Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Step forward and yet a step back

The days are flying by as we prepare for the end of the year.  I have been riding a lot lately, in comparison to normal anyway, and have been riding 3-4 days a week.  Yay me!  I have been working really hard on riding the TWH to get him up to speed so we can start working on the real tasks at hand, getting his dressage up there and then refocus on our jumping efforts.  The App has also been ridden a good bit, RB4 has come out pretty regularly to ride with me and between her and giving lessons, he is also being ridden about 4 times a week.  Despite the extra riding he is still gaining weight and I won't have to buy another bag of rice bran supplement when this is done.  Wahoo!  Getting the App to gain weight when winter starts is hard, once he has his winter weight he is typically good.  Last year was really bad so I am happy that his year he is gaining without a fight.

Riding the TWH has been about a 50/50 split between bareback riding and saddle riding though a lot of the saddle riding has been stirrup-less as well.  My seat has came back and I think I am almost as secure as I used to be in the saddle which is fantastic.  We have been working on riding in a bridge and keeping in him the outside rein which is hard for both of us.  Last Monday I was able to get him in the outside rein after only a few dozen circles and while we had our moments, especially in the trot, he is doing better.  Lots of transitions from canter to trot were worked on and they are... coming along.  RB4 did notice that he was a little off looking in his right front, like he was flicking his foot, but I couldn't see when I put him on a lunge line so I worked him to make it better or worse.

Last Tuesday I rode bareback with RB3 and was quite pleased with myself.  The TWH worked pretty well and despite a couple of arguments in regards to consistent contact in the outside rein, we had a good ride.  On Thursday I had a lesson with H and I was quite excited, I was ready to show off my rediscovered seat and all the work I had done with the TWH.  As we warmed up, however, it was clearer that something was amiss.  H confirmed, the TWH is lame and wasn't working out of it.  DANG IT horse!.  I took some video to try to find the root cause and swapped horses and hopped on the App.

I hadn't ridden the App in several weeks, he has been being ridden by everyone else while I was working on getting the TWH back into shape.  It was pretty obvious to as while the App did a pretty good job, he was a bit resistant to the sudden request of accurate movements.  H said it best in that he has quickly adjusted to doing what he wants because nothing is really being asked and he is okay with that.  Ohh, Appy.  I went and grabbed an encouragement stick/whip and tried again.  While he wasn't trying very hard to push his hocks under himself when doing lateral movements, and was instead gliding over with his shoulders, his trot became fantastic and was beautiful.  We worked on some oval figure 8's, where he pushes his haunches around the top of the oval instead of moving his shoulders, some canter transitions (need work!  He is absolutely doing things the way he wants) and some extended trot before calling it a night.  Overall I am very happy with the ride as with no prep, the App performed well.

When I lunged the TWH last night he looked sound so I will try riding him tonight to tell.  If he is still lame he gets until Friday off and then we call the vet.  Progress made, hopefully progress not lost.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Driving Ms Daisy

My goal is that by the end of the year I would like to be driving my donkey in a cart.  Will I reach that goal?  I have absolutely no idea but it is what I am working towards.  My aim is for the donkey to be able to give cart rides for Christmas.  Lofty goal, I agree.

I broke out the harness and decided to work with the donkey, much to her annoyance if you read the flick of her tail.  It is so funny watching her pout, she sticks her head down with her ears out to the side and is all angst teenager-ish.  I brought her into the arena, harnessed her up and worked on ground driving first.  She is getting much, much better.  I no longer worry about her taking off (and when she does, it is really easy to control), she turns, halts and backs with relative ease and while she still gapes her mouth at times, she is getting better about holding her bit and is still very soft in the bridle.  She is being driven in a simple spoon snaffle.  I am trying to get her to halt by voice command instead of rein pressure, she halts with very light rein pressure but just doesn't always stop with a Whoa.  We just need more practice I guess.

After we warmed up I tied a pole onto her tugs and tied it onto the loops for the traces.  Last time we pulled poles I had used a surcingle and not her harness so this was the first time she would pull with her breastcollar.  While she did have some "donkey scoot" moments, she did really well and did better with turning then last time.  Since she was doing so well I went ahead and hooked up a second pole to her so she was now in "shafts".  Her first walk with them was a bit quick, she tried to scoot away and was fairly concerned about having something behind her on both sides.  Some reinforcing butt scratches when she was correct goes a long way while driving her.

It took a bit of encouragement to continuatlly go forward when she had two poles, she went from walking when asked to now needing a flick of a whip to get her to move forward.  She also started stopping a lot too.  Almost anytime we were by the arena gate she was stopping (despite having NEVER stopped by the arena gate while we have worked) and it was a 50/50 shot of her stopping while we walked down the long side of the arena.  If we were changing direction or going in a circle she wouldn't stop.  Strange donkey.  I worked her almost a full 30 minutes before I let her be done, longer then I normally work her and she seemed miffed about it.  In the end though, she went an entire lap around the arena (cutting the corner by the arena gate so we didn't start an argument) without stopping and while she didn't stop when I said Whoa, she only required a very light pull on the reins to halt.  I unharnessed her in the arena and then led her straight to dinner, I think she forgave me at that point.

Perhaps this weekend I will do this again, she obviously needs more time with the poles.  She is starting to figure out how to turn in them but she certainly needs more exposure.  After she pulls the poles a couple more times I will try dragging a tire behind her for additional weight and noise before I hook her to the cart.  Only 4 weekends left, can I meet my goal???

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

All about the balance

The holidays went fairly smoothly here, the SO's side of the family invaded our house and we had 13 people here on Thanksgiving.  As a result there was some chaos but it was fairly well contained and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves.  We have also had our first snow of the season and as I look out my window I see a light coating of snow on the ground for the third day in a row.  Just enough to coat the grass while about a third of the grass still sticks through.  It snowed about a half inch on Sunday and has dwindled since, not going away like I would prefer.  Blech, I may not like winter but at least everyone has their heated water buckets, winterizing the chicken coop and pasture is complete and our firewood is cut, split, stacked and seasoned.  At least I am ready for it.

So.  What have I done the past two weeks?  Well, I have been really busy.  Between lessons, preparing for company, having company and cleaning I haven't had time to do much.  I have, however, been able to sneak in a couple of rides!  After my last jumping ride, where it hurt to even walk the next day, I realized I need to get back in shape and round is not the appropriate shape.  I also need to get my bad leg back to where it is supposed to be.  My right knee is obviously weaker than my left knee and I need to fix that.  The best way I have found to build muscle is either two point or bareback so I chose bareback this time.  I had ridden the App bareback a little while ago and did okay, I haven't ridden the TWH bareback since about 2009 so he was my choice.

I was pretty impressed when the TWH stood nice and still while I hopped on, with his randomly spooky nature I half expected him to move around while I was clamoring aboard.  We started at a nice walk and I tried riding in a bridge like H had suggested in our last lesson, it went pretty badly.  The TWH was above the bit, fighting with me and was certainly not in the outside rein.  Since I had no plan other than to work on myself, I switched gears and spent almost a half hour working on nothing but the walk, pushing the TWH into the outside rein.  It did take a while but with a lot of bending, pushing and reminding the TWH stopped hanging on the inside rein and stayed in the outside rein.  He isn't perfect at it but once he gets onto the outside rein I am successfully able to ride him in a bridge!  Success!

Once I had him pretty firmly in the outside rein I picked up some trot to the right and I was horrified.  Mortified!  I started bouncing around, was off balance and tried to fall off!  I was very happy no one was around to see the mess I was being and after several attempts of going right I switched direction and started going left.  How had I let my riding get so bad?  Had I not ridden bareback in that long?  I know the TWH is harder to ride because his movement is much more exaggerated then the App's but still, I was embarrassed at myself.  I started to the left and, after getting the TWH back into the outside rein, I asked for a trot and it was... good.  Huh?  There was no bouncing, no flopping, no balance issues.  After a second lap, puzzled, I turned around and went right again, how was I so different?  About a half lap into the the right circle I realized the difference, my right/inside leg was not doing it's job.  Instead of securing me to the horse, it was taking a siesta!  Bad leg!!!

I spent the rest of the ride forcing my right leg to activate and it was a lot harder then I expected.  As soon as I stopped thinking "Leg!", it would stop doing it's job.  Once activated by thinking "Leg!", however, my flopping, bouncing and unbalanced self disappeared and I was once again riding correctly.  Go figure.  Lots of transitions and circles to the right later I called it a night, the TWH had earned his dinner.  I rode bareback on the TWH again last night and the difference was amazing.  While I still had to force my bad leg to work, it worked much better than my previous ride and I wasn't embarrassed to have anyone see me ride lol.  It has been a pretty amazing light bulb moment, suddenly realizing just how little my right leg was doing.  I am now back on track and hopefully I will fix this problem quickly.  Nothing a little bareback riding won't fix right?!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Two days of two point = out of shape confirmation

Was it beautiful this past weekend where you were?  It was here, it reached the mid 60's, had a light breeze, was sunny and dry.  I was successful in getting a LOT accomplished, from climbing up the tallest ladder here to clean the arena gutters of the dead leaves, moving the chickens to their winter spot and giving them a light to hopefully kick start their egg laying again to powerwashing the trailer for winter, the beautiful weekend gave plenty of opportunity to get winter necessities done.  It also gave me an opportunity to ride, something I didn't totally expect and while I *could* have filled the time with more chores I instead chose to ride.

