Thursday, December 11, 2014

Holiday Horse Show - Part 2

I took Baby Dax to his very first outing!

I had no idea what to expect of him.  When he was unloaded and tied to the trailer, he was obviously confused...
Where are we?
Why are we here?
What am I supposed to be doing??

I knocked the mud off of him, tacked him up, and climbed right up to head to the ring to school a little.

Well, in the ring, lots of chaos was going on and everyone was cluckiong and smooching to keep their horses forward over scary ground poles and cross rails.  And I just wanted Dax to walk around like a sane horse!

He just **KNEW** that everyone was clucking and smooching at *him*.
Baby Dax almost had a melt down...

So, before it got too bad, I hopped down and just held the reins in the middle of the ring, letting him absorb the choas without asking for a thing.  That derpy head finally dropped and he started breathing again.  Luckily, the goal at this show was *just* to get some miles on him!
I had entered him in the ground pole division.

I only managed to lead him over a couple ground poles before it was time to show.
So, in we go for our simple little baby ground pole course.  We weren't even going to make it over the first one!  All the decorations were so scary!  But, Baby Dax trusted that he wouldn't die, and went over all the poles...  although he never went over them straight...

Round 2, we were getting the hang of it on one side, but down the side with the spectators was still scary!

Round 3, though, takes the cake!  We were approaching the line on the spectator side, and we were actually headed straight!!  We were headed confidently forward with quiet purpose...  when a spectator blew her nose just as we came next to her!!!
Poor Baby Dax lost his mind and slid stright sideways!  I started cackling so hard, I don't know how I managed to get him back onto the line and over the pole, but somehow we managed.

We hit the under saddle classes, and he derped along with very little concern.  We lined up, then they announced the placings...  And he just didn't know what to do when everyone started clapping!  When all was said and done, I walked him over to check out the spectators, and he decided that maybe they were OK after all.

Sleepy Baby Dax in the back...
Once his duty was over, he ate a little hay, then promptly fell into a deep sleep...  You might notice his head (behind Cricket) his hanging as low as his rope will allow.  His eyes were closed, and he might well have been snoring...  I was worried I would wake him up if I got any closer, and Baby Dax had definitely earned that nap!!
Ribbon Tree!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Holiday Horse Show - Part 1

What could be better than meeting a fellow blogger in person?
Running into them by accident an a horse show!!

There I was waiting around for my turn to ride the Fancy Pony in the 2'6" hunter division, and a fellow comtetitior came up and said, "Pardon me, what is your horse's name?"
Of course, I had to list them off:
RSA Talk ofthe Street
She interjected, "I read your blog!"

No way!  Did I actually just meet someone in our blogging circle?
I was, indeed, talking with A Gift Horse!

I wanted to squeal and jump up and down!
Same place, same time!  PROOF!!
Not that Fancy Pony would approve of such shenanigans...  She is way more sophistocated than that...
So sophisticated...

Of course, it's not real on the internet unless there are pictures...
I'm looking forward to getting together with her again.  You know...  On purpose...
I'm thinking I might need to sway her to the dark side...
I mean, cross-country schooling is a great excuse for a get-together, right??

Wednesday, November 26, 2014


When coach said, "I want you to come ride this horse!", I couldn't refuse.
Well, I guess I could have, but I sure wouldn't want to!
I understand that JoJo is established at 2nd level dressage and schooling most of the 3rd level movements.
I suddenly felt like I didn't know how to ride...

