Tuesday, June 21, 2016

And it happened. Again.

On Wednesday, I was going to do a quick photo session for a horse someone is wanting to sell and then do another awesome trail ride/run.  I got out there and the owner begged me to ride the horse because she had a chiropractor appointment and her hip hurt still.  Ride a horse for a sales video that I have never ridden and who isn't super talented?  Eh, sure why not.  So I did.  He was a bit pissy when we started but an introduction to Mr Spur got him to move a little more willingly.  And then he tried to buck me off.  And failed. And got a spanking as a "thank you for the effort"!  And then he refused to pick up the right lead.  I gave him a good workout and won all of the arguments in the end, the owner was pleased and we got a sales video.  But, as a result, Mia got a day off.
One of the paths.  Ride to the road at the VERY top of the pic
as warmup, then start the fun part. 
On Saturday, I ducked out for a quick ride and no one was at the barn.  Of course.  By the time I had tacked up, 3 boarders had shown up but, of course, no one was ready to ride and no one wanted to ride the trails because it was buggy.  Okay, fine I will do it myself.  SO was with me and took some pics, yay!  I walked around the "xc area" as a warm up, each time I ride out there, I am walking her over the ditches since she doesn't like them.  Improvement is happening, slowly but surely!  After not wanting to walk over the "big" ditch (not really big), she hopped over it and was trotting away quickly, par for her course.  I was bringing her up via a circle to the left when a deer leapt out of the tall grass to our left and suddenly Mia transported sideways.  I was already in two point, leaning to the left as I was dragging her to the circle to slow, when suddenly my right leg was over her back.  I stayed there for about 3 strides, trying to save it before I knew I couldn't and simply stepped off her.  I *almost* didn't even hit the ground but I did end up sitting on my butt for about a half second on the landing.  Really?  The second time I ever fall off of my horse is over a ditch, the same reason I fell off the first time?  ARGH!!  No one was hurt and I hopped back on with no issues.

4 off the floor!
We had a quick gallop through the fields and at first Mia was spooky, startling at things that she shouldn't even look at, but by the time we reached the halfway point she was all business.  We ran around for about 10 minutes before calling it a day and walked around to cool off.  I chatted with the boarders and shared my mishap with the damn ditch and waited for Mia to cool, she didn't really.
Da Gallops
Since she was still breathing hard and hot after 5 minutes of walking, I dismounted, untacked and threw her in the wash rack.  After some nice cool water, Mia's breathing immediately calmed down and she cooled down.  She almost didn't even care that I was spraying her head!  Almost lol.  She got some good grazing time before being kicked out to the pasture where she rolled.  Oh well, I didn't want fly spray on her anyway lol.  I slathered some SWAT on App's sheath bc the flies are eating it so badly that he has blood splatter on his hind hooves, called it a day and headed home.

Stretch and go!
I am still shaking my head over the fact that I fell off.  Again.  And a ditch was involved.  At least this time, she was being obedient and I wasn't the least bit hurt despite her tall size. How about we don't make this a new ritual, okay Mia?

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

A good day

Yesterday was an abnormally nice day.  I slept well.  The cats weren't too destructive.  I had leftover smoked brisket for lunch.  I got EVERYTHING done at work and am now caught up (woohoo!!).  I left work on time.  I rode Mia and had a great ride.  I was bad and had some garlic knots for dinner but didn't have the ice cream lol.  AND the dog didn't destroy her crate.  Win all the way around!

I went to the barn without a big agenda, I haven't ridden in several days due to real life getting in the way.  BUT now I can actually park my car IN the garage.  In the garage!  That hasn't happened since March in Michigan.  March!  It will probably take another 2 weekends before the other side of the garage is ready to park a car but people, the house is almost completely unpacked.  It is such a good feeling.

I got App out and gave him a good grooming while he ate some grass.  He is not in the pasture I wanted him in and wasn't in the new pasture either.  Kinda annoyed but, hey.  Boarding barns, what are you going to do.  Grr.  I will bring it back up when I see the owner again.  App enjoyed his time out and was happy that I didn't keep him tethered to a spot.  After a grooming, I took him for a walk down and back up the long driveway for some gimpy exercise.  On the way back up, I spotted one of the boarders and chatted with her for a good while.  She is selling her house and her horse and moving to SC so we talked about that.  I do enjoy having people to chat with.

Despite my good day, I was in a mildly bitter mood and didn't want to actually work on anything so my original plan was to just do some "trail riding".  Which basically means walk around the perimeter of the front hay field bc I don't know where any of the trails are around there.  When I got to the barn, though, I saw someone had mowed and mowed all of the trails.  Plan A of trail ride quickly became Plan B of fitness ride, I needed some gallop time.