Sunday afternoon I pulled the TWH out of the pasture and made the decision to ride in the jumping saddle.  I have endurance issues when going into two point/jumping position but I am determined to get better so I could start doing fun things like jumping.  We rode the 3 mile loop and I worked a good bit on getting the TWH to trot, since I have been riding with others when I ride the loop I typically ride the App.  The people who tend to ride the TWH don't insist on a trot and let him go at whatever gait he is comfortable with.  As a result we had a few "discussions" of mostly pulling to a halt and backing a step whenever he decided he wanted to switch gaits at random.  It took several corrections but he decided it was easier to give me the gait I asked for instead of what he wanted.  It was such a gorgeous ride, too bad I didn't get to do that much this year.  About 25% of the ride was done in two point and come Monday I could certainly feel it.  My muscles were certainly telling me I had done a bit much however there was no time for recuperation, I had someone coming over to ride!

Last night I had someone trailer her horse over, she is someone that has taken lessons from H as well and we are fairly close to the same level of riding.  She has a big TB that she does Beginner Novice eventing with and I have seen her ride a couple of times.  We started out doing  basic W/T/C and I worked pretty hard on getting the TWH to give me the correct gait when asked, he is still having issues in the canter with it being more pacey than pantering.  Still have homework to do!  Her horse was very well behaved and we didn't have any issues riding together, yay!  After a good warmup I put up a one stride line of jumps, having two crossrails at 18" and 20".

The first time I pointed the TWH over the line I kept lots of leg on but he told me there was no need, he jumped the line like he hadn't just had 7 months off from jumping.  Success!  I certainly need to work on two point a little more however jumping went really well even after we bumped it up in height.  At the end of the ride we had a 2' crossrail and a 2'6" vertical.  The TWH did knock the poles down a couple of times, one time was because he tried gaiting into the line, missed the takeoff spot for the first jump and wasn't able to save the second jump since he was so out of whack.  On the plus side, he still tried to go through and didn't even think of refusing.  That is a huge success for him in my book!  The 2'6" jump was about a 50/50 mix of good and bad jumping efforts, there were times when you wouldn't have really even known you went over a jump because he was so smooth and seamless, other times you felt him really rock back and push off of his hocks, other times he stumbled over the line and hit the pole.  Overall it was a VERY good ride and I am very pleased with how he behaved.

I need more work on my two point, it was much better over jumps than I expected but it is glaringly obvious that I need to work at it more.  Collapsing over the jump, not folding at the hips, being left behind when the TWH missed his mark, all things that fresh practice will fix.  It felt so good to jump after so long, it has been April since I jumped last.  This morning, on the other hand, it doesn't feel so good as my body is putting a pretty good protest over my actions the past two days.  I am not sure if I will ride tonight but already have plans to ride on Thursday with RB4.  Maybe the new girl will want to keep coming back out and will be a new RB, perhaps RB5, here's to hoping for a new RB5 and continued non-injured days for me!

Friday, November 2, 2012

A new gait, brought to us by our TWH

The hunter pace last weekend was very nice, just a bit windy.  The TWH had gotten a bath on Thursday and it was a hard gamble that he wouldn't roll and/or become a filth monster before our ride on Sunday but thankfully it paid off!  When I went out Sunday morning he had used a pile of poo as a pillow for his withers but the rest of him was clean(ish) so after a quick application of Miracle Groom, we were ready to go.  I had a clean looking cream colored horse!

I met up with RB3 and a friend of hers and we went out as a team of three and had a great time.  It was pretty windy and chilly, with it only being in the low 40's, but since we moved out at a trot/gait/canter for most of the ride we stayed pretty warm.  I was very thankful I had brought my insulated gloves and ear wrap and had also worn my insulated breeches though.  The ride was about 50% woods, 30% roads and 20% fields, it was also 50% shorter than the summer ride due to lack of volunteers. We cantered most of the road parts and I even push the TWH into a nice gallop at one point, he is so easy to ride!  While I wasn't getting the "rocking horse" canter, his canter is extremely smooth and not bouncy, just a big swinging couch.  I was a little disappointed in the length of the ride, it took just under an hour instead of over 2, but it was very beautiful and they give out cookies and cider so it was still well worth it lol.  The TWH did well in the front and in the middle of the pack and despite wanting to go-go-go when the front horse would take off cantering, he listened really well and made it a very nice ride.  He even went over the couple of jumps I pointed him at, not refusing although he did require a tremendous amount of leg.  Go TWH!

Last night I had my first lesson in months, it has been since I believe June since I last took a lesson.  I wanted to work mostly on my position though we worked the TWH pretty hard too because H said my position is pretty dang good.  She said I wasn't leaning nearly as far forward as I seem to think I am and my position has greatly improved since I started taking lessons last year.  Success!  Still need to work on keeping my hands even closer, stop looking down so much and she wants me to try to start riding with bridged reins, currently it is all but impossible with the TWH but I will start trying.

The TWH is very obviously out of shape for w/t/c work and he did try but he dropped and switched his gait a lot.  H kept saying how amusing he is to watch because he is SO different.  She said he has all the right parts and does things like have awesome hip swing and overstride but it is done in the wrong way so while he may look great he isn't using himself correctly.  We have a long way to go to get the trot back to being solid and then get him to push off of his big ol hind end.

At the end of the ride we finally started working on the canter, a gait the TWH likes to use in avoidance of hard trot work.  The TWH is obviously strung out, on the forehand, a bit unbalanced and requires a lot of push to stay in gait since he hasn't been worked hard all year (stupid broken me). While H was watching our canter she said she finally figured out why he is looking so strange.  Our beloved TWH appears to have created himself a new gait, we have christened it the Panter.  This is a solid 3 beat gait that looks like a canter but instead of the footfall being left hind, right hind/left fore then right fore it is left hind/left fore, right hind, right fore.  He is pacing with his outside legs and cantering with the inside legs.  Really horse?  We made several examples and change directions, discussed it for a while, called it a night and I went to work searching on old footage.  Certainly he couldn't have been doing this all along, this is obviously because he is out of shape right?  This morning it was confirmed, he has been Pantering this whole time.  *le sigh*.  Not sure how to proceed, I really don't want to sell him because he really is a nice horse but he keeps showing me he isn't suited for what I want to do with him.  Ugh. What to do?

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The BEST way to handle relationships I have ever read

Was browsing through a new blog I found and I happened across this post.  It made me laugh, it made me nod in agreement and it made me realize so much of it was true.  How to best handle your man ladies?  Well, here you go!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Funny thing

So I finally decide to post that I am going to take a break and my blog number jumps up to 10 views.  How crazy is that?  May be a fluke, will have to see.  In the meantime I figured I would post about last night and the upcoming weekend.

Like a lot of the middle of the country, this past week has been great with warm temperatures  Last night it was 74 degrees at 6pm!  Nothing like this morning when it hit a high of 58 at 4am and will go downhill the rest of the day and we will not see this number again for a least a week, probably more.  With it being so warm out, combined with the unusual gift of being off of work at 5p, I decided to go on a trail ride with the TWH.  I went on the short loop, a 3 mile loop "around the block", and spent the majority of the ride trotting and cantering.  It was Such. A. Nice. Ride.  There was a light, warm breeze that kept any bugs away, traffic was light, road was soft but firm without being muddy and the road was smooth so rocks weren't a problem.   Awesome. Ride.

When we got back, the dirty TWH was now a disgusting TWH.  The TWH has grown his winter coat and is super fuzzy.  As a result he was super sweaty which when combined with the filth he had, there was nary a cream colored patch on his body.  Ick.  With it being so warm out and it looking like this was the last warm night, I took the opportunity to give him a bath.  Scrub, scrub, scrub, wash, rinse, scrub.  I ran out of shampoo so ran inside and grabbed some Suave for Men to finish, it was so funny smelling the TWH when he smelled all manly with his pepperminty, manly shampoo.  With not having an acutal wash rack here I have found that as long as I let them eat grass, the boys don't mind baths and while they walk around, they don't move far and bath time stays simple.  Wahoo!  In the end he came out all clean and smelled great, let's hope he stays that way for a little while.

The App even got a bath too, though by that time it was dark out.  Like, really dark.  I could only see what I was doing by the barn's door light so he didn't get a full bath.  He got rinsed, scrubbed a little, rinsed again and then sprayed with the hose to try to "power wash" some of the grime off.  He isn't nearly as sparkly clean as the TWH but he is still miles from where he was.  Success!  When I went out to do night check he was no longer shivering and while he was still fairly damp, he wasn't cold.  I threw the boys an extra flake of hay and called it a night.  This morning everyone was dry, fairly clean and happy so I brushed off a few of the new spots the App had obtained and then doused everyone with ShowSheen.  Hopefully it will keep them clean a little longer anyway.

I am excited for this weekend as Sunday is the second Hunter Pace of the year.  It looks like I am meeting up with several people this year too, I will have a team of 4 instead of a team of two!  While it is supposed to be cold (a high of 45!!!!) I am really looking forward to it.  Hopefully the TWH decides to stay fairly clean until then so it will look like I have a cremello instead of a paint lol.  Maybe I will keep posting, let's see how things go.