JoJo - Fancy TB dressage horse
JoJo is responsive.  He is also very forgiving.
I walked a bit as I tried to help him relax...  He didn't like the rain hitting one side of the indoor arena...
Finally, I felt ready to find my place in the trot.  Constantly Coach yells at me: "Get your lower leg forward!  You're kicking him in the flank!"
I insist that I was fighting against the saddle...  So, I tried to feel like I was "waterskiing".  And it helped, sometimes.
We explored shoulder-fore, where I was able to find the easy bend.
We explored shoulder-in, where I could easily put too much angle in because JoJo is so responsive!
Once shoulder-in started getting consistent, I got to explore completely foreign land: HALF-PASS!
Putting theory into practice is never as easy as you think it should be.
I got a few decent steps at a time, but I always dropped his inside shoulder, which I'm sure JoJo didn't appreciate.  That leg kept creeping back, and I would think I was asking for half-pass, but instead would get a canter transition...
In the cold, I worked up a sweat trotting around in the indoor arena!  This was seriously hard work!
And I loved every moment!  What a priviledge to get to ride this horse!!
We wrapped up with some canter (on purpose, this time), then cooled out.  We were both toast.
But, the fun didn't stop there...
Next, I had the opportunity to ride Ultaire, a dutch warmblood who used to own the hunter ring!
He needed to hop over a few fences, and his owner ran out of time, so I dared not refuse when offered the ride!!
I was told he is a "kick ride."
In fact, I would need my spurs (well, someone's spurs, anyway).
His nickname is The Grumpy Slug.
Oh, boy!

Ultaire - The fanciest slug I have ever met!

We warmed up with lots of walk.  He was scared to death of the water coming from the hose as Coach dampened down the arena.  So, of course, I insisted that we get ever closer to it!
We trotted, and I found out how hard I was going to have to work!
He leaned on my left leg. The entire time!!
But, going through the jumps, he was as "point and shoot" as they come!  His demeanor never changed, wether we came in at the right spot or not.  He just shrugged and made it happen.  I could focus on me!  What a treat!
We were both too tired to actually get one of those automatic changes Coach had mentioned, so we accepted the simple change and moved on to cooling out.
When I voiced rhetorically, "Why does it feel like I don't know how to ride whenever I get on a new horse these days?"
Coach actually replied, "Because you don't get to ride different horses every day."
Hmm.  Good point, Coach!
Something should be done about that!!
Here's to more catch ride opportunities!  Never turn it down!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Raising the Bar a Little Further

The Fancy Pony has shown us that she really does like to jump.  When I let others ride her, she will try to take them over the jumps (against their will!) on her own accord.

Actually, it is rather amusing to see the panic on a beginners face when their mount wants to quietly trot over a 12" elevated pole...

So, we asked her to show us what she's got!

Just in case that didn't work, see it here:
Fancy Pony free jumps 3'6"

She also made is laugh as she demonstrated her understanding that "forward is always the right answer:

And, in case that doesn't work:

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Another Taste of Our Driving Adventures - video!

Our workouts have begun to look like this:

What would I do without willing minions?
I feel like I should post an add:

Seeking MINIONS!
Flexible hours!
Excellent benefits!
No experience required!
Will train!

Translation: Come get exercise for free while walking for hours dragging my horse cart!
How many takers do you think I would get?

Of course, wherever we may go on our adventures, we must always return home...
And in the hell that is WINTER after the end of DAYLIGHT SAVINGS TIME, we face dusk way too early...

In case you can't watch that, try viewing it here:

It isn't very exciting, but I think it's bridging the gap between ground driving and hitching up quite well!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Driving Adventures

We are still working at it!
So, I finally determined beyond a shadow of any doubt in my mind that the crupper (when pulled by the harness surcingle) is what initiated the bucking fir that led to our cart wreck early this year.
Luckily, no one was hurt.
I have not given up...
See my determination...
 I took a page from Jane Savoie's instruction manual, and I broke the process down into more abby steps....
I put a crupper on my saddle and let her buck it out on the lungeline...
This was quite impressive, as she pointed her feet to the sky and let them hang there while she continued to trot on her front legs....  It looked like a game of "wheelbarrow" where God was holding her back legs...
I also picked up a training cart.
after removing the shafts...
And decided to refinish it!
Point A...
So, I sanded...
sanded on the left...
And I primed...
And I painted...
And I sanded and stained...
Yay for stain!
In the meantime, I continued my "baby steps" approach...
Step 1: bang stuff against sides and legs...
Step 2: Add a load...
Now, we're following the cart around and walking next to it until it doesn't bother her wherever it goes or whatever noises it makes.  I think we're getting there!!
Who is up for driving?

