Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Encouraging Ride

I had to work kind of late so I had to change clothes super fast and get out to the barn. I rode during a lesson with three beginner kids, two lunging horses, and Charlie, so Junior had lots of distractions to deal with. He did REALLY well, especially when both Charlie and one of the lunging horses (a 3 year-old) both decided to start bucking right by us at the same time. Junior didn't even flinch. I saw him look, but he just kept moving and kept on task. At one point I realized Lori (packing one of the tiny girls) had her nose in Jr's ass and Junior didn't care. I suddenly realized that he no longer gets upset or tense when horses come up behind him or pass closely, either in the same or opposite direction. There was one moment when Lori sort of came at us from the side and pinned her ears and I got nervous because we were caught against the wall but Jr didn't do anything and Lori didn't do more than pin her ears and move along. That was one thing I was worried about with going to shows because he'd lose all concentration when he heard someone come up behind him.

The lope is coming along. I'm still getting the hang of keeping him loping without cueing him to go faster. It feels like a bit of a disconnect for me to keep my outside spur on him because he takes that sometimes as a cue to go faster or to turn in. I think part of that disconnect is that I'm still using my POW spurs (will be getting western clover-leaf spurs this weekend) and I think the western spur will feel differently to him (more like how KAT rides him) and maybe that's why I'm having cueing issues. His right lead is infinitely better than his left still.

I messed around with some pattern type work for a bit. He was listening so well on the rail and picking up his lope without shouldering in (suddenly) and there were three random cones set up in the middle. The lungers hadn't come in yet. I just went around the middle doing transitions at cones or going around them (I've heard not to ONLY transition at a cone because your horse might learn to hesitate whenever they pass them....though I'm not sure if they can see them...) from halt to lope and lope to jog and jog to lope and lope to halt, etc. He did really well. I was very proud of him. We're also working on keeping his head down at the halt and he's picking that up really well. He also did a perfect pivot on the hindquarters to the left and I scratched him and patted him and told him he was a good boy.

There was a lot going on in that arena and he stayed on task. His headset still varies a bit but KAT said his jog looks really really good. I got the show bill for the May 3rd show and I don't have to pre-register so I can see how he's coping with the show atmosphere before I sign up for classes. If he's a good as he was tonight and the patterns are simple I think we can even do Equitation/Horsemanship. I'm sure we won't place well, but the mileage is good for both of us.

This month is going to be insanity. I open my next theatre show on the 30th, we bring the horses to the showgrounds May 1st, watch the clinic on the 2nd and show on the 3rd. Then on the 4th my designs are due for my NEXT TWO theatre shows are due. That means that in the next 23 days I have to complete a show, design two more, build my western show blouse (fabrics are here!) AND get Junior and myself show ready. I didn't really think about the fact that all these things were going to culminate in a space of 5 days. So if I don't have many entries in the next month you'll know why!

I promise pictures of the blouse when it's done (or perhaps I'll have to show naked) and of course pictures from the horse show. Probably video, too if I can con someone into being my camera person.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Nice Long Saturday

I spent 5 hours at the barn and would have spent more, but there was no one else there and nothing else to watch.

I turned Jr and Max out, cleaned Jr's stall really well, scrubbed his buckets, cleaned his halter, cleaned his bridle, moved a chain (that's been on his stall since I moved in) to a useful location, charged my clippers, and ate some lunch with a kittie's full attention.

When I went out to get the boys I was afraid to lead them both at once. Barn rules say you're not supposed to, so I chose to take Max in first since he does not like to be alone outside. I figured Jr would be fine..... I was wrong. In the time it took me to walk Max into his stall and walk out again Jr was running up and down the fenceline had a sweaty neck and was snorting and breathing really hard. He didn't calm down until he and Max sniffed noses back in the barn. Yeeesh.

