best I have.

I can jump logs!  I just have to be convinced first.
We learned a lot on Sunday.  We learned that despite all of our progress we do in fact have to take it slow with our white wonder.  We have to start small and build his confidence up and that he will refuse if presented with a question he doesn't think he can answer.  I don't know if I will bring him next month, I think it would be better to work on gymnastics and height and then maybe try again in June.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Cross Country Recap Part I - The App

I was very excited to go cross country this weekend, I haven't gone XC in a couple of years and I sure have missed it.  I have done a couple hunter paces a couple years ago but last year was such a loss due to moving, I didn't get to do much of anything.  I got the trailer all hooked and loaded up on Friday because, you know, I just couldn't wait and I even awoke on Saturday a full 20 mins before the alarm was set to go off at 7a.  I got all of the horses taken care of, fed and turned out quickly and without any issues.  I wrapped the App, loaded up and was able to head out by 830a.  I am very happy the place I went is only 25 mins away, that means it means very little drive time and lots more time for horse activities.  I really hate driving long distances, especially just to go to a show.  I will flat out refuse to go to a show that is more than 1.25 hours away, I just don't see how that makes a good use of my time.

SO and I got to the farm and I was amazed, it is so beautiful, lots and lots of green, grassy, rolling hills.  Lots of mature trees, board fence pastures, a barn that was older and looked very lived in but was very clean and well maintained.  I unloaded and went to the "clubhouse" to check-in, I chatted with the property owner and she was very nice.  She even offered to take me on a golf cart tour of the grounds so I knew where I was going when I was schooling.  She pointed out the fences for the different levels, she pointed out the sloppy and muddy spots, she even pointed out a couple of nice jumps I would have probably missed if I had been on my own.  I had a really good time chatting with her and am very thankful she took the time to show me around.  It make the experience much more enjoyable.

I mounted up and my instructor and I went to warm up.  My photographer, aka the SO, turned to me and said "Uh, where are your keys?".  I said they were in the truck, probably in the ignition.  He informed me that he must have locked the truck at some point and locked both sets of our keys in there.  As a result, unfortunately I have zero pictures of our ride because SO had to wait an hour for AAA to arrive.  I do have a single video of our last ride, I will see what I can do about uploading it.

We warmed up and the App was his typical "firecracker on a pogostick" self.  It was nice because I am fairly certain the instructor thought I was crazy when I described his insane behavior since he is so laid back in the arena.  Thus we had lots of transitions, lots of bending, lots of trying to get him to stretch his neck down.  Needless to say 30 mins later and some tired, tired shoulders later we were ready to go.  We popped over our first log and didn't look back.  We trotted and cantered in and out of water, we jumped up big banks out of water, jumped down big banks into water, we jumped over a log into water (a first!) and jumped a small course that included water.  We jumped some big jumps, we jumped really wide jumps, we jumped deep ditches, we jumped big logs, we had such a great time.  My App is rock solid, he is such a great eventer. My only regret is I didn't start eventing 5 years sooner.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Position, Position, Position!

Things are always crazy around here.  Had a good lesson last weekend, we worked on jumping and position and helping the instructor get to know each horses' abilities as well as my own.  With Chip she had us jump a wide oxer at 2'3" (no problem), then had us jump it at an angle (no problem), then made it a really wide oxer, like 9 feet wide (no problem).  THEN she tried to kill us.  She moved the jump about 2.5 strides away from the wall and had us jump it at an angle, and we had to make a square corner and go straight into the jump at a canter.  So we had a stride to turn, a stride to set up and then take off over a 2'6" 6 foot wide oxer.  At one point we clipped/jumped into the standard and I thought we were going down but my boy kept us up and going.  We ended on a really good note and we had a good time.  The only thing I would like to do more is repetition, if we "get" something she says good and moves onto something else.  Personally I like to practice a couple of times but I guess that's why I can practice outside of a lesson.

I rode Sinatra as well, we introduced bounces to an oxer.  I think we really taxed his jumping ability/knowledge, I haven't made it that far in my gymnastics training so I don't think he has the best foundation for what we did but we did it anyway.  He hit a lot of the poles and he can't adjust his striding, I need to bring him back a step and progress in gymnastics.  He did, however, give forth a fantastic effort and he is so honest about jumping so we ended the lesson very pleased.

