Wednesday, October 27, 2021

So what now?

 Mia has now been on basically stall rest since Sept 13. I am not supposed to do much of anything with her until Dec 13th. I am constantly asked "How is Mia doing", to which I reply "I dunno. She's alive." I go out 4x a week and brush her, give her treats, clean her feet, and apply Keratex. Also make sure she has an Uncle Jimmy's Hanging Ball and hay. That's it. I try really, really hard not to even watch her walk because if even think I see lameness, I am going to fall into depression again. No one wants that. 

That said, it has been 6 weeks of stall rest and with 2 weeks until the farrier is out again, I just couldn't help myself. Is Mia sound? Still lame? Ugh, how would I KNOW! So I threw her in the indoor for about 4 minutes to see how she moved. 

By all things that are great, she looks SOUND. It was such a morale boost to see she was looking good after 6 weeks of standing around. I had lightly trotted her after her farrier appointment on the 27th and she was lame, so the fact she was sound made me feel SO much better. I gathered her back up and threw her back into her tiny paddock. Every time I get antsy about her not having room in that paddock, I remind myself she is supposed to be on stall rest. The fact she has a paddock is more than the vet wanted to begin with.

So what I am doing? Letting her hand graze a few times a week by headlamp because it is dark by 7p when I get to the barn. I am also riding a 20yr old OTTB who hasn't done a lot in recent years. It is a lot of walking and lateral work to get her loose again. It is also a lot of kicking and whip smacking because she will dead on stop and refuse to go like a 4H pony, but it is better than not riding at all. The owner says she does this when she is in heat, so fingers crossed it gets better through winter. 

I am cautiously optimistic about Mia's recovery, here's to hoping that 6 more weeks of stall rest will take care of the rest of what is wrong and we can come out of the other side of this and get back to work. I know the rehab will be slow, a month of walking at least, but if this WAS a DDFT/SDFT injury I am not taking chances. Super slow and steady is how we are going to come back from this. We will compete again damn it! 

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Photo dump!

Her never-ending quest to injure herself - this kept her down for a week

Her 5 acres of grassy goodness, at the bottom of a big a$$ hill.
Great for hooman and horse fitness, even when we hates the hill

Fun riding times! One of our fitness rides

Prepping for our show - with braids!
She really isn't great for braiding. Was almost for sale.

So shiny and clean, she cleans up so nicely

Time to shine! Well, in the rain anyway

We looked good even when getting wet

Walking in the trees

Oh hai human!

They are not supposed to look like this

That's not supposed to be there

Hopefully you enjoyed some media. I will try to find something more to talk about!

Friday, October 8, 2021

Then it all fell apart. Again. Pt 2

 The vet visit was frustrating. My normal vet didn't come, the other vet in the practice did. He said Mia was def lame but while she has been lame on her left front since we came home, that day she was more lame on her right front when going to the right on a lunge. To the left, her right front was sound but her left was lame. We blocked her right front and here is the rub. His notes say she blocked to 75% better. That is not the number I swear he told me. He said she was 30% better if her other foot was blocked, it would likely also be 30% better. He was convinced it was a soft tissue in her hoof, likely a Deep Digital or Superficial Digital tendon injury, but the only way to confirm would be a MRI. 

He did take a bunch of x-rays and we also found a small fracture to the inside of her left front coffin bone. He said she should be in shoes, on Equioxx, and stall rest for 3 to18 months and that was that. The surgeon he sent the x-rays to said they didn't think it was a fracture, but a calcification that just floated off and a MRI would be needed for further diagnostics.

I sent the x-rays to a podiatrist who said the fracture is actually fairly common in horses that have a clubby foot, the opposite foot loads harder and it happens. He would like to have further lameness evals before sending her for MRIs, but that would also be due to the percentage differences mentioned above. 75% better is different than 30% better after a block.

I had the new farrier out on Sept 27th and we talked about what happened, how she is doing, and what the different docs have said. The farrier did not want to put shoes on her without knowing what we are stabilizing, as supporting the different tendons would have different shoeing requirements. He studied her x-rays and gave her a very nice trim while also finding that she has very soft soles. It is super easy to depress her soles with a tool, and even a hard press via a finger. Her sole depth is good based on x-rays, but her soles are really soft.

The current plan is to stall rest her for 3 months and find a way to strengthen those soles. I am using Keratex 3 to 4 times a week for now, as I have a bottle and a half sitting around. If that doesn't do the trick, I will switch over to venice turpentine and then durasole. The thought is that perhaps she is sore because of her hooves and once we can fix that issue, I will have another lameness evaluation done. The poor mare is bored out of her mind and is not very happy that she was taken off of her 5 acres of grass, but is handling it all well. I still go out and brush her and feed her treats, so she isn't being totally ignored, but I am picking up some boredom treats this weekend too.

Fingers crossed something goes better soon. I did a very short lameness check on her last night and while she is still lame at the trot to the right, it was a very mild lameness. I didn't even try to the left. Back she goes to stall rest for a few more weeks and hopefully some rest will fix whatever she has going on. Until then, I am riding a 20yr old OTTB mare at the barn. She is quite out of shape, but is nice enough to ride and I am super thankful for the opportunity. 

As one can imagine, it is hard to come up with things to say when there are no answers and nothing is happening. One day we will be ready to kick ass again, one day.