Mia was so so so so good.  Total love.  We walked down the side of one hay field hill until we reached the road.  Then I turned around and asked for a canter and off we went.  Mia started with her typical inability to go straight but actually did really well overall.  We circled to the left around a big pond and then galloped up a fairly steep hill next to the hay field.  I gave her a small trot break as we went down the hay hill and then cantered around the back of the front hay field.  Since the trails were now mowed, I figured why not, let's go cantering in unknown territory.  So we trotted across the drive and along more hay fields.  And down some hills.  And through some woods.  We followed all paths I could find and had a great time.  Mia was fantastic.  Absolutely fantastic.  When my breech had slid up past my calf, I pulled Mia up and she stopped politely and stood politely while I fixed my pant leg.  And then walked off without pulling on the reins and then cantered when asked.  LOVE!

We rode for about 25 minutes, about half was a trot and canter, and it was awesome.  Simply awesome.  It totally reminded me of the hunter paces in Ohio (minus jumps), here the paths were wide and nicely groomed.  There weren't wet/mucky spots, I didn't see a single hole, it was just awesome.  Awesome enough that I think this is what I will be doing tonight as well, except this time I will be in my jump saddle.  Here's to hoping everyone can have as good of a day as I had. :)

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Home versus boarding

So I got the question from Olivia on if I was enjoying the switch from at-home care to being a boarder again.  I will say, there are positives and negatives to each.  So I guess I will cover them in a post, in case someone is interested.

What did I love about having my horses at home?  The reduced cost.  However, it wasn't as significant as one would think.  My out-of-pocket for each horse was still around $250 a month with them being at-home in Michigan.  Not that big of a savings but I also required a pretty high standard of care.  The horses always, always, always had hay in front of them.  And with the round bale net, the round bale was an affordable, easier alternative to the square bales.  I also required my pasture scooped weekly and arena scooped daily.  All of this was then hauled out by the trash company weekly bc I didn't have enough property to spread it and I didn't want it around.  Anyway, the standard of care I required caused the cost savings to be there, but not significant.

I loved being able to have things exactly as I wanted it.  I didn't have to have approval to put my stuff somewhere, I didn't need to "find my spot" for stuff, I didn't need to worry about leaving stuff out.  If I wanted to create something, I just did.  If I wanted to change up turnout, I just did.  That kind of freedom was nice.

I liked being able to manage all aspect of their care and be the expert on how they were doing.  What kind of terrain bothers them?  When did that scrape appear?  When did their behavior change?  I had a good handle on all of that.

What didn't I like?  Well, sadly, a lot.  I talked about it a little before, I didn't like being tied to the farm.  I was unable to take a vacation for the first 3 years I lived in MI because we had no one to take care of the place while I left.  Being the animal person, all of the responsibility fell squarely on my shoulders. SO would help some during the weekends, but the day-to-day, regardless of weather, hunger or time was always me, by myself.  I didn't like how it robbed me of the time to ride and, if I did have time to ride, I was often too exhausted to actually ride.  This was especially true in the winter when it would take 30-60 minutes to do chores, twice a day.  By myself.

I didn't like how I was always busy and took more time taking care of the horses than I did actually enjoying them.  I distinctly remember the winter of 2014 where I was so frustrated because I had been outside, doing things FOR the horses for 120 minutes that day and I had actually touched a horse for a total of 5 of those minutes combined.  For the entire cold, wet day.  I didn't think it was fair, and I still don't actually.  I remember being so cold and so tired and not getting one iota of pleasure out of what I was doing.  All the work and got none of the rewards other than knowing they were happy, I didn't get to watch them quietly munch on hay.  I didn't get to watch them run in the field.  I didn't get to even see them eat grain.  I was literally seeing them only as I led them to and from the barn for grain.

So, to stop being a negative Nelly, boarding.  Positives and negatives?  Nah, let's keep the negatives to keep the theme.  The first is, of course, the cost.  Holy hell is boarding expensive here in PA.  Way more than in OH and MI.  I have a 45 minute on-way drive to my barn.  Which I go to at least 4 days a week, it adds up.  I hate not having the hands-on day-to-day care.  How much do they eat?  I don't know off the top of my head.  When is App sore?  I don't know :(  What makes him more comfortable?  I have to rely on the barn to tell me and I really don't like that.  How do they get along with others?  I don't know, I need to have the barn tell me.

There is always drama at boarding barns, ALWAYS.  Even the ones that say they are drama free.  This barn?  Pretty drama free, but as I found out on Tuesday, there is still drama.  I keep myself removed from as much of it as possible.  So we will see, but drama drama drama.  Really don't like being in drama.  Let me hear about it from a distance if I need to know.  Being alone is getting to me again, but I am not always alone.  Just mostly alone.

Inconsistency in care is one that is really big, but not one I am experiencing at this time.  Things that are an issue I am not dealing with now: People "borrowing" your stuff.  People "borrowing" your actual horse.  People damaging your things and "forgetting" to tell you.  People making you choose sides in drama.  Barn cliques.  Not getting the care you are paying for.  On and on.

The positives?  Well, I was able to go to the race over Memorial weekend and I had zero concerns.  I knew my horses were cared for, fed and I didn't have to check up on them.  I know they are getting tended to, and will be tended to regardless of weather.  I am notified if there is an issue or concern.  The barn is always in very nice condition.  The arena is always open.  The people (so far) are nice.  I can ride, I have both time and energy to do so!  I have space to ride as well as jumps to go over.  No stress of finding/buying/stacking hay/bedding/grain.  The freedom and flexibility is huge for me.