All the mud from his rolling was dry except for his back feathers so I cleaned him all up and left the feathers to dry. I clipped his front legs and his face. I tacked him up and we went for a really good work out. He was SOOOO good. He jogged sooo slooooow and we worked on stopping and starting on the rail at a jog and keeping his frame while stopped. His preference when we stop is to pop his head up and look around, but he needs to stay focused and just wait for my next cue. He did really well at those transitions. We loped circles and the whole arena. He's getting so much better at that so quickly. I tried and failed for flying changes but I'm not going to stress over that. He does simple ones well enough and I'm not planning to do Horsemanship or Equitation this year anyway. It was really a good ride and I was very happy with him.

His feet were dry when I brought him back in so I cleaned and clipped them and now he looks less like a pasture pet and more like a show horse. Between his mane laying flat to one side and his legs being clipped he looks so much better than the mohawked raggamuffin I had this winter. Someone came by and commented on how good he was being and I didn't even think about the fact that I was clipping him while he was just ground tied. I guess he is a good boy!

I snooped over to Mighty's stall and looked for a tag on her custom halter. Kustom Kritter Fitters does not have a website but they will be at Equine Affaire next weekend..... I promise not to go crazy with the colors.... though the neon orange, fuschia and purple are kind of nice together..... yack. Kidding.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

"You're the reason we can't have nice things!"

You know how everything you own breaks at once like when BOTH my laptop battery AND power cord needed to be replaced at the same time? I've had that week, but I'll get to that in a second.

Somehow my 1/2 hour private English lesson yesterday was an hour long. KAT kicked my ass and I'm glad for it. It rained all day yesterday (and is still raining today) so he wasn't turned out yesterday. I rode without lunging anyway and he was still fine. I wanted to warm up before my lesson so I rode for about 20 minutes at the walk and jog/trot before KAT came in. For some reason I spent the first 20 minutes fighting to get his frame better and as soon as I told KAT of the struggle and started off again he dropped his head. Show off. We trotted forever and cantered even longer. He was SO sweaty and I was exhausted but we seemed to improve as the hour went on. He doesn't really respect the slow-twist snaffle I'm using and I had to use a LOT of upper body strength to keep him listening to my aids. Not that I want to use a bit that's too severe, but even KAT mentioned how he was not really listening to it. Though when I first sat in the saddle I felt again like I was perched on top of a mountain I felt much better quicker. KAT worked him at English gaits with an English bridle but used her western training saddle so he still took a while to stop reacting to every little jiggle of my leg. At the end of the lesson I felt much better than I did the last time I got off, wondering if I should just NOT ride English at all.

I wanted to see if she approved of my 7 year old cheap field boots to show in so that I could avoid the replacement expense until next year. I've shown in them before and the only thing I recalled being wrong with them is that they are too big in the calf but since they are a little tall for me you can't really tell when I'm mounted. As soon as I put them on (at home) it shocked me how un-godly uncomfortable they are! They pinched, they rubbed and were overall NOT comfy. I told myself to suck it up and went to the barn. After riding about 30 minutes my toes went numb, I assume from the lack of ANY sort of cushion in the footbed, and when I got off and walked him to cool him out I started feeling the development of a blister and something else unpleasant in the left ankle area. By the time I got home and took them off I had a deep blister starting on the pointy bone on my left heel and above that a trench where my breech elastic was forced into my flesh which turned into a swollen area. Of course she told me they look fine so I'm caught between sucking it up for this summer, or buying new. I'm relatively unmarred from their wearing and I could probably add some molefoam to the heels and a thin footpad, but this all makes the $200 Ariat Heriage boots Dover has on sale look REALLY worth it. I just found that price in the sale catalog yesterday and am considering. I'm going to cheat and go to Equus and try some of their Ariats on to find my size. Two of my pairs of western boots are Ariats and I've had one of them for about 15 years and they've been my primary riding boot the whole time. Seriously. The only thing wrong with them is they are only a size 7 (I was 15 when I bought them!) so I can only wear them with very thin socks. Equus only carries the Heritage in children's sizes.