Monday, October 4, 2021

Then it all fell apart. Again. Pt 1

The good news? Mia finished her last dose of Doxy on Aug 26th! Her final Lyme results came back as 1165 which is enough to be considered negative. WIN! It was a happy day indeed. So what else has gone on? A recap...

I had the USEA Horse Trial entry I had paid for that I needed to use or lose for Sept 5th. I decided to enter the BN HT, because I had no concerns about Mia jumping 2'7". Heck she barely jumps until you hit 2'6"! Despite not really being prepared, I entered and then immediately traveled for basically 2 weeks straight, I left on August 12th and got back on the 17th. I went out to the barn and Mia was off on her left hind with an abscess that had just popped. She was given treats and I immediately left for another week, getting back on the 24th. The new farrier trimmed her on Aug 23rd (I wasn't there) and could see where the abscess started, but she was still ouchy. He gave her a "passive trim" and she was still lame on that foot until Aug 27. On Aug 28th she was sound! 

We went on a trail/light fitness ride on the 28th and Mia was ready to GO. She was super excited to be out and moving, and while she was fairly tired fairly quickly, it was a good ride. We did a small XC schooling at the farm on Sunday. While we don't have a lot of jumps, we do have some and Mia ate them right up. I was getting optimistic about our chances at the show! On Monday and Tuesday we had dressage rides that went....okay at best, but at 930p on Tuesday night I got a call from the barn owner. There was a dressage clinic on Weds/Thurs and the first 3 riders of the first day had cancelled because of the hurricane coming through, would I be willing to ride? Uh, sure?

The clinic ride was excellent, much better than my ride with Becky in May on the borrowed mare. Becky helped us with a lot of basics, but also with some refinements to get Mia really engaged. With 4 days to a USEA HT, I was so PUMPED and 100% ready for the show. I was now quite confident in our ability to score really well, and was actually excited for the dressage phase! Possibly a first ever??

On Thursday we had a stadium jump session, and Friday/Sat we had more dressage which were both excellent rides. Sunday AM we loaded up the trailer and headed to the show, which had changed from a HT down to a CT due to the extreme water the hurricane had left. It was one of the few times I can say with 100% confidence that I was looking forward to the show, I wasn't anxious, and I was very comfortable with our chances. Things were looking GOOD, including Mia. I had bathed, clipped, and even braided her, she looked amazing!

We got down to the show and it was lightly raining. Mia was perfect at the trailer. I got on and walked from the trailer to the warm up ring. I walked the big warmup ring 2x before trotting. The ring was super wet and sloppy, though not slippery, but Mia was really not moving forward. I asked for some long trotting to get her forward, and she just didn't seem right. I trotted another lap before walking to the in-gate and asking the question I already knew the answer to. "Did my mare look lame? Because she feels lame". The answer was yes, she was lame and after riding another lap, she was not only not working out of it, she was actively getting worse.

We scratched before we even got to the dressage ring, packed up and went home. Based on the scores in our division? I am so confident we would have placed 1st or 2nd. It was disappointing, but I am 100% confident in making the right choice for my horse. Mia was fairly tender in her legs, I was afraid it was a suspensory issue. She got 7 days of bute and poultice before I finally called the vet out for a lameness eval on Sept 13. How did that go? Stay tuned to find out! 

Thursday, August 5, 2021

Lyme update - Getting closer to clear

I had some blog posts started, everything kept going downhill, I abandoned it all. The end. So what has gone on?

In June, Mia was retested for lyme after 30 days. Her numbers went from 4600 to 3300. Great reaction to 30 days of Doxy! And she went on another 30 days of Doxy. 

We started work again after the 2nd round of Doxy, had good progress, signed up for a show. We had to cancel the day before because Mia was quite uncomfortable. This happened twice, because why not pay show fees for things you won't go to anyway.

We started lessons again, working on some fitness and seeing how Mia was feeling. She was feeling very good, until she would not. Very hit or miss, as Doxy tends to do, but when she felt good, she felt very good. We gave up trying to aim for shows after the 2nd cancelled show.

July came. 

My trainer retired abruptly due to some drama unrelated to me or my barn, giving a 1 week notice that I could not take advantage of. My farrier fired my barn over drama unrelated to me. My job started imploding. Covid is on the rise. Mia got retested for Lyme after her 2nd round of Doxy.

August arrived.

Mia's Lyme went from 3300 to 1600. One more round of Doxy and then she will be negative, good news finally comes! This time, when she is negative, I am insisting on the Lyme vaccine even if it is the double dose of the dog vaccine. I had asked for the vaccine last year when Mia was negative, however the vet wanted to wait until the equine version came out. I am not waiting anymore. I lost a whole show season because of waiting.

I am leaving for almost 2 solid weeks on various trips starting next week. There is zero chance I will have Mia fit enough to do the USEA horse trial in Sept that I have already paid for unless I went BN or N. I need to think on this, go to a BN or N show or just lose the money? We have BARELY jumped this year, less than 5 times? I don't know if even going N would be fair to her or her ligaments, so maybe BN? I am at a loss without a trainer to bounce ideas off of. It's funny how quickly I grew to love the "sounding board" of her mind. The only other instructor that has been coming to the barn is the one who didn't get back to me in 2019. I am not sure how well we would get along, but I don't know if I will have many other choices. I took me almost 4 years to find this trainer.