Thursday, October 18, 2012


Things are going well here at LogDog Acres, knee rehab is coming right along and I am now able to ride several laps of two point without being in excruciating pain.  The horses got a spa treatment where everyone was clipped and the boys got new tail bags.  The donkey didn't appreciate clipping and wasn't having much of it.  She would tolerate the clippers around and on her but when you tried putting the blades to hair she refused and kept bolting, spinning and trying to rear to show her displeasure.  Eventually I just twitched her, since I had already started she looked awfully silly and needed her 3 inch bridle path finished.  Once twitched, she stood nicely and I finished in about 30 seconds.  Oh donkey.

Mugwumps talked today about her lack of blogging, her reasons are different than mine but it gave me the boot in the butt I needed to post again.  I started the blog as a journal, to track the donkey's progress, to give me an outlet and to maybe meet some new bloggers.  Overall the journey has been successful, I met several bloggers and started following their blogs as well.  I have a diary of the donkey's progress as well as my own over the past (almost) two years.  I haven't advertised my blog, maybe that is the main issue, my lack of posting stems from not having a need to post for myself anymore and the number of hits I now get on a single post range from 1 to 5.  With no feedback and virtually no readership, I am losing steam.  Maybe I will start back up in the winter when I am back to riding several days a week or in the spring when I start showing. Certainly I would have something more interesting to talk about by then.  Until then, I follow about 60 blogs so keep posting!

Friday, September 28, 2012

One pole at a time

Things are getting colder.  And darker.  Fall has definitely settled in and the daylight is leaving sooner and sooner each day, leaving little time for outside tasks.  No worries though, I finally got the gumption to torture the donkey.

The goal of the session was to ground drive her a little, something we have only done a couple of times, and then if all went well, add a pole to drag around.  To her credit, she is being really good about everything I throw at her because I don't actually work her often at all.  Once a month is all I average in my goal to get her to pull my butt around in a cart.  Unfortunately with lack of time and then my knee recovery, I haven't had the ability to work with her at all since late July when I was showing some of her skills off.
A content donkey is content to have her head held for her

I started to get out her harness, admittedly not that big or heavy of a harness but still, and then got lazy and instead hooked up my surcingle to the App's dressage girth (which made it fit PERFECTLY!) and used it for our work.  While I have been typically bringing the halter out and driving with both the halter and bridle/bit to get her more accustomed to the bit pressure, this time I left the halter in the barn.  My long training leashes (repurposed as draw reins long ago) were repurposed again as driving lines and they fit her pretty perfectly.  We worked on walking,whoa and working towards get her a little more accustomed to the bit.  After several circles going both directions that included directional changes, we finally tried going straight.  It was the more tense part as it opens to door to a take-off, something that happens occasionally when on a circle.  Much to my surprise the donkey did great and marched on with no running away. Yay!

A crappy cell phone pic done at night is better than no pic
Lots of practice is still needed with walking and stopping on command however the donkey is halting with fairly minimal pressure on the bit.  This is a pretty big improvement over our last session where she didn't seem to understand bit pressure at all.  Her only bad habits so far is to continually flip her tongue over the bit and continually gape her mouth, grr.  She is in a plain half cheek driving snaffle, I am sure time and experience will help fix these issues.  She is still learning how to hold and handle the bit, we will give it time before getting something to keep her tongue from flipping around.

Just to give an idea of how she is going.
As the final test, I had a friend drive the donkey around while I started dragging a PVC pipe around the arena, progressing until it was behind her.  She gave quite a few "donkey shuffles" as she wasn't super keen on having this noisy thing being drug around with her but after about 5 mins she settled down.  After she settled I placed the pole on her as she walked and eventually tied the pole to her surcingle as she walked around.  Again, several "donkey shuffles" but after another 3-4 minutes she settled down and accepted that she had to drag this noisy pole around.  Success!

On that note we stopped a couple of times until she gave a pretty nice, soft halt and then disrobed her and put her back in her stall.  I got a couple of unhappy donkey looks but treats appeared to make things better and by the time I went to the house I stopped getting dirty looks.  Looking forward to getting a second pole on her and the trying to hook her up!  Someone needs to pull my butt around in a cart :)

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The pain of recovery

So I was happy that I had won the division of the judged trail ride two weeks ago and then I got a phone call asking me what would I like my prize to be.  I'm sorry, what?  I get a PRIZE??  Turns out I won a Professionals Choice rope halter and lead rope.  Go us!  I got it in the mail yesterday.  While I am not a huge fan of rope halters, it is super cool I won something and am torn on if to sell it because I don't really need it (already have a rope halter/lead anyway) or keep it because it has a cool story.  At least it is black and not pink or orange or something.

Last weekend was horse camp here and my students had a lot of fun.  The horses got baths, even the unhappy donkey got a bath, we played with ground work and then practiced some trail exercises.  It was my second horse camp this year and it was certainly a success.  Now I have to hurry up and get the donkey ready to pull me around in a cart so at the next horse camp we can go trail riding as a group, they can go riding and I can drive the donkey.  Poor donkey will be so unhappy.  HA!

I have been trying to ride at least twice a week and am doing a pretty good job of it.  My knee is giving me some fits, it is currently a bit swollen and pinching when I walk but isn't super painful.  I can finally ride in the dressage saddle with stirrups so I figured it was time to bump it up.  If nothing else I really need to strengthen the muscles around my knee as I still can't squat down with that leg due to lack of muscle.

Last week I rode in my jumping saddle and while I can do what I need at a walk, including standing in two-point, I couldn't do much of it in a trot.  Tuesday I rode in the jumping saddle again and after a lot of trying I was finally able to make it one lap around the arena in two point.  Success!  It was also pretty dang painful and I wasn't able to squeak out even a quarter more of a lap but I did finally get a full lap.  Once.  Once I can get a little stronger in the knee I will work on endurance and fitness and then start going over small jumps again.    Just waiting for this knee to finish healing so I can get back to really riding.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

TWH and the judged trail ride

On Saturday we went on our first ever judged trail ride.  I had no idea what to expect so I had worked on generic trail exercises the Thursday before.  I rode with RB4 and after getting the TWH loaded up, I picked up RB4's new horse and off we went.  It was only a short 30 min jaunt away so there wasn't a need to get up super early or have half of a day being taken up by driving.  There were already a surprisingly large number of people there when we arrived at 10a but we found ourselves a little place by some trees, parked and got ready.

I registered without issue and my only real heart attack moment was when I realized I had forgotten a saddle pad.  OPPS!!  Thankfully I had some show pads in my trailer and I was able to use that for my ride, how silly of me to forget a saddle pad???  I suppose since I have had show pads in my trailer for a couple of years now that I had fallen out of the habit, hopefully I won't make that mistake again.

We started off and quickly came upon a group of 5 that were doing the first obstacle.  There were three poles extended off the end of a square.  You had to walk in one "tunnel" of the poles, into the square, turn around and out the other side.  As you exited the square, there were 2 poles set up, fanned out so you had to step over the two poles to get to the other "tunnel".  The horses were having a hard time and were tripping over the fanned poles, stepping on the poles that made up the square and getting all worked up.  After about 5 mins everyone had finished and I had my turn, the TWH walked in, turned around, stepped over the poles and walked out.  No biggie, he has had worse thrown at him in the steering lessons I give lol.  For his efforts he got 10 points!

Next was a gate, a clackity aluminum thing that was quite noisy.  The group of 5 let us go ahead first and while the TWH was very concerned about the noisy gate, he stood while I opened it, walked through and then sidepassed as I closed it.  10 points!  We were able to make good time to the 3rd obstacle, horseshoes, where we ended up meeting RB3.  You walked to a line, threw 3 horse shoes and demonstrated the horse would stand.  Everyone did great but I was the only one who threw a ringer.  Lol.  10 points!  The 4th obstacle fairly simple, it was a calf carry.  You walk to a sawhorse, pickup a brown, fuzzy body pillow, carry it around a circle and put it back on the sawhorse.  No spooking or dropping the pillow.  Easy 10 points.

The 5th obstacle was walking under a long pole that was at a slant against a tree, picking it up as you walk under it and set it back down when you get to the other side.  The TWH did beautifully except when he got under the tree he didn't fully listen to the half halt from my seat so my helmet tapped the pole.  I lifted the pole, walked under, put it down and walked away, unfortunately the tap gave me 9 points.  At that point RB4 and I rode away from RB3 as those two don't always get along and we had a great time gaiting the rest of the ride.  The 6th obstacle was opening a mailbox that had a flag pop up.  10 points.  The 7th was the "snake pit", where we had to walk on a tarp covered with hoses.  He didn't even act like it was there, 10 points.  The 8th obstacle was walking through a row of open umbrellas and then onto a sheet painted with black spots.  The TWH looked at the sheet pretty hard but walked on after a quick pause.  10 points.

The 9th obstacle was pretty cool, there was a knapsack tied with a long rope. The rope went over a tree branch and hung back to the ground.  You took the free end of the rope, pulled the knapsack in the air and tied the rope around another tree to simulate tying food off of the ground at night.  A lot of horses had trouble with this one and I was concerned as well, having the knapsack lift off of the ground as you walk away was spooking horses.  When it was our turn I waited until I had the very end of the rope before pulling the knapsack into the air so the TWH would be as far from the knapsack as possible and then walked him around the tie-tree and tied it off.  No spook, no looking, 10 points!