Speaking of Equus I realized (after spending an hour and a half oiling and softening it) my new bridle is an EXTRA full size and is too big. It sort of fits on the smallest holes but I asked for a full, looked at the tag with the clerk, and my receipt says FULL. The bridle, however has a little stamp that says XF on one of the tips. I saw it while I was oiling and wondered (stupidly) what the X was for since I thought the F was for the Flex Rider brand. I still have the tags and I didn't ride in it and I'm sure whoever buys it next will appreciate the oiling and working, I REALLY hope they let me exchange it, since it seems it was labeled wrong. Of course I THOUGHT I checked it's fit when I first got it but it fit differently when I actually put a bit on it it was more evident. I still have the tag (and access to a tagging gun) and the plastic loop that held the reins on so I'm going to put it back together and take it back.... wish me luck that they don't see the oiling/softening as being "used."

And to top off all of my malfunctioning equipment I realized on Tuesday that the halter plate was gone from his halter. I figured it was in the field somewhere and one of the kids said she thought she saw something shiny over the weekend in the middle field. I went and found it easily but the screws have, of course, gone the way of the dodo and I'm not sure how to fix that. Do I just get him a new engraved halter since this one is too big anyway? Luckily he's the most unique looking horse on the property so he's not likely to get mixed up...unlike Zippy and Max who despite their different genders and markings are still being confused by the TOG (turn out guy). I cannot find an embroidered turn-out safety halter anywhere. THAT would be ideal. Know of any? Right now we have his too-big single-ply formerly plated leather halter as every day and I have the brand new sage green nylon/graphite halter and rope for "good."

And I still need leathers, breeches, shirt, belt, (boots?), hairnet, western chaps, pants, shirt, reins..... Yay for ME stimulating the economy all by myself!!!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Even Better

Today was a bit of a repeat of yesterday.

JR was in the field when I arrived and though he kept grazing and watching me approach he did turn and walk towards me when I got about 10 feet from him so that made me feel important. :)

He rode fairly well. There was a horse (and girl) I didn't recognize and JR was more interested in them than in our work so it took a while to get him on task but eventually he began to focus. I spent more time at the lope again and was again struck at how less worried I was than before this week. Remember all the times he'd stumble at the lope or race around or refuse to bend or drop his shoulder and lean like he was going to fall? And remember that during those times I lost what little balance I had? And how when he wasn't actually doing those things I was anxious about when they were going to happen? I'm sure it's a combination of my strength and balance improving and HIS strength and balance improving, but what it has done (and for some reason seemed to become suddenly and strongly evident) is allow me to concentrate on WORKING the lope, not just surviving it. I've been able to do that well enough at the walk and trot, reinback, and even a (if not wonky) pivot. But until yesterday, every time we would lope I would be afraid. I knew it at the time, but now that it's been gone a few rides it feels REALLY different and is extremely empowering. I can WORK the lope now which means I will begin improving even faster. He's got the lope in him and instead of me getting in his way I can stay in balance helping him with effective aids instead of flopping hands, tense legs, and a wobbly seat. He was still too fast, but we'll work on it. I did lope off from a stand still and he did surprisingly well. I'm sure I can thank KAT for that.

I had another little victory: I opened and exited the gate while mounted! I've done it before by unlatching it and pushing it out and exiting (leaving the gate wide open which I cannot do when there are other riders in the arena), but because it was on the inside of the latch mechanism and not latched (it's the kind that the pin of the gate goes in between to pieces you pull up so you can open the gate either way) I was able to position him so I could grab the gate with my right hand, pull it back, pivot him around to point OUT, give the gate a hard enough shove IN so I could get through before it swung back closed! Luckily it's a slow swinging gate so it wasn't like I had to throw the gate and then bolt forward. Then I took the long hack around the farm again. I even went out past the scary bulldozer. He was VERY alert again but he went where I pointed him and he felt like he was willing to trust me even when I asked him to go between the scary giant poo pile and the giant weird looking yellow monster machine.

Good things.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Remembering to Breathe

Junior is enjoying his turn-out so much that he has what feel like callouses on both sides of his upper lip. But he's much less likely to bite me while rubbing me with the callouses so that's a good trade as far as I'm concerned.