For me?  Boarding again is a no-brainer.  I would have to seriously be willing to change my standards if I ever brought my horses home again.  Boarding sucks, boarding is expensive, it is totally dependent on management and ownership on if you will have a good experience and there is always drama but having my horses at home is not for me.  Not at this point in time.  I keep going back to this post I read and it reiterated all of the reasons I did not want my horses at my home:
How about you readers, what is your preferences?  Home versus boarding, what do you think?

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Forward strides

Ahh, busy times.  Mia got basically a 1.5 week vacation after her show.  The in-laws were in from out of state and then there was the race to get ready for and then race.  Mia seemed to enjoy her extended time off but she can't be a bum forever.  No rest for the weary.

I signed up for a lesson from an instructor that was dropping by last weekend for jump lessons and overall it went well enough.  Mia was an absolute twit to warm up, she was very forward and even the barn manager made the comment "She looks REALLY excited to be jumping today..."  Yeah...thanks.  I tried giving her a small hand gallop but that didn't help so lots of transitions were put into play.  After about 10 mins I gave up and the instructor had me go ahead and jump.  Our two weakness showed up right away, Mia's inability to go straight and her desire to gallop after fences.  After about a dozen jumps, she really settled down and we got to work.

Media for the sake of media.  And yes, I tied her tail in a knot.
She went over everything, knocking a fence down only once.  The takeaways?  Eh.  I wasn't impressed.  I still don't feel I was worked hard or learned, despite being told he would work our pants off.  Was I tired?  Yes.  Was the mare tired? Yes.  But I didn't feel super challenged and don't have much in the takeaway department.  Sure, I get there are some basics we are still needing to resolve (going straight, the whole away from the jump thing), but the only, ONLY thing he said about my equitation was that my hands need to be lower to help pull her head down instead of them being up so much.  Which is contradictory, of course, to the only jump lesson from last year where my hands were needing to be higher to get Mia's head up since she dives so low and takes off over fences.  So....nothing about my leg, heels, how I ride to fences, my hip angle, nothing?  I could pass George Morris standards?  Probably not.  Sigh.

He said I needed to package her even more in front of the jumps than I already do, to try to get her to not jump so forward and that is acceptable that I have to give her a pretty sharp correction (solid yank or two) after a fence to get her to come back to me.  It is okay because immediately after she comes back and softens, I also soften.  He said she was very tidy over the fences, even when we met the distance wrong and she jumped under herself.  She was super honest and very willing which was nice.  We did a full course full of rollbacks and bending lines, including a very long 2 stride which really helped Mia's not galloping after fences (sarcasm).
I can't get over how much her color is changing, she is so much
more roan than when I got her!
My only other thought on my lesson is the impression I have of myself.  There were 3 occasions where one could have fallen off.  And I didn't budge or even lose balance.  So...win?  When we were warming up, the instructors little rat dog ran through tall grass and burst into the arena about 4 lengths in front of where we were going.  Uh....dude?  Not cool?  Mia gave a pretty good sideways transport but I didn't even get unbalanced.  Then later, Mia over jumped and jumped underneath herself/over her shoulder/knees pointed down instead of up.  Both times she did it, I stayed with her very well and we carried on like it was NBD.  That made me very, very proud, no being popped out of the tack for me!  Velcro butt for the win!  SO much happier than this time last year with my damn position.

Monday was a totally uneventful trail ride.  Tuesday was some free lunging bc I spent too much time chatting with people (People!  At the barn!! Still so rare!).

Old man pics, because old man is old
Last night we rode some dressage and it started out SO nicely.  I am taking tidbits from our last lesson and really slowing our tempo waaayyy down and working on getting power.  Mia got frustrated a few times, as I am making her go slow but applying a lot of pressure, but she did really well.  Especially when I finally would let her open up her stride, lots of power!  I asked for some canter, though, and the wheels fell off the bus.  She kept doing some weird tranter/sideways/in place thing, apparently she is not ready for as much confinement in the canter as she is in the trot.  Mr Spanky helped her go forward and we had some great circles to the left.  She really sat down, I was really riding with my seat and she was really responding.  It was amazeballs people.  Simply amazeballs.

Then we went to the right and she just could not.  Lots of tranter.  Or trying to canter in place.  Or bolting.  Or thinking of rearing.  And lots of keeping her head in my damn lap.  Oh great, this issue again.  After much, much argument, I just spanked her until she went FORWARD and then kept asking to put her head down.  Finally, she agreed she could canter at a normal speed with her head in a normal height and we called it a night.  Very frustrating, apparently I have a lot more to work on.  I am thinking of lunging with side reins and/or chambon to get her to relax down in the canter.
He may be gimpy, but I think he looks great for 23!
This weekend I am hopefully getting App on some flat, grassy pasture for good.  I have offered to help put up fencing in a XL pasture so we will see if they will be doing it.  3 weeks until my mother comes to visit and a month until our next show.  Plenty of time to get my mare ready!