Mia is, however, feeling really good when she feels good. She has even given up and is now eating the Doxy in her grain without needing to doctor it 5 different ways! #littlewins We jumped last weekend and she reminded me that I need to jump with a pelham or xc bit. She was quite happy to be the driver and to let me be a passenger, except that is not what was supposed to happen! Silly girl. We did a fitness ride last night and while she doesn't have a lot of stamina, she does really enjoy getting out again. We have done some dressage and she is finally getting some muscle and tone back. She still has the intermittent day where she is sore, but those days are getting less and less. 

Fingers crossed things keep looking up. It's been down all summer, I sure 2021 was going to be our year and every single time we start doing something, we get knocked back to zero again. It is going to get better again, at some point anyway!

Monday, June 14, 2021

Nothing like a kick in the pants to get moving again!

 This is the first time I have ever had a trainer. I have been riding for 20+ years and have never had more than the occasional lesson until this past year. Sometimes it was due to money, sometimes it was due to time, sometimes it was due to a lack of both, and sometimes it was due to having no one who wanted to be that person. Having A give me lessons since Dec 2019, I can certainly say we have evolved into a trainer relationship. It is cool, I haven't had someone to rely on like this and I do enjoy it for sure. She really enjoys teaching me (even when I drive her batty) and I (sometimes begrudgingly) love her challenges. 

This lyme journey has been a long two + months. On April 4th Mia was definitely weird, we attributed it to the saddle fit. April 13th she was much worse after a chiro adjustment. April 15th is when the wheels fell off of the bus and we stopped all training when she broke out of cross ties, dumped my saddle, and refused to be caught. April 30th is when we did a full lameness exam with Lyme testing. She has been on Doxy since May 5th until June 8th.

Mia finished up the round of Doxy on Tuesday. She has been frustratingly off/stiff on and off for the past 2 weeks which I have been attributing to the antibiotics. Everyone tells me being on Doxy feels horrible, and even though Mia felt amazing at first, she was likely off due to the drugs. As a result, I have continued to ride very conservatively, 99% walking on flat ground only when she was comfortable. I rode on Thursday as the first time off of Doxy and while in the grass, she felt great. In the sand arena she still felt stiff, we did our normal walk ride with some light trot thrown in on the grass. On Saturday, she was not only NOT stiff in the arena, she felt amazing! I rode with someone else and they also said Mia looked amazing. Tracking up, very swingy in her back, and looking like she was very ready for work. We trotted on a loose rein in 2 to 3 minute sessions and it showed just how out of shape Mia is. After our third trot session, she was breathing harder than I was expecting. No worries though, we are both out of shape. We can get this fitness back in no time if she is comfortable!

How does this relate to A? After I told her about our amazing ride, she sent me a show for June 27th and said she wants me to go to it if Mia stays sound and comfy. Not only is it a show, but an actual horse trial that is "fairly" close to the barn. HA! Uh, we haven't been riding? Or training? Or even trotting! I conveyed my skepticism with vivid animation but finally caved and committed to ONLY go Beginner Novice only if Mia get can be fit by then. A knows I am very goal focused and there is nothing like a swift kick in the pants by being presented with a short deadline.

A BN show is something we SHOULD be able to do easily. Mia should have no issues what so ever going over 2'6" jumps in competition, since that is the height we typically warm up over. The dressage test should be an easy challenge. My big concern is the fitness for cantering, which A says we should have no issue doing by then. Besides 1. it is a schooling show and XC may not even be timed 2. we aren't going to the show to win a ribbon. 

This show is a super duper cheap HT to get Mia out and going over something that should be super easy for her. Going to the show is a goal for me to focus on to get back into a competition mindset, something I have definitely lost over these past 2 months. The actual goal will be to get out and scrape some rust off of ourselves. The goal is to assess our fitness and mentality. The goal is not to win a ribbon (that will be a bonus if we do!), but to just get out and find the joy in showing again. When I find the fun, doing the harder stuff shouldn't be so scary and maybe my brain won't freak at Training level like it did in 2019. 

Fingers crossed, tonight is going to be our first true ride in almost 2 months. We are going to do trotting with lots of walk breaks, but we are going back into training. With a show in 2 weeks, we have something to aim for! Not to mention I now have a lesson on Thursday, I think my butt is going to be kicked. Fitness here we come!

Monday, June 7, 2021

Coming back, one scoop at a time

Mia is finally finishing up her 30 days of Doxy and the turn around has been nothing short of miraculous. Do we have our ups and downs? Yes. Is she a fire dragon one day and totally body sore and lame the next? Also yes. But her demeanor has made a complete turnaround and I can't be happier with the results. Hyper-reactivity around the neck/poll/face? Gone. Often explosive reaction to simple requests? Gone. The overall sense of "something is wrong"? Mostly gone. 

She is looking GOOD

Looking back, I can see now that when things really started to come apart coincided with the time that I got my 18" saddle. I was telling my trainer that something was wrong, but we thought it was my saddle fit. Which, I mean, the saddle DID need adjustment but that wasn't all of it. Right after that, Mia started having weird reactivity including breaking out of cross ties twice. And having weird soreness/lameness. Even the second ever chiro eval was wonky, and the vet said she could tell Mia was amiss and very uncomfortable. Stupid Lyme being so hard to diagnose, why can't it present the same way in each horse for simplicity?