He was good for the ride. I loped him more than I have in a while and though he was too fast for WP he was pretty well balanced and took his leads well. I needed to move him out to the wall at one point and he changed leads instead of leg yielding so that was neat....in a way. The change was very smooth so maybe when I change his leads I just need to trust that he'll take the flying change instead of pulling him back before asking. I caught myself being more comfortable at the lope than I had felt in a while. Even though he was going faster than I wanted him to go, he was smooth and I didn't have to do a ton of managing his balance. I don't know how his headset is doing. He's improving more and more at the walk and jog but his head comes up a lot at the lope. Now I will NEVER sacrifice a smooth forward-going three-beat lope just to have a trendy flat neck at the lope, but he does need to keep his back round to lope slowly and keeping his neck flatter helps with the back. I'm just not sure if he should be encouraged to go lower.

After the ride I did a hack around the farm with two of the lesson girls and their horses. They showed me a longer route around the farm so Junior got to see some stuff he'd never seen before. As soon as we went straight instead of turning to go into the outdoor arena he got a little wound up but he didn't spook or do anything stupid. He was certainly alert and not totally relaxed but he was good. It was funny because from the moment we were at a place he'd never been to the moment we stepped back onto the familiar path he was wound up but as soon as we stepped back onto the part he'd been on before he dropped his head and sighed. This was the first time we'd gone out in a group, too so it was interesting to see how that was for him. He was a faster walker than the other two, but he kept looking back at them and then when I stopped correcting him forward and allowed him to follow his nose he turned around to greet the other two. So he didn't mind being in front he just wanted the others closer. Though he was more wound up than he had been in ages I never felt like he was going to spook or bolt. I did notice that when we were walking between the far barn and a fence line he was the worst and I was expecting to come around the corner of the barn and have him spook, I realized how nervous I was and decided to take a deep breath and shake out my non-rein arm and he was immediately better. We came around the corner and there was nothing there to spook at. About 20 yards after that we were on the familiar track. Of course, when I'm expecting a spook my body tries to get ready to survive it, but the act of me tensing up makes him even more nervous. I KNOW this, I just sometimes need a reminder that he is NOT a spooky horse. But it's all relative. Max is a complete angel. His girls react any time he moves a muscle when standing ground tied. Compared to Junior, Max is a marble statue. Compared to other horses I've worked with, Junior is a marble statue. Because of how long it took him to acclimate to the farm I worry about taking him to shows. Will he freak out at a show grounds? I think the moment today that I took a breath and he followed suit was a good indication of how he'll be on a grounds. BUT, I am the Overanxious Horse Owner after all. What would this blog be about if I took everything in stride?

Sunday, March 22, 2009

All Better Now

I got back from the conference about 4pm but I decided not to go to the barn. I wanted to unpack and sort laundry and begin to plan the week ahead. I wrote a list off all the things I need to do on Monday and it was a daunting list. Grades for Winter quarter are due on Monday at 3:30 and with my back putting me out of commission Saturday-Tuesday then conference Tuesday-Saturday I was WAY behind. PLUS I was supposed to do some prep work for a student project last Monday but that too was not possible with my back.

I got up early this morning and headed to work, got WAY more done in WAY less time than I thought I would. I have a little left over for tonight and tomorrow, but it's not much. Yay for getting work done!

I went out to the barn about 2:00. Junior was outside, not sure why he was out on a Sunday but I will not complain. He was fine to catch but two of the other horses wanted to come with. He had his coat on so he was covered in sweat as it was 60 degrees and sunny. I took his blanket off and laid it inside up on the wash rack to dry in the sun. I groomed him slowly allowing him to dry a bit. His feet look fine. They were nice and dry and there was no odor. Yay for Thrush Buster!

His stall was VERY clean. I got a long email from KAT while I was at the conference that the stall cleaner was surprised that I took so much out and had KAT show him where in the stall. He told her he only sees Jr pee on the OTHER side of the stall so he didn't realize that the other side was getting so bad. Of course, he SHOULD have been checking the whole stall, but I think this was a good way of showing him that. He seemed to genuinely want to do a better job and like I said, the stall looked much better today, but I also think Max's mom cleaned it for me yesterday. She sent me a text about 5pm saying that his stall was clean, buckets washed, and that he was turned out for 3 hours. Yay for a clean stall!