The 10th obstacle was another I was concerned with as we haven't ever practiced it, walking over a wooden "bridge".  As we approached it I just used a lot of leg "just in case" and the TWH didn't show a speck of concern.  We went over it a couple of times for good measure though, 10 points! The final obstacle was back at the trailers, throwing a mini basketball at a mini hoop.  You had to hit the hoop/stand/rim or make a basket while your horse stood still.  I came quite close to making a basket but missed, at least I hit the rim each time.  10 points.

Overall we missed only a single point out of 120, I was very impressed with my boy!  He handled all the new stuff without any concern and was super quiet and relaxed the entire ride.  He had never been to that park before either, so the fact he did the obstacles in a brand new spot was even better.  Then the next day I found out I had won first place in the 19-45 age division!!!  To go from the goal being to survive to finding out you won is an amazing feeling.  I am very excited about future rides, there is another in October we will go to.  Go Sinatra!

Friday, September 7, 2012

TWH is losing his fluff

Last night I rode the TWH and did some trail exercises to prepare for the judged trail ride this weekend and I have to say I am impressed.  I have always called him "Fluff for brains" because he tends to forget to think, I am starting to think brain cells are growing and are replacing the fluff!

I started by desensitizing him while on a lead line to a grocery bag, something that he had traumatized him long ago by simply existing.  While he leaned back and thought about losing it, he kept his head together and eventually relaxed.  I then repeated the exercise with a grain bag, once he realized it smelled nice he had absolutely no problems with it haha.

I saddled up and headed to the arena and did a quick warm up.  The first obstacle I worked on was the one I figured would cause the most concern, walking over a tarp.  Why did I think it would be an issue?  Because he hadn't ever been asked to do it before.  I pointed him to the tarp and...he walked over it.  Without even looking at it, hesitating or even flicking an ear.  I was impressed!  I tried even going over at a trot and he didn't care, success!!!

The second obstacle was much easier, 4 poles in the shape of an L to walk and then back through.  This was easy and required virtually no practice, neither did side passing over the L shape.  He has that down.  We then went to the third obstacle, a rope gate.  This was pretty hard for him back in 2009 and it took a good bit of work to get him to understand the concept back then.  It appears as though the work paid off because we opened, walked through and closed the "gate" without a single hiccup.  Imagine me dancing in your head, arms flailing and looking like a dork, that is what I was doing at this point.

The fourth obstacle was also easy, take the rope for the gate and walk in a circle around the jump standard it was tied to.  The goal is to make sure you can walk in a small circle with control, if the horse moves too far out then the rope will pull the standard over.  Easy-peasy.  The fifth obstacle was a bucket on a barrel, need to pick up the bucket and move around with it, simulating picking something up and moving it to another location.  We went around the arena at both a walk and trot before putting it back.  While he had a little problem keeping the speed consistent in the trot, he had no issues with the bucket.

The sixth obstacle was the only one he had an issue with.  It was the grain sack on a jump standard, I was using it to simulate a rain coat.  I picked it up and shook it all around.  For about 5 seconds he stood still but could feel his tension mounting.  Right about the time I felt he would explode I picked the reins back up and sure enough he scooted.  I spun him around a few times until he stood still and repeated it exercise and he stood like a gem each time afterwards.  Success!!

The last obstacle was the other one I thought we would have issues with, picking up the grocery bag and shaking it.  He decided it wasn't worth the effort to burn those calories off and so he stood there like he didn't care.  Yay!

I am so proud of the TWH and am really looking forward to tomorrow's ride.  I am so much more confident that he will do well now that he put in such a great ride last night.  Keep your fingers crossed, maybe the TWH has actually matured now that he is 9!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Success. More success!

We were successful in getting the new winter sacrifice pasture completed.  It is also significantly bigger than anticipated and is better than expected!  When I was making the fence line I discovered a large pile of old branches/brush/trash which caused the fence line to be moved.  Instead of having it come to a narrow(er) point on the left side of the barn it is now a large rectangle.  The original plan in black lines, the actual pasture is now in the blue line.
I am very happy with how it is laid out and if all goes well, we should be able to seed it in the spring and make it a permanent part of our pasture!  We turned everyone out in it yesterday and they stayed outside eating even as it poured rain down in the morning.  Come dinner time I brought everyone in, at night check everyone still had about half of their dinner hay left.  Appears some horses were so content eating grass all day that they weren't even hungry at dinner lol.  I am expecting to be able to not feed even breakfast hay until at least this weekend, we will see how it goes.  They have only made a small dent in the weeds/grass, only time will tell how long they are able to eat off of it.

I am all set to ride tonight and probably tomorrow as I have a judged trail ride on Saturday!  I am quite excited about it, though I have very little idea what it will entail.  It will be a trail ride with 10-15 obstacles we have to complete, no idea what they might be.  I will be bringing the TWH so there is that element of fun too, hopefully his fluffy brain holds it together and we do well.  Mostly though I am going for the experience, I have never been to one, it sounds fun, it is close and it is quite affordable.  I will be bringing RB4 and her new mare, hopefully nothing tragic happens to my trailer this time.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Progression to normal

Sorry for the lapse in updates, I have been a little down and have been really busy.  I had convinced myself I was doing serious damage to my knee again by walking, that I was grinding my bones again and would need surgery to fix it.  When I went to the doc yesterday he told me to stop stressing about it.  Whatever is happening is fine, even if I am grinding some bone-on-bone it wouldn't be unexpected because I have so little cartilage.  It won't be an issue, however, because the issues I was having with it before surgery was a result of the accident and typical walking won't cause an issue.  He also told me I am pushing myself too hard which is causing the knee pain I am having, basically am giving myself tendonitis and I should take it easy.  The input was helpful as it has made me relax a bit though I am now only going to push myself harder since I know I am not actually hurting myself (well, more anyway lol).

I have been successful in riding though!  I am riding every 2 to 3 days and am getting a good amount of muscle back.  The first several rides I couldn't trot as I had no right leg to hold on with.  Finally this past weekend I did some trotting and as long as I ride without stirrups I am doing just fine.  Trotting with stirrups is uncomfortable/painful and I don't have the strength to trot for more than a minute or two at a time but it is progress!  And when I went on a trail ride, well on the 3 mile loop of road, I even cantered.  Wahoo!  That progress has really lifted my spirits.

In other news the winter sacrifice pasture is going to be awesome.  How awesome?  More than double the area it was last year!  And I am making it with Electrobraid instead of piecing it together with fencing we already have.  We have cleared out a huge group of trees, 5 trunks out of a single tree stump, that was mostly dead and made a huge swath of land unusable.  In doing so, it has opened the land tremendously which is now allowing us to double the space we had planned for the winter pasture expansion.  Want a pic?  Not doable right now but here is a layout with my crappy drawing.
Not the best, and certainly not to scale but that is what you get from 10 minutes of effort lol.  The squares in yellow are the buildings, appropriately labeled.  The green is my pastures, however I should have made them brown because the amount of grass in them is virtually nonexistent thanks to the drought.  The original pasture started about 6 feet away from the arena and went straight back from the shop.  We then added the Electrobraid in May of last year and then last summer we added the pasture that extended around the shop to the back of the arena.  The old sacrifice area last year was small due to lack of fencing and cleared area, it really was just two little fence lines connecting my barn and arena and then barn to Electrobraid pasture.  With more resources it shall be much bigger!

Now why does the new sacrifice area look so oddly shaped you ask?  Because I didn't draw the bazillon trees/shrubs/brush that I have to cut through to make it even this big.  What I will be enclosing is at least just shrubs and brush that can be walked through and is pretty clean of trash left behind in the 1950's-1980's.  The eventual goal is to surround the arena with pasture but there is a lot of clearing that needs done between now and then.  The goal is to finish the sacrifice pasture this weekend and be able to not give them breakfast hay for at least a week, maybe two.  Maybe I will even break out my camera to celebrate!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Back in the saddle

After several delays due to lack of time, still, I was finally able to plop myself in a saddle and ride around.  I even was able to ride two days in a row with a third day scheduled!  My goal in riding was to start rebuilding my muscles needed to ride so I rode the App as he isn't nicknamed the ThighMaster for nothing.  He was true to his nickname, that is for sure.

Our rides are at the walk and are fairly short, I am working on lateral movements off of the right leg as I work on strengthening exercises for myself.  Overall the rides are productive though I did have to grab a crop.  Mr App decided that since I wasn't asking very strong that he didn't actually have to move away from pressure, I reminded him that that wasn't acceptable.  Thankfully sometimes all that is required is for me to carry a crop and he behaves appropriately, what a silly, bad horse lol. 

Last night I rode with the mom of one of my students and we had a good ride.  She has a laundry list of medical issues which keeps her from riding but she decided she didn't care and wanted to ride so she did.  I worked on lateral movements for about 20 minutes before getting bored so we walked halfway around the block for a trail ride.  It was a bit buggy, as I hadn't prepared for a trail ride with fly spray or masks, but it was a good ride.  Just a leisurely walking trail ride.  She is going to come over again tonight to ride, if she could force her body to move, maybe we will ride the entire block.  Riding success!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Fun at a horse show

A quick status update on my progress, rehab is going really well!  I am walking around without my cane or crutch almost all of the time and have stopped wearing the uncomfortable/unwieldy brace unless I am moving around on a lot of uneven ground.  I have pretty good muscle control back in my leg and yesterday was able to go all the way around on the stationary bike without stretching my knee first.  WIN!  My biggest issue right now is weakness in the muscles around the knee, I have a very hard time going down stairs or down into a squat as I don't have the strength yet to hold myself as I go down. It is coming though.