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Wordless Wednesday (kinda)

Take care of your body. It's the onlt place you have to live.  -Jim Rohn
Kinda hits home, doesn't it?
I'm doing my best to take care of my body in such a manner that I can ride for as many years as possible! 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

A Ray of Sunshine!

Recall Cricket.  This chestnut mare came to play with me for a few months.  She learned some things and got stronger and braver.  Then, she began to improve asymmetrically…  Most notably, in the trot, the push from behind stagnated on one side while it continued to improve on the other side.  She began to drag her toes just a little bit.  She continued to struggle to hold her canter leads on her own.  But she continued to be enthusiastic about jumping!
I talked with her owners, and we agreed the vet should do a lameness evaluation. 
The week after we took her through her first horse trial (where she took 3rd place in Starter!), the initial diagnosis came back most likely neurological, and blood was drawn to test for EPM.
The test for SAG 2,3,4 came back positive, and treatment for EPM was recommended.  As we delved into our research, however, we found that the test for SAG 1,5,6 may turn up more accurate results.  So, the vet humored us and drew blood to be sent off for the second test.  Those results indicated low counts and suggested that maybe we weren’t dealing with EPM, and there was a push for the spinal draw.
Before pulling spinal fluid, the owner decided to try a course of Levamisole.  As it was explained to me, the drug is designed to boost the immune system…  At the end of the 10 days, we didn’t really see any difference.  However, about a week after that, we had one happy, forward-thinking horse!
Then, in the very next ride, as we were all trotting around in 2-point, Cricket tripped and appeared to barely save herself from literally falling on her face!! 
At wits end, the owner finally dropped her off at the vet’s office and said, “Keep her until you know what is wrong with her.”
 They started all over from the top.  They determined that she couldn’t hold her canter and swapped behind in both directions.  She bunny-hops in the canter.  She steps short behind, and sometimes drags her toes.  Recommendation was a full lameness exam with nerve blocks.  So, they went blocking the nerves, and suddenly, after blocking the stifle, she was much better!

After all of the diagnostics, Cricket received a stifle injection and sent home to recuperate for a day then begin returning to work over the rest of the week.
We are so cautiously optimistic right now!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Babies are so much fun! Meet DAX

Oh, how I get involved in the doing and miss out on the sharing...

DAX came to me last month after moving around a bit.  He was thin.  OK, he's still thin, but we're working on that!

Day 1
He is a 3 year old Arabian with the mind of Eyore...

I was in no hurry to ride him.  I knew he had been started, so I just focused on getting his weight up and developing his focus in the round pen.

Day 10?

Since I had such little information on his past experiences, I just started him as if he had never been ridden.  We worked in the round pen.  We worked on the lunge.  We worked in hand.  We worked in the saddle.

The first time I rode him was perfectly uneventful.  We walked around the round pen and his ears flopped.

Then, I rode him in the arena.  We started incorporating trot work into our saddle time.  And poles on the ground!

Meeting his soon-to-be herd mates...

Elevated poles are still a bit of a challenge...  He clears is with the first foot, then kind of just drags it over with the second foot.  He just stands there and watches it fall down underneath of us, then calmly walks over the carnage.

Derpy pony...
I did my last 2-point timing on him because I thought the work would be great for teaching him to maintain his gait unless I explicitely tell him to do something else.  So what does he do?
He offers 2 strides of canter...
Then realizes his mistake and goes right back to the trot without me having to do anything!!
Cantering after 2-point practice.
Great brain.  Really!