It was SO nice out I could not fathom riding indoors. I mounted at the picnic table just outside the barn and rode out to the outdoor arena. I was just going to hack around the farm but I wanted to see if I could get him to go to work even with the distractions going on: lots of horses being brought in/out of barns/paddocks, car traffic, kids, etc. The arena was empty, though. He was more interested in the activity than working but he did well. I could tell KAT had ridden him while I was gone. His lope was slower and balanced, but when I tried to do it one-handed he was a bit wonky. My fault I'm sure. I haven't ridden in a whole week! I probably only worked him for 20 minutes, just to see how he was. Then we rode the perimeter of the hay field. He was a little sweaty so I un-tacked him and walked him until he was dryer and cooler. The overnight temp is only supposed to be 31 so I put his coat back on. I've GOT to get a lighter blanket. I felt bad putting the heavy one on, but the barn is not warm at night and I'd rather him lose more hair than grow more.

It was SOOOO nice just to ride my horse in beautiful weather...in a t-shirt...in the sunshine. Just awesome.

So: my back is feeling better (though I'll try to get one more adjustment tomorrow), the stall is better, the thrush is better, the mohawk is better, the weather is better, and my mood is better. Yay.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Out of Town

Since I will be out of town tomorrow through Saturday night I went out to check on the boy. With my back feeling like this and needed to feel as good as possible during this conference I opted not to ride. If he was really really good I would probably be fine, but if I get jerked around at all I'd be in REALLY bad shape. Instead I gave him a good grooming, pulled the training braids out, loved him up and reminded everyone at the barn that I'll be gone until Saturday. I know he'll be fine, but it makes me feel better to know that someone's giving him some treats and will toss his blanket on if it dips below 40.

His lead rope was not by his stall. I blame the TOG (Turn-Out Guy) so he can realize it when he puts Jr. out tomorrow.

Have a good week!

Sunday, March 15, 2009


Q: How many FULL muck tubs does it take to get to the bottom of a stall?
A: One, two, THIRTY NINE.

Supposedly the stalls are "stripped" twice a week..... oh really? So it only takes a few days to have 6" of solid rotting shavings in 50% of a 14'x14' stall? And that's AFTER I raked the dry stuff off the top. The drainage in these stalls really sucks and it seems that the stall cleaner is not taking enough of the wet out, just the turds. I last stripped it in November and there was about 3" that time. I could have taken another 3 or 4 out but I was trying to save any dry bedding.

Thankfully I had help. Max's mom was there and bless her heart volunteered to help me with the first 32 tubs. She dumped many of them by herself. I would not have been able to do all of that by myself. I had awoken with a twinge in my left shoulder blade but put a thermacare wrap on and took some anti-inflammatory. When I got home I took a hot shower and a muscle relaxer and at some dinner. I went to bed at 8:30pm and got up at 8:30am and I am VERY sore today. It's difficult to move around and I'm in constant discomfort. This is not new for me. I have lots of back issues. I think the combination of braiding his mane for a long time AND the stall work really were too much for two days. It hurts if I breathe in deeply. :( So I'm taking it easy today and am not planning to go to the barn. if Max's mom turns Max out she'll put Jr. out too. They were out for several hours while we cleaned.

What sucks is that I pay for Full-Care board and I don't think having to shovel 6" of compacted wet rotting manure myself is Full Care. No wonder the boy has Thrush! Even the Client Handbook says they will only keep 3.5" to 4" of bedding in the stalls.

I'm scheduled for a lesson tomorrow but if I feel like this there's no way I can do it. Then I'm gone Tuesday-Saturday. This conference will suck if my back doesn't fix itself.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Who WAS That Masked Horse?!?!?

It's the Lone Ranger!

He was pretty good last night, but his favorite red-head, Paris, was in and it's like he was showing off for her. I had a hard time keeping his head forward on the rail. He kept turning in to watch her. She left and he got better. Lope was slower but I had a hard time making him drop his head.