This past weekend I volunteered at a USEA Horse Trial that was being held close to me and had a great time.  Saturday was jump judging a cross country fence and that was awesome.  RB3 came with me and for the first half of the day we were in a very good position to watch several jumps.  We got to watch horses go up banks, over ditches, through bounces and over some nicely sized jumps.  The Intermediate division didn't do so well as half of the competitors were retired before they reached us but the ones we saw were impressive.  Prelim had better success and while there were eliminations, we got to see a number of horses jumping.  The Training division was fun as we were set up to watch a triple combination of a jump, coffin, jump the over to us at a bounce and then over to a corner.  We saw a several issues at the coffin and corner though we didn't have anyone have problems with the bounce we were judging.  Novice and Beginner Novice weren't super impressive as for the second half of the day we were in a field where we literally saw a horse run to us, jump our single, easy/boring jump and then run away to another field.  It was jump number 2 on the course so of course it was an easy one but it made for a slightly less exciting afternoon.  The only other compliant was that it rained/sprinkled for 3/4 of the day and got pretty cold in the afternoon, I was glad I brought my rain suit!

Sunday was amazing as I was a timer for stadium jumping and got to sit right next the the judge and Technical Delegate.  I was spot on the entire day and only missed getting 3 of the 147 times, but that is also why the judge times as a backup so in case there is an issue.  They seemed really happy with my work and were very pleasant to be around.  I also was able to learn things!  I learned you cannot have a running martingale without rein stops else you will be eliminated.  I learned you cannot say a bad word in the ring, if you do you better be pleasant when being talked to about it else you will be eliminated.  I learned you cannot jump a fence twice if it isn't part of a combination after a refusal (ie jump 5 and 6A, refusal at 6B.  Can't jump 5 again).  I learned the time allowed for Beginner Novice and Novice is enough that you can trot a good portion of the course so don't rush!  Take the extra time to prepare in front of the jump, 50% of the time cross cantering will bring a rail down.

It was interesting watching the activity and I certainly got more out of the stadium jumping this year over last year when I was jump crew.  It also drove home that appearance certainly does matter and you certainly set yourself apart when you look crisp and nice with nice, clean tack.  It may not get you more points but will definitely get you noticed and remembered.  I am really looking forward to trying a horse trial out next year.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Road to recovery - One step at a time

Sorry for the absence, things were pretty busy with work and having my grandmother in.  Any free time for blogging was eaten up pretty quickly, alas things may be busy this week too but I have found time to check in.  My knee is doing better every day, I have a good amount of flexion and can get it fairly easily as long as I bend/straighten nice and slow.  At my last measurement I was at 101 degrees of flexion, pretty good for someone just 2 weeks out of pretty invasive surgery IMO.  The hardest part is the inability to bend my knee with any speed, I am also having a very hard time lifting my leg from the knee down, by itself.  I have started doing some leg lifts to fix this issue, lifting just from the knee down, so hopefully it will stop being an irritant. 

This week I am 100% on my own, my grandmother was in for a little over 2 weeks to help out after surgery and she was a HUGE help.  She took care of all of the housework, the animals, the chores and tried very hard to make sure I didn't want for much.  She had to leave on Sunday and this morning SO had to go out of town for work so I went from having as much assistance as I wanted to none.  Knowing this was coming, I have been cleaning stalls, turning out horses and doing my normal chores to ensure I had a plan for this week.  For example I can only clean one stall at a time before dumping the wheelbarrow, I cannot yet dump a full wheelbarrow.  I also will use the tractor when I clean the arena of poo as I am not yet coordinated/strong enough to walk and move the big wheelbarrow when it has more than a few piles of poo in it.

No worries though, all is coming along.  I started driving and I don't have any issues.  This week I will pop myself on a pony and plod along, working on my lateral movements.  Tomorrow I am meeting up with a friend and going to the state fair, tonight I have physical therapy.  Next weekend will be a horse filled weekend as I volunteer at the local horse trial, jump judging on cross country Saturday and timing/scribing stadium jumping on Sunday.  Looking forward to some fun!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Returning to normal

Things are slowing winding back to normal.  I am fairly mobile now, walking around on one crutch most of the time.  I have decent motion back in my knee and I can already obtain full extension.  I have started doing leg lifts to pick up my leg and all the fun exercises to reactivate my muscles that have been snoozing for about a week.  I have been calling it my "stupid leg" because it doesn't listen, hopefully that changes soon as my muscles reactivate. 

The horses are doing just fine, the only story of note is after I had the new hay delivered the TWH decided his diet was too restrictive.  When we went out on Monday the TWH was sitting outside of his stall perfectly content as he munched on a pile of lose hay.  He had broken the lowest chain guard (surprisingly cheaply made, not only did the chain not go all the way through but it was two pieces of chain, a small loop of wire on each chain and nothing but the plastic connecting them) and ducked under the top chain guard.  I replaced it with a web stall guard for now and he has stayed put.  I can't give him too much trouble as this is the first time he has escaped since he has been here and he hasn't tried anything since. 

Hope to have a better update soon, this one is boring but I have spent 95% of this past 6 days in the house and thus don't have many stories. Maybe soon!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Stall rest

Life around here does seem to be slowing to a crawl, I spend most of my time on the couch and not able to do much.  I am not allowed to go outside by myself and am constantly reminded "Stall Rest".  Blah.  I don't handle stall rest wel, I am a very active person and this is boring me to death.  On the plus side the doc said the surgery went very well, I don't actually have any additional meniscus damage however I have very little of it left.  He said he was surprised I was moving as well as I was because I have been walking with bone-against-bone in my knee, I had bone dust and chips floating around in my joint.  No wonder things felt so wonky lol.  He cleaned things out and resurfaced my bone so hopefully it won't continue to be a problem.  He is also pretty confident that I won't need a replacement by the time I am 40 like I was planning, horray for me!

Tomorrow starts physical therapy and I am sure the pain will follow.  I currently only have 3.5 days of pain pills left, they sure didn't give me many and I don't have refills.  Worse comes to worse I suppose I will call in for a new script. 

On another note my "new" hay came today, all delivered and stacked by someone else.  My "I don't like this hay" has been confirmed on a couple of levels, the bales are pretty loose and several of them have broken open.  And yes I was charged for the broken ones.  Also I confirmed the bales are very high in alfalfa, the farmer said the bales are 80-90 percent alfalfa.  Great, I can't feed alfalfa to the donkey because it is too high in protein.  My quick research tells me it is the primary cause of founder, obesity and liver/kidney problems/failure.  Oh joy.  Am really unsure how I am going to handle this, feeding at night will be fine but not sure how feeding breakfast hay will work out.  I currently turn everyone out to eat off of hay nets.  The only thing I can think of is to either lock her out of the arena until lunch, not turn her out until lunch or keep a grazing muzzle on her.  Going to have to find an option or I will feel I have to sell her because I don't want to make her founder just because I can't get good hay.  Any ideas?

Thursday, July 19, 2012

24 hours to go

I am getting ready for surgery tomorrow, trying to get the house picked up and things prepared.  My grandmother is coming in to "take care of things" while I am down, she may be 70 but she insists she can (and does) work like a 40 year old.  She will help take care of the animals for at least two weeks.  If I am not capable after 2 weeks then something must be wrong right?

I am trying really hard not to think about the surgery as it gets me extremely anxious.  I may be able to handle needles and give shots but I am very needle phobic.  It is about my only phobia but it is a good one.  When I had surgery last time they had to give me 3 tranquilizers.  One to "take the edge off" when I got there, another after they hooked me up because I was still anxious and the "big one" when talking to the anesthesiologist because he told me they were doing a nerve block (no big deal) and they were going to stick a needle in my groin (VERY big deal!).  I only remember nurses telling me to calm down, calm down now, then heard "give it to her" and then don't remember anything until I woke up and was fighting to get out of bed as I didn't realize time had passed.  I guess I talked to SO and the Dr and chatted with nurses but I don't remember a thing.

I am doing a pretty good job of distracting myself from the thought of surgery, keeping busy is doing most of it.  As long as my body and mind stay active I can't think about things.  I am sure things will be fine but it doesn't matter, I am still nervous about it.  Nervous about how the recovery will go, will the critters be fine, how will I get up and down the stairs as the bedroom/shower is upstairs and everything else is downstairs, will I be in a drug induced haze like I was last time?

I will give an update after surgery sometime and share how it went.  I have stayed upbeat leading up to surgery so I hope I stay that way afterwards.  Looking forward to riding again, let's see how fast I can do that.