The biggest thing I took away from the lesson is that my position sucks.  I basically took a year off from jumping due to the move and due to a move to a new barn that had exactly 2 standards.  That is a poor excuse but it is my current reason.  I can tell it shows, I am collapsing over a jump, rounding my back, heels coming up, hands not going forward, being left behind, I am just not pleased.  I almost came off twice last weekend, once per horse.  Chip due to severely overjumping after not meeting the jump correctly, the instructor swore I was coming off.  Sinatra due to random spookiness where suddenly he was 2 feet left of where he was .5 seconds ago.

This morning I drug my tired butt out of bed at 5a, despite massive thunderstorms that woke me up at 1a and made me go outside to close the stall doors of the horses, and rode Chip.  I set up a small 2 foot oxer with a placing pole before and after and simply schooled it.  Again and again and again until I started to feel my position come back.  Finally I stopped rounding my back and kept my heels down.  Bumped the oxer up to 2'6" and jumped it.  Perfectly.  I kept my position.  Finally.  We schooled it a dozen times both straight and at an angle.  Chip did try to help with my position by encouraging me to come off a couple of times, his enthusiasm for helping me did not go unnoticed, unwanted and not unnoticed, but I stayed on like a champ and didn't feel unsecure either time.  I think I am finally ready for cross country schooling this weekend!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Blind but better

So this past weekend I noticed one of my barn cats was a little more lethargic than normal, she is the one that always chases the twine I cut off of hay bales and who brings me most of the dead animals.  Seeing her on the tractor in the morning and night was a little unusual but I didn't notice anything "wrong" so left her alone.  When I fed Tuesday night, however, I could tell something was wrong right away.  She was on the tractor seat resting but her eyes were white.  She felt like she had a slight temperature and didn't eat all of her can of food, very abnormal for her.  I called the vet and scheduled an appointment for Wednesday, by the time I was done feeding I couldn't find her.  Wednesday morning I still couldn't find her, spent the entire morning, about 2 hours, calling for her to no avail.  I made the abnormal decision to fill PM hay nets for the next day and ta-da!  She simply appeared, white, blind eyes and all.  It was obvious she couldn't see so I brought her in the house and kept her in my office until it was time for the vet.

At the vet office they asked if she had been tested for FeLV and I advised I didn't know, she would have been fully vaccinated when she was spayed last Aug and she was vaccinated again when everyone got spring shots in March.  They said it was most likely FeLV, FIP, FIV or Lymphoma, I immediately thought of the damn stray cat that has been hanging around.  We finally caught him on Sunday and relocated him but he was definitely sick with at least a URI.  Did he give her something?  If he made her sick we didn't have him anymore to euth, he could make other cats ill, damn!  I had them do an in-house test for FeLV and FIV both of which, thankfully, came back negative.  They sent out blood for the FIP and a CBC to check for lymphoma.

Finally got the call this morning that her white blood count is very slightly elevated and while the FIP test came back positive, it came back as 1 in 100 which means she doesn't necessarily have FIP.  Just that she has been exposed to the corona virus that can cause FIP.   They said it is a viral infection of some kind and are keeping her on an antibiotic and steroid for 8 days, she should start regaining her sight and have the haze 50% gone in about 4 days.  She is already much better in the energy department and I think she can now see shadows.  Hopefully she recovers quickly and without incident, she is a really nice cat and I was seriously dreading the thought of having to put her down.  Besides, there are lots of moles making new tunnels and I am sure she needs to kill them.  This is how my barn cat cost me over $150 and lots of worry, but I think she is worth it.  She has definitely earned her keep around here (unlike my other cats!).

Patches says Hi, I like to kill things!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Things change fast around here

Gone are the 70+ days, we are stuck back in the 50's and the mornings are in the 20's and 30's.  It sucks because I was all geared up for spring.  Things are going well though.  But things are changing fast, it appears LogDog Acres is open for business faster than I planned.

On Monday I received an email from my (old?) riding buddy, she said she has been out of town and was leaving on Tuesday to go to Europe.  Her horse, a semi retired App, was not doing so great.  His leasee hadn't been taking care of him like she was supposed to and then told my ridding buddy they were moving out of state at the end of March, giving her 2.5 weeks to make arrangements.  She got him and put him in a boarding barn and went out of town.  It appears as though this boarding barn wasn't feeding him adequately and she was worried since she was going out of the country.

I re-extended an offer I made a while ago, offering to board him here until she got things rearranged.  She is trying to sell/give him away and until then plans on putting him in her roommates parent's pasture but they aren't ready for another horse right now.  She jumped on the opportunity of my boarding him and so I picked him up Monday night.  He is currently only scheduled to be here until the end of the month, we will see if he stays longer.  He is pretty thin, probably a 3 on the BCS but seems to be a very mild mannered horse.

