Thursday, May 17, 2018

The happiest of birthdays

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Catching up part 1 - The saddle fitter

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, May 3, 2018

First Show Of The Season Recap

The first show is in the books.  While we didn't place well, I am super pleased with how things went.  There is always room for improvement *cough cough, shorter reins, more leg*, but from where we were 3 months ago, I am SO happy with how things went. 

On Saturday, Mia got the first bath of the season and got clipped up.  She was fabulous and had no issues with any of the shenanigans, though she was losing her patience by the end of her primping session. We also had the farrier that day so while I got to the barn at 930a and didn't leave until 430p, I still didn't get to ride.  I wasn't worried however, Mia had her argument with me that prior week and was riding fabulously on Weds and Friday so I let her have the day off.

She is ribby, but in good, though fuzzy, condition. Topline is coming back!
Sunday we loaded up and got to the show without any issues at all.  Warm up was a mess.  Because the ground was still so soft, they were asking everyone to ride only in the warmup ring so there were 15+ horses in the arena.  At least it was a larger ring, but half were warming up over jumps, few were watching where they were going and it totally reminded me of a Hunter warmup ring.  Not a lot of good work was done.  Mia wasn't really relaxed but she was giving nice transitions and not fighting with me so I took what I had.

In case anyone wants to be bored to tears, dressage!

The test went quite well, but certainly not our best. Mia wasn't relaxing into the bridle, my reins were STILL too long and she wasn't truly in front of my leg for most of the ride.  BUT for the first time EVER we did not get the "falling in" comment in the canter.  First. Time. Ever.  Win! You can tell in the video at the right lead canter section that her haunches are still a bit in as she finishes her circle, but so, so, so much better than in the past.
Ugh, ribby.  BUT this is an untouched photo.  So shiny!!
We even scored a personal best of 31.9!  Which is a fabulous score that I am proud of.  Unfortunately, 6 other people scored in the mid to low 20's, something Mia is not yet ready for. That was okay though, the improvement in dressage is what we were going for and we nailed it.

Last was jumping which, admittedly, went about as well as I expected.  The video stabilization in Youtube made both dressage and jumping seem a smidge faster than it actually was (in comparing the video on youtube vs computer), but the video stabilization was needed.... so FYI haha.  Mia has been jumping so well, however, we have only been jumping for the past month or so.  Maybe 6 times?  7 tops?  We aren't at the top of our game still and I knew that going in.  We met 90% of the distances and had one rail.  I honestly don't know what happened for that rail, she hit it with her hind fetlocks and we met the distance, I can only assume I sat on her too soon??  Not sure, there is no other picture or video of it to verify and I was baffled when it happened.

I am still super happy with the jumping round.  Mia was responsive, except for the last fence where she didn't slow down until the last 2 strides and chipped in a small stride, but she was such a good mare.  We ended 6th and I was happy.  Mia then got the next full week off as I headed to the Kentucky 3 Day Event AKA Not-Rolex.  Recap of that coming up!