Monday, July 16, 2012

A great last ride

 I haven't mentioned it much however my area is going through a pretty big drought, we haven't had almost any measurable rain since mid-May.  Things are very brown and the grass is going from dormant to dead.  Dead hay fields are being turned under and being replaced with crops making a bad hay shortage even worse as there won't be a 2nd cutting there.  I called a guy today as I heard he had some hay, his price for 1st cutting?  $6 a bale, from the wagon only.  Not delivered or stacked.  My hay guy said he will get some sort of 2nd cutting since he cut his first cutting so early in the season but we have to have some sort of rain so he isn't cutting dead grass.  I after calling several others I finally called another guy who RB4 uses and he is selling 300 bales at $3.25 a bale.  While I don't like the hay I suppose it is better then nothing so it will be here this weekend.  I am even splurging and paying to have it stacked and delivered, a luxury I haven't ever had before.  I will only need about 150 more bales to make it until the spring, hopefully we get some rain else everyone will be eating hay pellets instead of hay from a bale

I have made sure to stay extra busy in the days leading up to surgery to keep me from getting too depressed, lots of wood cutting/clearing/splitting/stacking to prepare for the upcoming winter, install a new ceiling fan which included running wires through a fiberglass insulation filled crawlspace, cutting holes in the roof to install some roof vents, rearranging the barn again and trying to prepare things for my being down for a couple of weeks.  While SO wasn't super thrilled with my desire to ride, when the Dr said I could ride if I was careful, I continued with my plans to ride in the only hunter pace that is held around here.  In Ohio I rode in several a year and LOVED them.  An organized trail rides with optional jumps that you could school and reschool over?  Jumps that you haven't ever seen before so there is that challenge plus some being just very different, it is excellent practice and exposure for an eventer in training!  A school bench?  Sure!  A jump with actual railroad crossing signs on the standards for the extra spook factor?  Bring it on!  A log with a drop on the landing side you weren't aware of until you were over the jump?  Hey I am game and have done it all.  Since this is the only one for the year in at least an hour drive, probably more, I was really not wanting to miss it.

On Sunday I packed up and brought the TWH over to pick up RB3's horse and off we went.  It was quite different from the hunter paces I have done in Ohio, that is for sure.  It was more of a treasure hunt to find the trails we needed, the trails were marked with orange flagging tape however it wasn't marked well at all.  No arrows, no markers at a crossing, a labyrinth of trails with the right one identified only by a single orange tape 10-20 yards down the trail.  We helped a few groups who had walked past a marker onto a different trail and were successful in finding a marker at one point only because we saw riders in a different direction then we were headed.  There were also not many jumps on the path.  One hunter pace I have done had 40 jumps in it with typical averages of around 20-30 jumps.  This ride had maybe 10 jumps, all of which were between 2-3 feet.  It was a little disappointing but since I wasn't planning on jumping it was probably for the best.

I had such a great time with the TWH too.  He walked when I asked and he would give me an awesome canter, nice, balanced and light.  There was even two points during the ride we were able to give a full gallop and the TWH just loved it.  The second gallop was over an hour into the ride and I fully expected him to pull up before I asked but he didn't, he wanted to keep going resulting in my finally having to circle him to bring him back.  He was such a rockstar during the entire ride and while he was sweaty he wasn't exhausted after the 2 hour ride.

Also, despite my "knowing better", I even popped him over a couple of smaller jumps.  Over the first jump, an inviting 2 foot coop, he was really hesitant and unsure if he was really supposed to go.  There was enough hesitation that I even prepared for a refusal, as a result when he jumped it I was left behind a bit.  I am very proud that he didn't refuse though, I call that progress in my book!  The other jump was a little 2 foot rock wall by a road crossing and he jumped it beautifully without any of the hesitation of before, he made me very proud.  Not only did he jump brand new things without first being presented to them at a walk, he jumped well AND appeared to be looking for jumps and locking onto them with "radar ears".  Despite only going over 2 jumps, towards the end of the ride he actually seemed to be asking me if we were going over jumps when we approached them.  I made a conscious effort to walk near any jump with him pointed away from the jump but when one popped up on us fairly suddenly when we were cantering, his little ears locked on and he was ready to go.  Yay eventing horse! 

Much to my surprise I also am not even a little bit sore from the ride yesterday.  I may try a short ride tomorrow but that will be it for several weeks.  I am very glad I was able to end on such a good ride.

Friday, July 13, 2012

It's going to be slow going for a while

Yet another good news, bad news post.  Good news is I have surgery on the 20th to fix my knee again, hopefully this one lasts longer and I recover pretty quickly.  The doc is pretty confident that I will be in physical therapy on the 23rd and within a month be walking normally.  He said in 3 months I should be 100% though it takes up to 7 months for the ACL graft to be fully healed.  My grandmother is coming in from New England to help out around the farm so the animals will be taken care of and at least I will have someone around for the first week after surgery. Keep your fingers crossed!

Bad news is I had set up with my trainer to ride the TWH at least once a week to get him back into shape (or a shape that isn't round) with having my sights set on her showing him in Sept.  I got a text from her this morning saying she was thrown from a horse yesterday and has broken her leg and is also going in for surgery next week.  Her recovery will be longer, she won't be riding for about 3 months.  Looks like I will have two fat, round horses come fall.  So much for keeping them in shape but at least I tried.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Natra gets schooled

Since I had scheduled a lesson and then got hurt, again, I had simply changed my lesson to a training ride.  The trainer, will call her H, then had to reschedule and we finally were able to connect on Monday.  Since the App is doing fine and the TWH is pretty overweight, I had her ride the TWH.  I was very careful around the horses and didn't make any whisper about her coming and riding, it seemed like every time I spoke about a lesson in front of the TWH he was coming up lame this past spring lol.  As a result of my secrecy he was nice and sound for the ride.

Her initial comments about him is that he feels SO different.  She also thinks he gives a good effort to do what you are asking and doesn't fight you, something I have said all along.  She was having a hard time feeling his gaits, like when he first gives his trot ,but towards the end of the ride she was feeling it much better.  Since this is the second time she has ever rode him and the first time was for about 10 mins several months ago, she started him at a walk and meandered around.  She tested his lateral movements and worked on some halts.  She then bumped into a trot and she would simply giggle sometimes and shake her head over how different he feels.  After a couple of sticky up transitions he figured out what she wanted and gave pretty nice trot transitions for the rest of the ride.

H even got brave and asked for some leg yields at the trot, something the TWH can do but is difficult for him when trotting.  She played with changes of direction and tempo, working to get him a little more collected and light.  I was pretty impressed and a bit mad at myself for not bringing my camera out, he looked pretty good most of the ride.  He stayed fairly round and collected and moved nicely for her.

H then tried out his canter, right lead first which is his better lead.  TWH first tried a pacey canter and I had H bring him back to a halt and ask again, I don't allow that and I told H that she shouldn't either.  The second canter departure was lovely and H was very pleased with the transition.  The TWH stayed fairly uphill and collected and moved nicely within the canter.  They then switched and worked on the left lead.  She said it certainly is his weaker lead, he isn't uphill and isn't as balanced.  A lot of it has to do with the fact he hasn't cantered much at all under saddle since March, it will come.

For the last part of the ride H got to experience and work on the difficult canter-trot transition.  I tried coaching her through a few transitions but let her try her tricks.  Shoulder in through the transition, haunches in through the transition, leg yield into the transition, transition to walk then trot, finally she agreed what I have been doing seems to be best.  Ask for a downward transition, wait a moment for him to balance in the pace then ask for the trot.  He will pace, do some shuffling gait that I don't know what it is (rack maybe?) and then will trot.  As he gets stronger with more consistent riding the amount of time needed in the pace will decrease until the transition will get almost seamless again.

All in all it was a good ride.  It was her first real ride on him and I didn't give her much of an agenda as I wanted her to feel him out and just get him back to work.  I am going to have her come out about once a week to ride him and, if nothing else, get some of that weight off of him.  He is currently about 150-200 pounds overweight and despite dropping his feed down to slightly more than the donkey, he isn't dropping weight.  Next ride is next Thursday, will let you know how it goes!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Very Good and Very Bad news

Sorry I have been absent, I was waiting to post until I had all good news to share.  Unfortunately that won't be happening so I might as well let everyone know how things are going.  Last week I had received an email from Kota's new owner asking if I would be willing to give her a lesson, she really loved him but wanted me to show her the buttons that he knew.  Kota had been becoming mobile in both the cross ties and at the mounting block so she wanted to know what I suggested for that.

I went out last Sunday and gave her a 2 hour lesson.  The first hour we worked on ground work and I reminded Kota of his manners and showed her how to handle him and move his quarters.  I showed her that Whoa means Whoa and how to remind Kota of that and then worked with her until she was able to get the same results.  After that part of the lesson she said she was already 50% more confident with him and very happy with the lesson.  For the second part of the lesson I rode him and found he had reverted back to two of his favorite tricks, keeping his head in the air like a llama and bracing and locking his inside shoulder.  We worked a bit on those items and while we weren't able to completely fix them in the ride, I was able to give his new owner tips on how to fix them.  At the end of my ride I even asked for the canter both directions and he gave me the correct lead each time.  I was so pleased!

His owner rode next and overall it went well.  She could benefit greatly from some equitation lessons however she never seemed in danger of falling off and the two of them got along really well.  I was very happy to hear that she not only could feel when Kota locked his shoulder but now knew how to fix it and actively fixed the issue when it arose.  She even cantered him and he behaved wonderfully.  At the end of the lesson each of us was sweaty and tired but the new owner was extremely happy with how things went.  She said she felt much better about Kota, handling him and his training after the session.  She is really looking forward to using the new skills on him to make him a better horse and is willing to put the effort into fixing is bad habits.  I am really happy for them!