The weight loss she had is gone, she is BEEFY again!

This week will mark a full 2 months since Mia has been out of training. I have been walking her both in hand and under saddle constantly during this, as she always moves better at the end than at the start of a walk. I did try trotting her a few times over the past 2 weeks as she is totally over walking around. The first couple of times went very well, but then I let her actually do some fitness/work trotting last week and boom, completely uncomfortable again. I am going to wait until she is off of Doxy before I try again, many people are telling me their horses felt badly on Doxy. While Mia has felt great most of the time, sometimes she doesn't. No sense in trying to hurry the process, every time I have tried to get "back to normal", the wheels have fallen off of the bus. We are getting blood drawn this week to retest for Lyme, fingers crossed the numbers are good!

This is the face of someone who wants to do fun stuff again

IF Mia is comfortable and sound, we are going to aim to start working this week and maybe go to a schooling horse trial on the 26th. We would be doing Beginner Novice or Novice, depending on her fitness level. I had already paid for a USEA entry in either June or Sept, so fingers crossed we can get our fitness back by Sept. I would love to go Training for my USEA debut, however with the timing, going Novice may be much more reasonable of a request. I am also aiming to go to Loch Moy in October (Hey Emma!) with someone else if she stays sound. #Goals

It has been a really defeating spring, we had worked so damn hard to fall short at the start line. I am really optimistic that things will get better. Mia is already so much better, it can only go up from here right?  Here's to hoping she gets back to feeling great all of the time and we can start doing the fun stuff again! 

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

No more margaritas, please

 We do have answers! Finally. The vet was out on the 30th and we did a full workup on Mia. The vet said Mia was super uncomfortable even standing in the indoor arena, and I agreed. She was very uncomfortable and hyper reactive. Mia almost knocked the poor vet over when the vet tried to examine Mia's ears! A lameness exam showed her slightly lame on all 4 legs but flexions didn't show where, which may or may not be related to the trim that was done 2 days before. I showed pics of Mia's feet pre-trim and the vet agreed that her feet could have been making her sore and that the adjustment back to normal could be making it slightly worse. The farrier from Feb-Apr had not done Mia any favors but 1 trim has her back on track. Basically Mia was broken enough that we couldn't block to find where she was sore. The vet left with blood for tests, and a list of things we would do as we crossed other things off. First up? Lyme. If no, then EPM. If no, bone scan. At least there was a plan!

We put Mia on Robaxin to try to make her more comfortable, which did help. Well, they helped for 10 days anyway. After that, Mia went on a hunger strike and refused to eat if any pill DARE be in her grain despite the addition of applesauce and straight molasses. *sigh* On May 5th, we got our first result back. Hold the margaritas, Mia doesn't need any more Lyme! She tested positive for chronic Lyme. The vet thinks she caught it around the March timeframe based on her numbers and my description of her reactions. It sucks. I was the first person in the barn to break out fly spray in March but apparently I was already too late. Her numbers are 4600, which is definitely positive but also significantly less than other horses have tested in the barn and area. Another mare in the barn tested over 20k last November and is still being treated, a gelding at a nearby barn tested at 14k and is also still being treated. 

With this new information, we put straight on Doxy which quickly made a significant difference. After 3 days, Mia looked comfortable again. After 7 days, Mia started to walk normally and have swing in her back again. She has been so uncomfortable, she felt like she was a machine walking on stilts! After a week and a half, Mia is now acting normal again. She still has some slight hyper reactivity on her neck and poll, but it is significantly reduced and I wouldn't consider her borderline dangerous anymore. Yes, it had gotten that bad! For a while, I wasn't even cross tying her because of her extreme reaction when anything would touch in front of her shoulder! 

She had a 2nd chiro/acupuncture visit on the 7th and was told Mia is MUCH better. Mia was out in a few places and still sore, but was much better than the treatment the month prior and that was after only 3 days on Doxy. It was good to hear someone else agree that Mia is getting better.

Mia has been getting lots of attention and 30 minute walk rides for the past 3 weeks. The vet agreed she was working out of the stiffness so keep her moving and it has helped. I have increased the ride times to 45 - 60 minutes since she is feeling better, but I wanted to make 100% sure that she was feeling okay. After last night? I would say she is feeling GOOD! Mia is currently in a big almost 5 acre field with a 4yr old gelding and another mare. Last night, the other mare kept running Mia and the gelding away from me as I went to catch them. I had to walk ALL OVER the dang pasture trying to catch them, and when I did catch Mia? The other horses were running around us taunting Mia to run off with them and while she didn't break free, Mia was very happy to try. Needless to say, Mia was feeling GOOD.

Fingers crossed she continues to improve and her Lyme numbers are gone at the end of the month. It would be awesome of we could start training again in June, there are competitions I would love to go to this year! 

Friday, April 30, 2021

Jumping stuff! Then the wheels fell off the bus

 I have been doing some jump schools with Mia in prep for our show. The first time riding outside, I rode in the pelham so that I would have emergency brakes if needed. Mia has a tendency to....shall we say decline to yield in requests to slow or collect at times. Almost always at the start of a ride, and they aren't bad in comparison to other horses. She isn't bolting, she isn't taking off, she just declines to believe I am the driver for a few minutes at times. Since she hates any curb pressure with a heated, fiery passion, the pelham works great to fix that!