My biggest concern with him is that he doesn't eat as much as I expected him to.  He is a 16 hand (if not more, I should stick him.  Taller than the TWH who is 15.3) breeding stock appy and should weigh about 1200 lbs. He has a hay net with 3/4 of a bale of hay, a hay bag with 3 flakes and is getting 3/4 of a bucket of soaked hay cubes with 1.5 cups of 10% (95% oats) sweet feed.  He maybe ate 3 total flakes last night and only half of his mush.  This morning he didn't eat any of his mush.  He doesn't look wormy and the owner said he had his teeth checked last fall.  Hoping he hurries and gets an appetite, I feel bad he is so skinny.  Animals here have a hard time being skinny and I would like for that trend to continue.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Busy weekend completed

The weather was fabulous this weekend resulting in the ability to get a ton of outside stuff done.  We ended up with a list of 32 items we need to do "at some point" and we got 17 of them accomplished.  Also finished some things that were not even on the list, go me.  What did we do?  Well....  Powerwash horse trailer which includes removing/washing the mats and put it back together, use the chipper and clean brush from flowerbed, clean out flowerbed, reinforce chains on arena door to prevent donkey escapees, grade driveway, dump poo box, clean arena of poo thanks to turnout, trim/start pruning the overgrown apple tree and much much more. 

I had a really good lesson again yesterday, jumped both boys and I was impressed with each.  I wanted to slowly introduce new types of jumps to Sinatra so he wouldn't be too frazzled when we go XC schooling in 2 weeks.  I brought a big tree branch in to jump as a start, we also jumped a corner for the first time and set up a mini course.  He was so great about going over all these new things without second guessing or doubting his ability.  I was quite impressed when we went over the corner the first time, since we hadn't done a "real" oxer before I was nervous of him handling it.  He went to it, looked at it hard and jumped it.  He had the ability to run out to the left and chose not to.  Great boy!  The biggest downside of our ride is we were having our randomly spooky moments and once I almost came off.  We were riding down the long side at a relaxed walk and suddenly he was a couple feet away from the wall.  Stayed on but it was interesting.  He got a good hosing and a good roll afterward.

Chip was pretty good as well, he loves to jump but was being lazy.  We were attempting to do raised cavalletti in the form of bounces on a circle.  He was only giving half attempts, not always cantering/jumping through them but instead trotting or just cantering and not actually jumping thus knocking them down but in the end we got some good efforts.  I also had her put up a 2'6" jump for practice since I haven't jumped that in forever.  He seems to have his old habit back of hanging his legs instead of bringing his knees up.  At one point I, again, almost came off, Chip majorly over jumped the jump after meeting the distance incorrectly.  I was slightly ahead, he over jumped, trainer thought I was coming off but I was able to stay on.  We went over the jump a few more times and made it a wide oxer until he was jumping correctly and called it a day.  He also got a good hosing and a good roll to finish the day.  It looks like high bounces will be in Chip's near future to fix his hanging legs, gotta get more standards!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Let us introduce the last member of our cast

The last member of our group is the App.  We go back a long way, I got him when he was about 1.5 years old and I was in high school.  I had recently moved to Ohio from New England with my mother and we lived on my step-grandparents cattle farm with my step father.  They had 2 horses, including the very first horse I called mine (though she wasn't and she was sold without letting me buy her) but my mother wanted me to have my own horse.

We lived waaaayyy out in the boonies, I was the very first student to be picked up on the bus and the bus came at 6:15am.  I had to be up at 530a to get ready for school every morning, which I did by myself while everyone else enjoyed sleep.  One night my parents were going to get "furniture" with the livestock trailer and told me I had to stay awake until they got back.  At 10p I tried desperately to go to sleep but my brother made sure I stayed awake.  At 1045p they finally got back and I promptly tried to go to bed.  My mom insisted I absolutely HAD to come see the furniture they had gotten even though it was Feb, cold, late and I had school in the morning.  I went outside and, to this day clearly remember, walking around the back of the open trailer door and seeing a horse.