Unfortunately my bad news is that my MRI results came back and they are bad.  Pretty bad.  The reconstructive work I had done in 2004 was destroyed, the ACL graft that was put in has been completely severed and there is severe meniscus damage.  The family physician who ordered the MRI wasn't sure from the results if the damage was new or existing but it doesn't sound good.  I am now searching for a really good ortho guy and looking at surgery.  Family physician wants it done ASAP and wants me back on crutches and being non-weight bearing, I figure it will be done by July and I will walk with the cane that SO made me buy.  I am extremely disappointed and very upset with myself in not listening to my gut that the horse would hurt me, I even blogged about it and didn't do anything about it.  As a result things are very bad for my poor leg and my show season is completely shot.  Hopefully I don't fall too far into this depression I am falling into, looking for some more good news to lift my spirits.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Why I had to fire a customer

I have talked about the boarded horse a few times, let me share the Readers Digest version of the story.  I met RB4 through a Craigslist ad back in Feb or March when I was looking for a riding buddy to get the boys in shape since I can't seem to find the time to ride both of them, you probably know that by now lol. She is a good bit older but we get along well, she really likes my horses and loves Sinatra.  We rode until May when she decided to bring one of her horses over so she could ride him more.  She has 2 hackney ponies she drives (maybe twice a year though), a yearling and a 10yr old, severely obese gelding.  The gelding she said she rode maybe 4 times the year before and wanted to get him back in shape.  He was on 24x7 turnout but said he was ok in a stall when she would put him in one when the farrier came.

She brought the gelding, I will call him C, over and I had problems with him from the first day.  The first night he was here he charged me when I went to clean out a pee spot he had left in front of his gate and he would have succeeded in running over me and perhaps through the gate if I hadn't broke a stall fork on his neck.  The next morning he completely flipped out when I tried to turn the donkey out and tried to jump the stall gate.  I tried shutting his door and he slammed himself into the walls and door so I just turned him out first.  He ran around screaming his head off until I brought everyone else out. 

He has zero respect for space or my bubble and has no problem running into you.  I have done some groundwork with him and while he is okay most of the time, he has still ran into me about a dozen times, knocked me to the ground  a few times and just plain won't move unless you hit him really hard.  Every single day when I would bring in or out he would "spook" at something either on the way in or out.  Eventually I started smacking him in his nose every time he would spook to try to keep him from spooking into me (which happened three times). 

He would totally flip out in his stall if there wasn't a horse directly next to him, he tried really, really hard to put his front legs over top of my 10 foot stall wall and almost succeeded once because I saw his hooves when I smacked his nose with a whip.  I was never able to ride both of my horses at the same time without him, we tried three times.  The second and third time I made his owner be here so she could see his behavior because she insisted he didn't act like that.  He dug through my limestone base in the stall twice, has knocked a support beam so that it is currently crooked and broke 2 door latches as he threw himself against the door because we were trying to leave with my horses.  He is just as bad in the pasture if he isn't brought in first, with someone else of course.  He tried running through my electric fence until he hit it and realized I have it running about 12,000 volts (big charger, little fence), he didn't ever try a second time.

This past Friday I was turning out and I had the App and C (since I can't turn him out alone or leave him in alone).  C "spooked" at the poo box that lives in the barn, that he walks in front of at least twice a day.  I got after him and kept going and he "spooked" again, this time he didn't bump me and bounce off me, he literally ran me over and then drug me 10 feet when I refused to let go of the lead rope.  I suspect I have torn the cartilage in my knee again, pretty badly too.  I have a MRI on July 2nd and will see if it will require surgery, I am pretty certain it will.  I called his owner that day and told her it wasn't working out, he keeps hurting me and he had to go home. 

When she came over on Sunday, he loaded into my trailer fine but was making a huge ruckus and was shaking the entire trailer.  Finally it stopped so we brought him home.  Turns out he had put his foot in my hay net that was hanging about 4 feet off of the ground.  His forearm was well above horizontal, to give an idea how high he would have been pawing to do this.  RB4 made the comment this is why she doesn't haul with hay nets, went in in and tried to take his leg out and couldn't.  I, stupidly, hobbled in (on my crutch) to see the situation as RB4 decided to get a pair of scissors.  As she hopped out, C made a renewed effort to free himself, rearing up, slamming the trailer walls and finally ripping the tie ring out of my trailer.  He pinned me against the wall and stepped on my foot before I was able to duck out.  Her comment to me?  "You just couldn't wait a moment could you".   I hadn't done a thing except stand there.  She unloaded him and just kept commenting about now he is with his friends and hopefully his bad behavior will go away since she never had a problem with him there.  We hung around for about 15 mins and left.  Even at the end she didn't see how his behavior was an issue and didn't even recognize that he did nice damage to my trailer.  Ugh.

I really don't know if she will remain friends with me.  She was very offended that I kicked C out as she doesn't see his behavior to be a problem.  She did say to keep in touch and let her know when I start riding again so I certainly will, hopefully we can salvage the relationship and she doesn't stay offended that I can't stand her horse.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Final Straw

The horse in training has been for sale for about a month now and I ride him about twice a week.  He finally had someone come out to look at him last night and it went well, the gal seemed to like him and he listened pretty well.  I even brought her through my tiny trail in the back of the property where the pasture will go and he did great.  She is going to come back out with her trainer perhaps this weekend, things were looking up. 

This morning started out like any other, I fed, filled hay nets and I brought the the donkey and the TWH out to the pasture.  I came back in and got the App and the training horse and we went outside.  The training horse spooked a little at the poo box, fairly typical for him but he got over it and we continued to the pasture.  He then spooked at the water trough-turned-veggie garden, something he also spooks at regularly despite multiple desensitization sessions, and ran into me.  Again.  He has done it a couple of times in the past however this time was different.  Instead of bouncing off of me after slamming into me, he kept going, stepped on my foot and drug me almost 10 feet as he continued to try to get away from me.  As I fell down I lost the App, who trotted off to eat grass, and I felt immediate intense pain in my knee. 

I lay on the ground for about 60 seconds, with a death grip on the training horses rope, before finally being able to get up.  My right leg was virtually unusable and I was almost non-weight bearing.  I slowly hobbled and put the horse in the pasture with no further incidents and tried calling for the App.  He continued to graze and when I hobbled sort of close he ran around the pasture fence and then went all the way to the back side of the pasture.  Ugh!  Being that there was absolutely no way I could hobble fast enough to catch him and SO is out of town, I called the neighbors and asked them to help me catch him.  As I walked/hobbled back to the barn to grab a bucket of grain, my leg rolled a little bit and I felt a satisfactory click as, what I assume to be anyway, my knee went back into it's socket.  I could immediately walk better, figuratively speaking, and could easily bear weight on it.  Wahoo!

I grabbed grain and called for the App with no success.  When I finally hobbled over to the far side of the pasture fence, about 200 feet from the barn, I whistled again and the App turned and literally galloped over to me!!!  I was SOO proud of my horse in that he didn't make me and the neighbors fight to catch him for a half hour or so.  I called the neighbors back to let them know but the husband was already on his way over.

I had a short chat with the neighbors and explained what happened.  They offered to take me to the ER but I refused, I am hoping the swelling and pain is from the knee popping back.  I currently am on my crutches and have my compression brace on, I will see how things go.  After I got everyone secure I called RB4, the training horses' owner.  Unfortunately she is in Florida for a family emergency and while I am sure she doesn't need this stress, I couldn't postpone the call.  I told her what happened and that I can't have her horse stay here anymore.  He has hurt me several times and if he had just bounced off of me like he had before it would be one thing but he trampled me and then drug me, it isn't safe for me to have him here.

The training horse will stay here until Sunday when she returns.  I will refund his board and training costs and will trailer him back for free if the people on Sunday don't purchase him first.  Hopefully they show up with a trailer and just take him.  Until Sunday he will stay in the pasture 24x7 so I don't have to handle him as I can't risk being hurt yet again.  I feel really bad about kicking him out and I told her I hope she doesn't take it personally, I am just getting hurt by him and I can't afford to risk it.  Hopefully my knee isn't seriously hurt and I can get back to normal, if nothing else I was supposed to go to a show this weekend and don't want to have to cancel.  Healing from all of 2012's SNAFU's fail.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Learning to canter all over again

Busy, busy, busy, that about sums up my life.  I am always on-the-go for one reason or another.  This weekend's successes, however, include cleaning and refilling all 3 water troughs, tightening the Electrobraid (which has been on my to-do list for about a year) and riding horses.  The TWH was the subject of my torment for the first ride, we tentatively have a show on Sunday and I need him to be able to canter halfway decently in order to be successful.  I had hoped to have more canter rides under his belt by this time in the month but alas the days flew by without my being able to do what I should have.

The TWH is getting much better in his trotting, he is almost back to normal.  For me anyway, anyone else requires significant more effort.  I am pretty happy with where he is trot wise and think it will be enough for the show I will be going to.  His canter, however, still requires work.  We cantered for the first time a week or so ago and while he was excellent about picking up the canter and correct lead immediately, the quality of the canter left a lot to be desired.  It was unbalanced, fast and super pacey with almost a good 2 beat instead of a nice 3 beat gait.  His down transition has also suffered greatly with him pacing for almost a quarter circle before picking up the trot. 