She was looking good

Our first ride was over stadium jumps with some of the small xc logs/jumps thrown in at the end. Overall? Mia was amazing. She was beyond happy to have real jumps to go over again after a winter of dressage! I was able to meet all of our distances but one, AND Mia is showing off our new ability to change leads over fences (!!!) that we developed apparently by magic. It was something we started doing in 2020 and it just happens. I never actually taught it. Ha!

The first ride required me to use the emergency brake three times. The last was the most amusing, as we were 2 strides from the ditch jump and I felt Mia's change. Because yes, I can feel when she decides she is going to not listen. We jumped the ditch and landed in a flat gallop. Except going straight means going down a semi-steep hill. Going right means going through thick woods/brush, and going left is the only option. I pulled her up with the pelham while circling left and it still took 6 strides, I was seriously wondering if she was going to jump the fencing into the outdoor arena! We came within 2 strides of the that fencing, that is about 3'6" high and not an actual jump. That's not for jumping Mia!

Happy mare

The second jump ride was much better. We did the same routine but with the stadium fences up to 2'9". Mia was, again, great and I only needed the emergency brake two times! The third ride was even better,  I only needed the emergency brake once! That was Apr 11th. We were 2 weeks from our show and I was feeling really good. The saddle swap and jump school had settled all of my nerves, I was feeling great about our chances at the show. I was feeling so good, I even entered the show on the the 12th! I always, ALWAYS wait until the closing date to enter because of the randomness of Mia but I was committing, we were doing it!

On Tues the 13th, she had her second chiro and acupuncture treatment. The first, in January, had made a HUGE improvement in her movement, I was hoping to replicate that. On the 14th she had her monthly professional massage. On the 15th I came out for our lesson and things were all kinds of wrong. Mia ran from the end of the pasture (ran past me of course) and went up to the gate after I called her. When I tried to get her, she played a game of keep away so hard, I legit thought I wouldn't catch her. Assuming she was still high from her run, we went in the barn and got ready for our lesson. 

New saddle before being fitted

After a quick brushing, I put the saddle and pad on. I went to grab the girth and Mia set back in the cross ties, broke loose, and ran out of the barn, dumping my saddle at the doors of the barn. I ran out to try to catch her and she wasn't having it. A came out to help, abandoning her lesson student, and we both had a hard time catching her. A finally got close enough to her left side to swing a rope over her, and Mia still tried to jet off. The hell?!

The loss of topline in 3 months. Left in Jan, right is Apr

After some examination, it appears Mia is extremely reactive on her right side. From her shoulder clear up to her poll. We gave her bute for a week with no change. I have tried massaging her right side, and while she seems to relax during it, afterwards she gets much worse and impossible to catch. And thus, this is the story of how I have lost 2 weeks of riding and missed my first show. The vet comes out today (I called last Fri, this is the soonest she could come out) to see what she thinks. I talked to the chiro and she is coming back out on the 7th, but doesn't think Mia's issues are related to the adjustment. The only thing that has really changed is the farrier, as mine stopped traveling so far so I had found a new one. After not being thrilled with the trims, and A thinks this may have started with the angle changes that happened too fast, I switched again this week. Fingers crossed we get some answers and she starts feeling better!

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Lesson 29 - doing the things

After the failure of the 18.5", I was optimistic for the 18". When I had the Trilogy rep out, I was borderline on needing an 18 or 18.5 and she said I really could swing either way. The 18" came and it is in much nicer condition than I expected! It was a demo saddle that had been ridden in lightly before being sat for years before going to a consignment store, where it had also sat for about 2 years. I felt more comfortable in it, the difference in the 17.5 and 18 certainly feels more than a half inch! After a couple of quick rides, I decided to keep it and immediately scheduled the Trilogy rep to come back for a fitting. 

Lesson 29 had me coming into it with the wheels falling off of the bus. I had lost a week of time because of a malfunction of the tractor that filled the entire arena with exhaust. Mia wasn't acting right, we hadn't jumped as much as I felt we needed, and A got to see the rarely seen side of me with anxiety lol. We talked through a lot in the lesson, and while I felt better, I wasn't completely solid. I hadn't even jumped 3' yet and we were 2 weeks from the show. Would I blow her tendons by pushing too fast? Things had also went from "easy" to "hard" again on Mia. She had started fighting again, and I didn't always feel like I knew what I was doing again.

We worked hard on the test, doing every part of the test 2 to 3 times to really focus on the technical aspects of the test to maximize points. If Michael Yung can win on his dressage score on a not-flashy mare by being technically accurate, so can I dammit! We put the test together at the end and A was pretty happy. There are a few things I am missing, but she would have given us an 8 on several aspects of the ride. Score! I left the ride feeling really good.

One of the things I kept thinking was that Mia didn't like the 18" saddle. I couldn't pinpoint why, other than she was fighting me, but I needed to find out to fix some of the anxiety. The next Sunday I did a blind ride test for A. I rode in one saddle, then the other to see if she could see a difference. I felt a difference immediately, Mia was uncomfortable in the 18". When I swapped the 18" for the 17.5", Mia stopped fighting with the very first step. I set the 18" aside and decided we are staying in the 17.5" until our show, I don't want to keep changing things right before my show on Apr 25th.