After lots of interweb research and asking several horsey people, I decided to go with Thrush Buster. I gave a call to my vet friend but she's the busiest human being I know so she hasn't gotten back to me yet. I saw/heard conflicting advice about using bleach. Some people said it's fine, some people said it's bad for the rest of the live tissue, not just the bacteria. After reading lots of bottles I finally settled on the Thrush Buster. The only complaint I heard/read is the staining so I will try to be careful. The Thrush Buster had the longest application staying power at 8 days.

I ran to EquusNow this morning and picked up the Thrust Buster. It pays to shop around AND check the interwebs. Equus's website had it at 10.95, Rods at 15.95, we don't have a discount type farm store around and the little feed store in Uptown didn't have anything. The price AT Equus was the same as Rods but they gave me the web price anyway. I also picked up a Hood, a mane comb and a pulling comb. I have asked one of my students to help me pull his mane in April.

I was able to get to the barn with daylight to spare so I cleaned his feet out and led him out into the yard. Since the Thrush Buster is staining I thought the grass would be the safest place to do it. His hooves looked a TON better today and much dryer. I was able to pretty clearly see where the Thrush was so that's hopefully going to make sure I got it all covered.

He was content to eat grass while I worked but it wasn't comfortable for him to hold a front hoof up and eat so he just stood. I got a few littLe spots on my hand but I managed to avoid his socks! (The spots are almost gone after a good shower.) I waited a while and then made him step on a towel to make sure we wouldn't make purple tracks in the barn aisle.

He rode okay. He kept wanting to speed up to an extended trot when I asked him to move out to the rail. We did extended trot during the lesson on Wednesday and since then he's been really willing to move out, which is good for English, but it's a little annoying when I'm asking him to drift over NOT speed up. Hopefully KAT's work with him next week will help with that.

I spent a good while putting his mane in training brands. He stood fairly well. I wished I'd had a hay bag to put his hay into so I moved his Stall Ball/Treat thingy to where he was tied. He nibbled it a little. When I got close to the end he was clearly ready to be done with that game. I put his new hood on. Remember I was going to make one? Well, the cost of materials was higher than the cost of buying one new. Of course. I just got a plain black one with a metal zipper. I've heard that the plastic ones tend to break and the one I borrowed from KAT was broken. I'm worried about the metal zipper rubbing, but if it does I will stitch a wide panel of fleece into the inside and it should be fine.

He didn't seem to mind it being on and went back to munching his hay. He's awfully cute. The GINORMOUS eye holes on this particular hood look really funny with his wide blaze.

Here you can see how straight-up his man has gotten again and how the braids help smooth it down.

And here's that masked horse again!!!!! I don't know if you can tell but he's lost some of that chubby that he had in early winter. I CANNOT WAIT FOR IT TO BE WARM ENOUGH TO GIVE HIM A BATH!!!!!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Dang it.

We've got Thrush. I though it might be Thrush yesterday because it smelled pretty bad but I wasn't sure if it was just an aged mud/manure concoction. I did some research last night to learn more about Thrush. I know we had it a few times on the Arabs and we would just use some Coppertox and it would go away, but I never had to diagnose it myself. So I had two people look at it today and they agreed it's Thrush. I know it's fixable. I just have to fix it.

I also spoke with KAT about the depth of old, wet bedding in his stall and she informed me that that isn't as clean as the stall cleaner is supposed to be keeping it. Now, I understand that frozen solid bedding isn't easy to move in the winter, but it's thawed now and should be taken care of. Once it gets stripped I will be more diligent with my Saturday cleanings and hopefully it'll stay cleaner longer. He was getting bed sores on his hocks when I first brought him home so I had been keeping his bedding deeper, but now it's too deep to keep reasonably clean.

He rode very well for our lesson tonight. He was turned out Monday, ridden Tuesday, and turned out today so I did not need to lunge him. He was great! He got to work right away and we had only one momentary argument. We loped FOREVER on the left lead and I can feel it in my seat. Ow. He started really slow but sped up again. He is moving better though and really improving. It's still tricky to get him to stay where I point him and I have to work hard with my legs to keep him going and going where I wanted him. There were only 5 of us in the lesson and there were no other riders so we were able to spread out, use the whole arena, circle if we needed to, and work on staying where he was pointed. Eventually one of the girls brought in her 2 year old to lunge and Jr became totally distracted. That's when we had to have our one conversation.