His brain is so good, in fact, that one of my less-experienced girlfriends was dying to ride him.  She walked him around until she just couldn't sit in the saddle any longer! 

Green horse, green rider, intense supervision!
He is finally strong enough to hold our combined balance in the trot, and we have started canter work.  It's not pretty yet, but what a sweeping stride!!

I can't wait to show him the ropes and see what he has to offer in the future.  What a blast babies are!
Pocket Pony

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Baby Steps

As you might know, I am a huge fan of Jane Savoie. I have been following her advice through videos, audios, and online instruction for 3 years. I made tons of progress with the Old Man before he left me, and I feel like her techniques also help with the Fancy Pony, as well.
Due to this year's chronic pain from my bulged discs, my jump work has been touch and go. We haven't made the progress I had hoped to make.
Allow me to be more specific. SHE has progressed wonderfully! I feel like I have stagnated. This year has been rife with frustration. Carrying that frustration into the saddle won't help, so I do my best to set those feelings aside and revel in the fact that I am capable of riding at all!
Aside: after a total of 5 injections so far this year, I've been referred to a surgeon. Surgeon doesn't think surgery is called for and referred me to physical therapy. THIS physical therapy is different than previous PT. No wonderful things like electric stimulation or traction... This is the McKenzie Method. I'll have to see how it works as we go through the program!
Back to the riding:
As I ride, I have been constantly evaluating my dressage. The jumping helps with elasticity within the gaits, but I began to ask myself: how can I get this quality without jumping?
How  can I consistently get this feeling?
This trot makes me drool!

So, I've been asking myself: do I have rhythm? Suppleness? Connection? 
Then I consider the collective marks from my tests. Where did the judges think I could use improvement? 
Always "acceptance of the bridle" and "suppleness of the back".

Somewhere, there is resistance. And I am determined to improve our communication to break through these areas of resistance. I've gone back to Jane's suppling exercises each and every ride.

I start by marching on a loose rein just to get everything moving. 
Once I feel like the kinks are smoothing out, I get her neck parallel to the fence and practice our lateral poll-suppling exercises. This is such a tiny thing, but I think it has been an area of resistance for a while. I think she is loosening up a little more with each ride!
We start walking again, and I test the poll-suppling in motion and set up for the "Valium exercise" also known as "+7/+1". I usually start off with +3/+1, then go to +5/+1, then finally arrive at +7/+1. I have been doing this every ride and at every gait!
Suddenly, I found myself on a horse with more thrust! This was my cross-country horse in the dressage arena!

step through, much?

I reevaluate my checklist...
Holy cow! How much more quickly I arrive at the straightness work!

Now, I can start my spirals, shoulders-in, leg yields! All the while, I keep checking my first 3 ingredients.  If at any point I loose one, I abandon whatever I am doing and return to those basic elements. Suddenly, it seems the flat work is becoming sufficiently challenging to engage that Fancy Pony! 
Rather, I am communicating more effectively so that the Fancy Pony *understands* the challenge and can actually cooperate to achieve our common goal!!

See?  She is thrilled, too!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Proof! (Clicker Catching)

I know how it is.  If there aren't pictures, it didn't happen, right?
Well, how about some video?

Catching Whisper:

Its kind of hard to believe that a year ago, I struggled to catch her out of a pasture where she was by herself!!
No sweat, no stress.  She seems happy to be caught!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Happy Birthday!

I am loved...
Holy Ship!
It's true.  I had a birthday!
My husband seemed pretty excited about his present for me.  When I opened it, I was shocked into speechlessness...

Am I dreaming???