Monday, March 29, 2021

Lesson 28, jumps, and saddles

Since I am not 100% sure which number we are on, we'll say that the last one was 28. I would only be off by 1 if I am wrong anyway. Lesson 26 was an AMAZING lesson. In that lesson, we worked on getting Mia forward, soft, and working. Through the winter, we have done all sorts of new things. Really focusing on the shoulder in at all gaits, developing a true medium trot, 10m circles in the canter, canter/walk transitions, even some baby passage steps! Lesson 26 showed what Mia could be as a big, bad dressage horse and I don't have any media from it! We actually felt like we knew what we were doing and it was amazing.

Mia's topline change from Mar 2020 to Jan 2021. Beefy!

Lesson 27 was okay at best. There were a lot of interruptions, I was trying to get video with the Pivo but it kept following the other rider who was not being respectful of my lesson. There was lots of talking with others and lots of breaks, it was frustrating got me after coming off of such an amazing lesson 26. I was pumped up, wanting amazing, cool things on video and instead it was a hodgepodge of stuff and I didn't feel we were super successful at much. We did, however, talk about the upcoming show on Apr 25 and are now starting to work only on elements of the test to really fix some of the weak areas of it. 

So much snow. All winter long.

Lesson 28 was all about elements of the test that we need to work on. The two biggest problem areas of the test are the 10m half circles of trot at the beginning and the canter/canter lengthenings. I am very happy to say that it turns out I knew how to fix the canter lengthening to canter transition problem, I just didn't realize it! The issue is that Mia throws her haunches in during this transition, way more than she throws her haunches in normally. While this past year has made her canter be straight 80% of the time, this transition will always bring her haunches in to an extreme. The solution? Shoulder in during the transition. It sounds super easy, sometimes it is/sometimes it isn't, but it is working! With our new-over-the-winter ability to do canter in a shoulder in, doing it in the transition is now possible and works to keep Mia's haunches where they belong. Win!

Hay where it belongs, in a net! 

The other weak area? Our 10m half circles of trot. After entering down the centerline, you turn left. At E, there is a 10m half circle, changing direction at X to do a 10m half circle to B. The first circle is always fine, the second circle to the right is always bad. It is off of Mia's bad side and off of my bad leg that Mia ignores, we almost never get a nice, round circle. It is my homework to really work on the right circle, so fingers crossed. I have a bunch of tricks to play with to find what will work best. Luckily, the rest of the test I am pretty confident about. Under A's direction, we have made tremendous improvements in all aspects of our test and there are times that I ACTUALLY feel like we are a serious contender in dressage. A wants, and expects, us to get a score in the 20's (OMG), I'll be happy with low 30's. 20's? I can't even.... That is an App score, not a Mia score!

Sweaty mare is a happy mare

Yesterday I jumped real jumps for the first time since lesson 18 in October. I've gone over cavelletti for a few rides to help strengthen her ligaments, but this was the first jumping I've done and it was done outside. While super duper forward, at times way too much so, Mia was very good. She refused to actually jump the 18" crossrails and would only trot them, so I had the 3 jumps as an 18", 2', and 2'3" verticals. We did lots of bending lines, angles, and jumping with adjustability in our striding with these 3 jumps! At the end, I even went over some of the small to medium XC logs which Mia absolutely loved. She turned her power up to 100% for those jumps, there is zero chance A would have yelled at me to get more power from her! HA! 

That's not what you want to see on your new saddle
Using the lines on the wall as a guide, that left panel is not right

In other news, the first saddle I had on trial was a big fat no. The tree was twisted. The left panel was almost 3/4 of an inch back further and down more than the right panel and they were of very different shapes. I had seen it immediately on the pommel, but it was even more obvious when you looked underneath. Boo! I have an 18" coming tomorrow. It is a 2008 like my current saddle, but supposed to still be in almost demo condition. Fingers crossed this one works! 

Saturday, March 27, 2021

New outlook, new saddle, new plans!

2020 hit everyone hard, and for me, it did a great job of knocking my motivation to basically zero. If I didn't have a lesson, I really didn't feel like working which was a first for me. I am very goal oriented and highly motivated and with nothing to do and constantly getting bad news, what was the point? 2021 started better, but then the extreme cold hit. And the constant snow, where it snowed in some fashion every day for 3 weeks and we ended up with over 26" of snow. That stayed around for over a month. And then the indoor arena lights kept going out until we were down to 5 lights in the huge arena when there are supposed to be 30. 2/3 of the arena was literally in the dark at night, and I can only go out to the barn at night during the week. During the weekends, it was either much too cold, much too windy, or there was snow/rain that kept me from riding outside for almost 2 solid months. We also determined that my new dressage saddle was too small for my butt. The entire month of February was without a lesson and we struggled.

March hit and things have started looking better. The weather started to improve! I rode outside for the first time in a long time. I had a chiropractor/acupuncture therapist work on Mia, which made a huge difference in the swing of her walk. The barn got a light up in each of the corners of the arena that had no lights, so the entire arena was usable again. 

I love the Trilogy I finally got in January, but the seat is really just a touch too small. After a couple of months of trying to make it work, I had a Trilogy rep come out and I sat in a bunch of saddles. We found that I needed an 18.5" (I could go 18" if needed) seat for the Verago and that I also needed a MW tree, and not a W, for Mia. And by moving up to an 18.5, I also needed a short flap ugh! It was SO nice sitting in saddles to find options and not having pressure to buy a new saddle! It is so hard to find reps to come to this area anyway, it was quite refreshing to have this rep come up and let me just find what works while just charging a consultation fee. I have a saddle coming in on a trial, fingers crossed that it works!