His other direction wasn't much better with the transition or balance but at least going to the left he finally gave me a good three beat canter.  I will give him credit, he was trying and he did remember what to do.  He didn't wait for me to get after him, he picked up his canter right away and gave a down transition right away.  He even kept the ability to steer even though he kept dropping his inside shoulder and leaning on a circle.  All things considered I am pretty happy with his progress.  When RB4 rode him yesterday she was getting frustrated with him, I had to remind her that he has only cantered a few times over the past 3 months and she needed to be patient as he wasn't going to be perfect.  It is really cool to have someone expect your horse to do what they should because they have been trained to do so but as a result she kept forgetting that the TWH needs a little more leeway right now.  He isn't going to be collected, he isn't going to be completely balanced, he is going to drop his shoulder and he will pace when you come out of the canter.  I have work to do!

In other news I rode the horse in training and though he tried to run me into the wall a few times, I successfully rode and didn't get hurt.  Riding in spurs was not sufficient and I had to also ride with a whip to get him to move off of my legs and to not randomly stop but in the end we had made progress and I was even able to get him to pick up his almost nonexistent left lead 3 separate times.  He has no balance on his left lead and is horribly fast with little steering but at least I finally got him to pick up it up.  I am showing him to people on Wednesday so hopefully the love him and will buy him.  Sadly I will be glad to see him go, I don't mesh with him and I just can't trust him.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Wonderful trail ride and TACK SPLURGE!

On Saturday I was reminded it was Helmet Awareness Day.  I have had my trusty Tipperary for about 4 or 5 years now and I really love it, it is comfortable, has nice ventilation and not heavy.  It is so much more better than the Troxels I have had and is in the same price range as Troxels.  While I would love to be able to spend $150-$300 on a beautiful helmet that would immediately make me ride better and look awesome, I can't drop that kind of change on a helmet so I stick with my cheaper, under $100 helmets.  My current helmet is set to expire later this year and I had every intention of buying a new one at the All American Quarter Horse Congress in October but then I got an email from Smartpak, they were offering up to 20% off a new helmet.  I thought about it, took a quick peek at the checkbook and typed as fast as my fingers could fly.

I ended up getting an updated version of my current helmet, a Tipperary Sportage, and I got it on sale with free shipping.  Score!  As I am set up as a barn so I always get free shipping, my order won't be here until Monday but that is still pretty good IMO.  While I was getting ready to hit the Checkout button I just couldn't help myself and ordered some Uncle Jimmy's Licky Things as well, if I will treat myself I might as well treat the boys too right?  While I love the Hanging Balls, the boys make such a mess on their faces so a Licky Thing will have to suffice.  I don't think I will hear complaints from them lol. 

On Sunday I took the App and picked up RB3's new horse and we went trail riding at a state park not far from here.  I have been to 2 other parks so far this year and while this one is much smaller, I really liked this one the best.  The entire area was clean, the trails were maintained and they had trail maps at most trail intersections.  It was nicely wooded with only a few fields and had some really nice hills with lots of mature trees. I had a lot of fun and the App was fantastic, no one would have known he could be a monster with a firecracker and a pogostick with how he was acting.  He jumped over a couple of logs and I let him gallop up some of the big hills, he came back to me each time and it was great.

I am looking forward to riding the TWH tonight and to start cantering him, this will be his first time cantering under saddle since he came up lame way back in March/April.  Hopefully by July I will be able to ride in my jumping saddle and will start jumping him again.  This whole torn muscle thing has caused my show routine and jumping practice to suffer and I am ready to get back to it.

Friday, June 8, 2012

I think he is trying to kill me

The horse in training really has it in for me, I really can't wait for someone to come and buy him.  I am starting to be afraid I am going to be seriously hurt again with just handling him let alone riding him, if we can just stick it out for another week or two...  On Wednesday when I brought him in he spooked at one of the barn cats who walked beside him (I mean really horse?).  A spook would be fine and all except he jumped into me, I almost fell to the ground and would have if I hadn't held onto the lead rope and he almost got loose in the process of me being knocked around.  Not good.  Yesterday my arm was a little sore but nothing that slowed me down.  When I brought him out the morning I put a chain on him and he behaved.  When I went to bring him in, luckily I was still in the arena because he hit the chain and reared several times, almost falling down at one point, and was able to slip his halter and run off.  Needless to say I left him for a half hour until he decided to be caught again.  I tightened his halter up as tight as it goes and he walked in without any incidents.

Tonight I rode him and he was being really good.  Really, really good in fact.  He was moving off of my leg, he wasn't stopping randomly and he was accepting contact.  I was able to get him to do some half passes and some haunches in and he was looking and feeling really nice.  Since my task is to tackle his canter, about 20 mins into the ride I asked for the almost non-existent left lead canter.  I had to fight for it several times, through some small kicks and a small buck until I finally got it.  I had him in a 20m circle and then let him go around the entire arena as he was so unbalanced and on the forehand, I just wanted him to go forward without fighting for a little bit.  As we came around the end of the arena and he flipped his lead.  I asked for the correct lead again and he switched (yay!) and then switched back (boo!) and then shucked and dove out of the arena as the arena door to the pasture was still open.  He seemed to do it will full intention of scraping me off of him as he appeared to have jumped towards the door and knocked my kneecap directly into the door at full force.  RB4 said it happened so fast, one second I was in the arena and the next I gone.  I felt my right leg go back as he zoomed outside and while RB4 was convinced I had come off, I stayed on him.

My knee hurt but not THAT bad so I had RB4 pass me the dropped whip and, after having the door shut, made him work really hard.  The left lead is still almost impossible to get and even harder to keep but we got it twice so I worked on his super easy right lead and called it a night.  My knee is swollen and tender, I don't think anything is broken but I am pretty sure I will have an impressive bruise.  This horse is reminding me of when I started working with the TWH with my getting hurt or falling off on a regular basis.  I need better luck, anyone want a pretty to look at gruella paint gelding?  No?  Well I guess we will see how I feel in the morning then and do it all over again.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Gravity helps the dismount

Last night I rode the boarding horse as I am working him in partial training, he is currently for sale and the owner wants him brushed up on skills so he can be seen as best he can be.  He has some problems, a pretty bad contact avoidance problem, a real touchy 'stop' button, no standing still while mounting or dismounting and a randomly spooky problem.  To fix the avoidance problem I have been riding him in draw reins so that no matter where he puts his head I can keep contact.  It has really helped and while the first ride with them he was a very, very peeved pony, this ride he was 80% better about keeping contact and I didn't have contact on the draw reins most of the ride.

His 'stop' button is really touchy as well, if you even think stop, and sometimes not even then, he will slam on his brakes like he was a reining horse doing a sliding stop.  On the plus side he is very balanced when he does it, on the other side he does it All. The. Time.  He is slowly starting to get better due to being smacked with the whip whenever he decides to stop without being asked.  We started where I would immediately ask him to continue but after several dozen times if he stops now he gets a solid whack.  There is only so many times I am willing to overlook this kind of disobedience as anything but a big middle finger.

His randomly spooky button is the reason he is for sale, his owner wanted him as a solid, safe trail horse and he just can't be trusted for that job.  He is extremely looky at everything and I mean everything.  He gets turned out in the arena every day, as the arena is used as part of my pasture, but he will always spook at something in the arena when you ride him.  When I bring him in or out from the pasture, he goes this route twice a day, he will always, every single time, spook at something we walk past.  When on the ground the spooks aren't too bad, he runs/jumps sideways (sometimes into you), he will go backwards, he will stop and then back up but under saddle he takes it to a whole new level.  When his owner fell off last week, he was about 80 feet away from a barrel that a cat was sitting on.  The cat jumped down, he took the opportunity to 'spook' and went backwards and then sideways and then jumped sideways until the owner fell off.  He then didn't run around/away from the cat, he meandered over to some hay on the ground and took a nibble.  He is just looking for a reason to spook as there was absolutely no reason for that kind of reaction IMO.

My ride last night went pretty well, no huge fights like I was given on the first ride.  He is starting to move off of the leg and is doing better about going forward when I ask and not 3 or 4 times later.  I started the ride by helping him realize he had to stand still while being mounted and it took him a good while to figure it out.  I would say it took at good 20 mins of showing him that standing was the best option before he finally stood still.  I kept telling him "Rest is the reward" but he wasn't believing me.

We finished by working on standing while dismounting, another big issue for him.  I threw my leg over the saddle and stood in the stirrups, he moved, I got back in the saddle, worked him for a few moments and tried again.  I threw my leg over the saddle and stood there.  He stood there for about 3 seconds before he decided to 'spook' and went forward.  I tried really hard to get back in the saddle but he then went sideways.  I grabbed the saddle and fought to get seated and then (from eyewitness account anyway) he jumped sideways and down I went.  Stupid gravity.  That was the first time since April or May of 09 that I have hit the ground, that one was thanks to our Sinatra.  I immediately got up, grabbed the horse, beat his fuzzy little butt, got back on and made him WORK.  After about 15 mins of hard work I let him rest for a moment and tried dismounting again.  He moved so he got worked again really hard for a few more minutes and I tried again.  He moved again, he got worked again and then he decided it was easier to stand still while I hung off of him.  I finally hopped down, brought him to the mounting block and got on and off twice without him moving and called it a night.

I am disappointed in falling off but, as RB3 and RB4 were there, my eyewitnesses say since I wasn't actually ON the horse so I can't count it as falling off lol.  Luckily there isn't anything broken and I only see a small bruise on my elbow.  My hip is a little sore this AM but that is all.  If nothing else I guess I can no longer say I only fall off of white horses.  HA!