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Update on Clicker Catching

Just chillin'...
So, Fancy Pony has new digs and is living in a pasture. WITH OTHER HORSES!
I'm ridiculously excited for her, as you might have noticed...
My only concern is that she might be difficult to catch, given her history.
The herd has not instantly accepted her, but there haven't been any real throw-downs.  And she has absolutely no "initiation marks."  She hangs out at the edge of the herd, or she walks off to be by herself.  She is so independent, she just doesn't care if she is with them or not!
I mean, when they all get to running, she is right in the mix of it; but she doesn't feel the need to be glued to someone's side.
My first attempt to catch her from the pasture went much better than I had anticipated.  I armed myself with clicker and treats then headed out wqith halter thrown over my shoulder.  I called to her like I usually do, and headed in her general direction.  She never even acknowledged me as she ambled away.  Slowly.
So, I followed, just as slowly.  When she stopped, I stopped.  I maintained the same distance that initiated her relocation attempt.  Finally, after about 20 feet, she looked at me.  I clicked.  As I reached for a treat, she took a few steps my way, so I clicked again.  While I finished retrieving treats, she marched right up to me and waited to be haltered!!
I continue to take the clicker with me, but ever since, she has made an effort to meet me near the gate to be haltered!  So, I get her all hooked up, then click and treat just for the sake of reinforcing this helpful behavior.
I would call this success!!
I did have video catching her from the back of the pasture in which I whistle and horses come trotting to the gate, but it pixelated pretty bad when I uploaded it, so you guys just have to miss out.  I'll work on that video thing... 

Monday, September 15, 2014

Review: Mango Bay belt

I knew I needed a belt for every day. I found myself looking for something to clip my treat pouch to. I would reach for it to catch a loose horse and find nothing... I wanted something quality, but I wanted something casual enough for everyday that would take abuse.
This is what I chose!
All three phases!
 Find your own favorite belt here:     Mango Bay Design
These belts are practical, affordable, and FUN!
You may have noticed I am all about the fun...
This belt has lived up to all of my expectations!  Within a week, I had managed to get it VERY dirty while working at the barn...  It wasn't particularly pretty...  So, I ran it through the wash on gentle cycle and hung it up to dry.  It looked good as new!
Just so you know, I never did look for washing instructions, so I don't actually know what is reccomended...
I get compliments on it regularly!  My horse doesn't seem to care what I'm wearing..., but I'm sure she appreciated the fact that it holds my treat pouch conveniently close!
Do you own this belt already?  What do you think about it?
I reccomend this accessory!

Friday, August 29, 2014

Day to Day

Any idiot can face a crisis.
It's day to day living that wears you out.
- Anton Chekhov
I hate that this year's blogging has become the tracking of my back maintenance.
However, it has such an impact on my riding, I feel it is important for my own reference. 
So, back the the doctor I went for a follow up from my most recent injection.
She said, "Referring you to the surgeon."
Knowing from my research that it could come to this mattered not.  My blood ran cold.
We are going to try one more injection, which she referred to as "the mother of all injections."  She called it a "caudal injection" and explained how it allowed much more steroid to be applied to the area.
The thought of surgery absolutely terrifies me.
The thought that this is as good as I get terrifies me just as much.
Next week will be another MRI (the last one was about a year and a half ago).
The week after that will be the caudal injection.
I must call today to set up my appointment with the surgeon...

Friday, August 22, 2014

Rehearsal Is Over

This is for real.
Stop acting as if life is a rehearsal.  Live this day as if it were your last.
The past is over and gone.  The future is not guaranteed.   -Wayne Dyer
 I think this may well be my new mantra. 
Everyday, I try to live this, but I can always do better.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Whatever You Call It

You may call it Boring.  You may call it Fundamental.  This week, I am calling it Physical Therapy!

Reality is the leading cause of stress amongst those in touch with it.  -Jane Wagner

My first ride back after my most recent injection involved stretchy, bendy flat work.  The most exciting thing we did was canter serpentines with changes through the trot.
My second ride after my most recent injection involved grid work.
Thanks Coach!
We trotted through poles on the ground.  A LOT!
Then, we got a cross-rail!  I was wondering if I would be up for it...
When it became a 1-stride to another cross-rail, I was feeling pretty good about things!!
All of a sudden, it became bounces!