Lessons picked back up in March, I think we are on lesson 26 now? Or 27, I lost count :( I now have aggressive plans for this show season and my first show is Apr 25 as a Combined Test (dressage/stadium). This year is "it" for me, I need to know if our work in dressage will pay off. I need to know if I can actually do Training level and win on our dressage score or if I will only get by on our jumping efforts. Our trainer says we are working solidly in 3rd level dressage work and there is no reason we can't beat the pants off of big warmbloods and TBs. My long backed, upside down necked, slightly downhill mare has all of the heart to do it and there is not reason that we can't (as long as I keep my head about me). I even bought an entry to a USEA recognized show at a charity auction! 

I want to document my lessons more, so fingers crossed I get back into the habit. I suddenly have SO much to talk about and very little time. With only 4 weeks until our first show, it is time to really buckle down and get to work! I am feeling much better mentally, Mia is sound and fit, we are going to do this! 

Monday, January 11, 2021

Lesson 21 - The catch up - Part 2

I have ridden in my jump saddle three times so far with my new stirrups, I have to say, I expected very little. Gadgets and gimmicks are not something I buy into very heavily and for someone to say "This fixed all of my pain" was something I looked for, but I didn't necessarily believe it would happen. However, these stirrups have actually made me comfortable. I have done 2 light fitness rides, with two point, and not only did my knee not lock up, it didn't swell and it wasn't painful. 

Pretty stirrups, pretty snoot! 

I bought the Soft'up Pros and they feel legitimately solid. I feel extremely secure in the stirrups, there is no slippage at all and the stirrups are "right there" when I drop them due to how they connect to the stirrup leather. I am hopeful I will be able to start jumping again soon, and without pain, as one of the (many) reasons I didn't jump a lot this year was due to knee pain issues. 3 surgeries, arthritis, and lack of cartilage has really taken it's toll on me!

The TRILOGY SADDLE!!! After a deep clean/conditioning

Lesson 21 was Jan 3 and was totally focusing on bending. One of the issues I have is that with my logical brain, I have switches. On/Off. Left/Right. I have to ride with gradients, and after a year, things are much, much better but it is still a work in progress. I need to ask smaller and get bigger with my ask versus asking for (whatever) "right now". If I want a 10 meter circle, I need to start as if it is a 20m as I turn and then ask for a smaller and then smaller circle. Right now I have a tendency to pull/push/kick to the the movement as I am "riding the pattern" and not always the horse because I am riding X, then Y, then Z. Instead I should be riding to X, and then into Y, and then into Z. 

It seems to fit
Way more wither clearance than
any saddle I have put on her!

Riding. The art of realizing you are never doing anything right but we keep trying anyway. I will say these lessons have tremendously improved my skill and my relationship with Mia. A made a very accurate statement, Mia is a much better partner now even though she is not nearly as obedient as she was. We have taught her how to tell us when something is too hard or can't be done versus fighting me because she didn't know how to say she couldn't. As a result, she tries differently and sometimes says no, but is more willing to try. It was eye opening indeed.

It is so soft
Really digging it so far

On Tuesday, low and behold my saddle showed up! It was a lovely, unannounced surprise. That morning the tracking number showed "in transit", as it had since Dec 16th. After it was delivered, tracking suddenly updated to say on Jan 5 at 4a it was in a local distribution center and 8a it was out for delivery. I don't believe that, as it always, always takes at least 24 hours to get from the distribution center to my local office, let alone in a van to delivery it, but hey, my saddle came so I will take it. I also didn't get the email notification that I had signed up for for any of those updates, I never got any email update since the 16Dec email actually, but at least I got the saddle.

These long ass billets mean I don't have a girth that actually fits now

It was such a sad sight. It had been curled in a box for 30 days, cold and alone in a warehouse who knows were. It was dirty, dry, and super duper stiff. I brought it into my office to warm up and then spent an hour cleaning and conditioning it so that I could know every single inch of it. The saddle could use a dye job, as several places have brown coming through. It also has a small nick on a knee roll and by the seat. Other than that? I am extremely happy with it.

The only girth I have that fits is a 22" from my sale pile, and I need a 24"

The first ride was SO different from my Isabell. Despite there being a very wide gullet channel, the twist feels so very narrow in comparison which really helps this lady who does not have wide, child birthing hips. The seat is also much deeper, I am used to a scooped, but fairly flat seat in the Isabell. I wonder if I need an 18" seat versus a 17.5" seat, and it was awkward as I kept sitting on my jacket.
Feeling something touching my butt is taking some getting used to. The Trilogy also moved my leg forward, a LOT, without being in a chair seat. Take a look at the last picture. This last point was one of the biggest reasons I was saddle shopping is and is also one of the reasons I picked this saddle model to search for when I sat in so many saddles back in November. 
Sexy butt

A quick story, back in December when I was so mentally tired with my horse breaking, the quarantine, and my saddle not showing up, I stopped riding in my Isabell. I started riding only in my County jump saddle and just used really long stirrups. It wasn't easy, as my body really, really wants to be forward and with my legs high as the County wanted me to be, however my County is much more comfortable than my Isabell and I was mostly trail riding/walk/trotting. That was for about 2.5 to 3 weeks. I put my Isabell back on the weekend before my saddle randomly showed up and there was a significant, noticeable difference in how Mia moved. She was certainly more tense and short in her stride, something I hadn't really noticed before. Very interesting indeed! Perhaps she doesn't like the tree as much as my County!