As a 2 yr old (ish)
Surprise, the furniture turned out to be an underweight, wormy little stud colt in the middle of a bad growth spurt.  He was determined to be about 1.5 years old when he was gelded, the people who had him had bought him from an auction as a weanling and couldn't afford him anymore.  A friend of a friend of a friend knew I wanted a horse and arrangements had been made without my being aware.  The poor thing was about 100lbs underweight, didn't know how to drink out of a bucket and was petrified to go in a barn.  We blindfolded him to get him in a stall and thus we began our life.  At 3 I had to start boarding him and discovered just how bad some places can be.  Stealing your grain and making your horse thin?  Check.  Hitting your horse making him headshy?  Check.  Stealing your brushes?  Check.  Missing fly mask, saddle pad, misc tack? Check.
The stripes that have followed us to this day,
making him look ribby but they are just color.
 I was able to find a cheap but well managed barn where he spent a good part of his life.  We rode mostly trails and tried barrels because that's what a friend did.  Finally gave up barrels because he was almost to the point of uncontrollable, go figure right?  Teenage kid with absolutely no training, no trainer to ask questions to, no internet to research things, just me, my friend and books.  It worked out in the end, we rode trails and roads. The barn owner leased him while I went to college and I kept him back at that barn when I moved back to the area.  Outgrew my western saddles and rode bareback for a couple of years until I moved back into the city, a new friend rode english.  Would I like their old saddle?

He was 4 or 5, love the years he was more white
With much hesitation and fear I traded in my western gear and shanked bit for a loose ring snaffle and english saddle.  We encountered runaways, had to relearn how to canter and not gallop away, cross tying, proper trailer loading and started to learn eventing.  We focused on the dressage as we needed it the most, we would fly over anything I pointed to and fly we did.  Learning strong, fast halting after the jump fixed the rushing and we started showing and winning!

Taken back in 02 or 03
In 2009 he fractured his right front leg thanks to Sinatra.  I watched it happen, they were out playing and he took a wide bite out of Sinatra's butt.  Sinatra took offense and kicked and missed.  He took offense at Sinatra's offense and did it again and Sinatra kicked again except this time he connected.  Sinatra had hind shoes on and I heard the kick from almost 150ft away.  They ran around for a moment but the App came straight over to me with a limp.  We cleaned out the cut but after a day we could tell something else was wrong, he had a spiral fracture on his radius bone. The vet said he recovered so well because he he was so fit and in shape, he had the bone growth of a 10 yr old.  4 months of stall rest and 2 months of handwalking he made a full recovery.

Much to his extreme dismay, he is not in fact retired.
 He's getting old and moody but he's my main man.  I really hope we can successfully show first level this year, we'll see how it goes.  We've come a long way and have a lot of years left.  Let me introduce you to Chip.

Monday, April 4, 2011

So much success

As a bad blogger I haven't posted in almost a week but things have been hectic I tell ya.  I successfully rode almost every day last week and that is truly remarkable since I've only been riding a couple of times a week since I moved here.  I am really hoping to keep it up, it is hard when I don't have someone to keep me company.  I don't see anyone all day, I like to see people at night and if I ride I don't see anyone. 

Had a pretty good lesson yesterday, rode the App in dressage and he was great.  Fantastic would have been if he had stopped screaming for his buddies, something he hasn't done in almost 3 weeks, but it is still progress.  We were able to get him relaxed and fairly forward within about 30 mins.  He carried himself nicely and didn't make me fight him the entire ride.  Progress indeed!  I rode the TWH in jumping and we did well.  He is obviously still green, thanks to my break from jumping last year, but he is figuring things out and is actually using that tiny little brain of his.  We ended on a 2 foot one stride with canter poles with the plan of introducing bounces next weekend.  It is out of sync with my training plan/book but since I don't have many jumps I suppose I can't actually do the next step in my book so this will work sufficiently.  Yay us!

In more good news I went and met with the gaited gal I took a lesson from a few weeks ago.  She showed me how to long line and we clicked really well.  She is working with a 6yr old Icelandic stallion who is a problem child, he actually broke a vertebra in her back in January-eek.  He was a fairly good horse and will make an even better gelding when he visits the gelding bus in a few weeks.  After playing with him (and ALL his hair, omg that horse had more mane/forelock than I think I have ever seen on a horse) we went to another farm and visited her horse and the barn owners.  The barn owners are trail riders and are open to my joining them for a trail ride.  I am excited to have made yet another contact, I really hope they want to ride and can introduce me to more people. 

The biggest letdown is I seem to have lost my riding buddy.  She had to get her horse out of a bad situation and then got sick, she hasn't been out for almost 3 weeks and I haven't heard from her in a week despite sending a couple of emails.  Hoping I get another riding buddy soon, I just want someone to ride with.  Where are all the teenagers of my years, who can't afford a horse but would love to just come ride someone else's horse?  I've had someone offer to ride only if I pay them and someone ask if the horses are for sale.  Um, no, they aren't for sale and  I don't need anyone to train them.  I just want someone to get them/keep them in shape, ugh.  Anyone in mid-Michigan want to ride a horse??