I admit.  Part of me might have paniced just a little.
Not because I'm scared of bounces!  I actually like bounces quite a bit.  But because it really requires my core to be stable because there is no time for recovery.  I had no idea where my core was standing.
I survived, and my core seemed to be keeping up just fine, but Fancy Pony was jumping funny.  I couldn't put my finger on it...
Next thing I know, as we were approaching the grid, Coach was changing those last 2 cross-rails to verticals!

Ok, Ok.  They were only 2'.  I don't really understand why my heart jumped in my throat for a moment.  Fancy Pony wasn't rushing the jumps.  She was respectfully carrying me to them with quiet purpose.  It was really so easy, I could focus everything on myself!

On the far side, I realized that line felt better than ever!
Well, Coach said, she was actually respecting the fences that time!

We ran through a few more times while I had Coach really scrutinize my lateral balance.
My third ride after my most recent injection was bareback.
Oh, glorious discoveries!
Trotting was magnificent!  Fancy Pony felt like her back was a table!!  She had so much muscle for me to sit on!
Hallmark Bareback Butt
Canter work left a bit to be desired.
First of all, she was confused about the depart.  She wasn't sure I actually meant "canter".  Once we worked that out, her departs were smooth and quiet.  Her downward transitions (even when she dropped out) were balanced and drama-free.  The canter itself was flowing, if somewhat heavy to the front.  She was obviously having a more difficult time without the saddle to distribute my weight, but she could carry me without hysterics, drama, or wiggly-ness.

At one point, I caught our reflection in the mirror.  For once, we actually looked the same way I felt: carefree and gleeful!
We really are still making forward progress!!

Friday, August 15, 2014

More Bad News

Sometimes, I can live in denial.
In fact, I'm pretty good at it when I want to be!

1) I have 2 bulged discs.
2) Bulged discs never heal like new, so they will never go away.
3) Sitting hurts my injured discs.
4) Riding helps my disc pain.

Obviously, I moved recently.

You have probably guessed where this is going...
I was careful about moving heavy boxes.  As in, I called Hubby to do it.
I packed boxes on a table to minimize repetitive bending.

One week after we finished moving in, the ache in my hip came on.  I was wallowing in my chair at work.  I gripped my steering wheel with white knuckles...  I called my spine doctors...

They got me right in, and sent me straight for an injection to the left S1 nerve root.
They think that the STRESS of moving led to a chemical reaction as opposed to a mechanical impingement, but the pain feels the same.
...Here's hoping the relief comes soon...
I can't ride if I can't drive.

No jumping this week!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

The Dreaded News

I'm sure you all remember Cricket...
Who, me?
The favor for some friends... 
She went from zero:
ok, maybe a tad above zero...
To Awesome:
Awesome number 1

Awesome number 2 3 months!

But there were some sticky spots that had us concerned...
For one, once she started to "un-compress" herself, she got so far, then one side sort of stopped getting better.  Or at least, it got better more slowly than the other side.  Her stride seemed to get a bit uneven and we didn't have the same level of push on both sides in the trot...

She still swapped behind at the canter, but it got better on big, sweeping turns...
No jumper turns for this pony!!

Her toes started dragging...
Enough to wear them clean and shiny at the bottom!!

Well, they had the vet out to look at her.  We figured at this point, it wasn't an "out of shape" issue...

We expected to hear "sticky stifles" or "arthritis" or "she needs hock injections"...
The preliminary diagnoses came back as EPM.
The dreaded news that rocked my world a couple weeks ago.

Gut-wrenching!  I know!!
Just when we all figure out the Cricket actually LIKES this jumping thing, we wonder if she will actually be able to do it.  Can we make her any better?  Can we prevent it from getting worse?

The uncertainty of it all is the worst part...  Only time will tell!
I welcome your stories and experiences with this perplexing condition.


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