The second ride in the Trilogy was much better. I wore less clothes and felt that I "fit" in it better. I also had significantly more control over Mia. When I put my leg "on", Mia moved. I was also able to engage my leg from my thigh a lot easier, something I have always struggled with. Even in the right lead canter, our worse direction, I felt I had more control and Mia seemed to respond to my seat much better.

Ignore the whale like-appearance, the jacket was not flattering. 
Look at the difference in leg position!!

I have a lesson tonight, which I think is the big test. Let's see what A has to say about how Mia moves and how I ride in it. I do plan on having the Pivo out for the lesson too! Fingers crossed that this makes as much of a difference in my dressage as my County did for my jumping. If it works, the next step is finding a saddle fitter and getting dialed into Mia so we can be fabulous! 

Thursday, January 7, 2021

Lesson 20 - The catch up Part 1

Wow. I really dropped the blogging ball. Lesson 20 was really a not-lesson, as I was paying for A's time and opinion in a consulting session about saddles. A brought out 5 different saddles to try on Mia. They are not ones she has for sale, but just ones that were around the barn so we could see if Mia liked any of them. If the Trilogy falls through, we would then have some saddle models to start looking at! There were two immediate No's, the tree didn't fit Mia well at all. That left a 1980's model Passier and 2 Stubbens.  

So much riding, so little treats

The Passier was old, hard, and quite uncomfortable for me, but Mia really seemed to like the saddle. She moved freely, happily, and forward in all three gaits. Personally it felt like riding in a bareback pad with stirrups. I made that comment during the ride, and while A thought that was a good thing, I am not quite sure it is. I will definitely be looking for a newer, softer Passier if I go that route! Mia did not, however, move well in the Stubbens at all. I had to really force the issue of trotting, and we stopped before we went a full circle as it was clear Mia didn't like the saddle.

After that lesson, Mia's left front swelled up and was lame. We suspect it was the residual affects of the right front being off for so long and the left front compensating. That JUST cleared up when we had Lesson 21 and Mia was lame again. We did a short, mostly walk lesson where we focused on bending and trying to fix some of my bad habits. Mia's left hind popped an abscess about a week later so I took the holiday break to do basic walk/trot fitness. Maybe I was bringing her back too quickly each time, maybe she needed more basic level fitness? Or I was in a huge mental funk and didn't want to work hard, either option is possible.

That was definitely an abscess

Around this time is when my bad knee decided it was unhappy when riding, and would hurt/swell/lock up even during a trial ride. Even with drugs. Off to the interwebs I went to find recommendations. Perhaps some new stirrups would make life easier? After searching (dozens of) forums, threads, and groups, there were a few stirrups that were always recommended. Composi, MDC, and Freejump. I expected to see the Bow Balance in the list, but they rarely ever came up! Disappointing as someone at the barn had Bow Balance I could have asked to borrow. I know 2 different bloggers use and love their Freejump stirrups so off I went in search. It took weeks to find one for a price I was willing to pay, as they are damn pricey, and even then they were much more than I really wanted to spend. 

I don't hate the blue

Queue the post office being the post office, things took weeks to arrive. The stirrups I bought Dec 12 arrived Dec 30th.  The saddle I bought on Nov 18 that was shipped with Priority? It didn't arrive until Jan 5th. By Jan 1, I had all but given up on my saddle! When it arrived, it was the saddest saddle you had ever seen. Cold and stiff from being folded into a box for 30+ days, I spent a good hour cleaning and conditioning it after moving it to my office where it was warm. The result? I am very pleased, very pleased indeed.

Can I be warm and be on a budget? Yes!

Speaking of pleased, one of the barn peeps started wearing snow pants to work/ride in instead of bibs and said they were a game changer for her. Never one to refuse an opportunity, I found these white snow pants in the clearance section for 75% off. But....white? Eww? I researched dyes for polyester and settled on iDye Poly in Turquoise. While they didn't turn actual turquoise, IMO, I really am impressed in how they turned out. The dye was very even and looks like it came from the factory this way!

Boil, boil, boil away

The results are impressive, I do agree that the snow pants work just as well (if not better than) as bib Carhartt's. They are lighter, they have more flexibility, and are not nearly as bulky. If anyone wants some warm over pants, try some snow pants this winter! 

I like these, a lot. No more sweat pants as an overpant,
I am going with these!

The feedback I have on the dying process? It definitely needs to be done outside, and you need a big stock pot but less water than you think you need. The water went to the tip top of the pot when I had about a third of the pot filled with water after dunking my pants. My pot wasn't big enough to submerge the entire pants either, I did have to stir it constantly for 30 mins, which wasn't nearly as bad as you would think. I would also buy the next larger size pant if I did it again, however, because there is very minimal shrinkage during the boiling process. It isn't bad at all, but it is just enough to be snug in the hips and crotch when I am riding. I think they will relax and stretch a little, but these first few rides have been snug. And hey, having more room is never a bad thing.