After the lesson he didn't want to go in the stall so I ground tied him in the aisle and he was content to stand there. I even left him, went into the stall and got his halter off the tie and brought it back out. He didn't walk off even once and I only had to say STAND if he moved a foot and he would stop. He was still a little nippy but not bad. I can tell he's learning. It's so much a part of his personality to lip everything that I know it'll take a while to totally break the behavior.

If the past two days are any indication of how turn out is benefiting him I am sold.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


Junior got his first round of spring vaccinations today so there was no turn-out. He was in a pretty good mood and was pretty laid back. It was 77 degrees today so it was too warm in the arena, comparatively chilly in the barn and VERY windy outside but he didn't spook once, even with the very weird noises from the wind going through places and things flapping about. He was REALLY lazy on the lunge and did not keep his right lead going very long. That's the hind he skinned his stifle on Saturday so I was a little concerned but his gait seemed even I figured he was just lazy with the temp and from having his shots/deworming and that was the second direction. It was clear he didn't have extra energy so I put his bridle on and mounted. I put his old thinner pad on because the new thicker one has given him bald spots on his hips. I have to figure out what to do about that. It's not pretty and it's obviously not comfortable for him. I read a review of the pad that mentioned that happening and they said something about stitching fleece over the edge. Of course I cannot find that review any longer. I'm not sure if my industrial sewing machine can get through that pad, which would mean I'd have to sew it by hand and I'm not sure if I can do THAT. Anyway the thinner pad felt MUCH better on him than it did before he lost some weight. I think I'll keep in that one until I get the other one figured out. Give the hair a chance to grow back.

I rode for an hour. About 40 minutes in the arena and he was very good. We had some conversations, but they were small. His lope seemed faster than it has been, but he's using his hindquarters well and I didn't have to do as much maintenance. I even loped one-handed for a while, using my legs to keep him vertical, and we did a big figure eight with a simple lead change and it was really smooth. It was so warm in the arena I opened the gate (still mounted) and rode out around the farm. The outdoor arena was open so I jogged around in there for a bit. It was REALLY windy but was very well behaved. We finished up walking down the side of the big turn-out and back.

I had a long conversation with KAT when I was done. She thinks I should still try to do both Western and English this year. The plan is that when I am out of town next week for my conference she is going to to a couple of rides on him to get him to accept the different disciplines. Then when I get back I'll do a private lesson and she can teach me how to tell him what to do.

We talked about lessons, too. She think's we're working well enough together that he won't be too bothered by being ridden by different people. I told her if she has a student who she thinks would pair well with him we can talk about that and then perhaps after summer when I go back to school we can see how it works out in the lesson program. But that's a ways off.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Happy Anniversary

Today marks 6 months that Junior has been my boy.

Yesterday he got turned out with his buddy Max for 4 hours and he was in heaven. Max's mom turned them out at about 1:30pm. When I got there about 4:00 I got the whole play-by-play of him running circles around Max and then seeing how close he could graze next to Max before Max got annoyed. The proper distance is 3 feet. Max does not participate in Junior's shenanigans. He grazes - period. But Junior tries to get him to play. THEN they let a little red mare named Zippy out with the boys and it seems Junior is in love. That boy has a thing for redheads. Those two ran around and played and spent several minutes with their noses together telling secrets.

I spent my time cleaning his stall and wishing I had gotten there earlier so I could have stripped it, but the manure wagon was FULL so I'll have to wait for another day.
When we finally brought the boys in at 5:30 (Zippy had been brought in earlier by the girl that leases her) Junior was more relaxed than I've seen him in ages. I gave him a quick brushing, picked his feet, soaked his tail in Vetrolin Shine (Max's Mom SWEARS it makes it grow and be strong and if Max's tail is proof I believe it.) took his halter off and let him get to his feed. I planned to ride but I had tickets to a show at 8pm and still needed to get home, shower, eat dinner and get to the show on time and that's just not enough time. I thought he deserved an easy happy day. If his demeanor is any indication of how he's going to be when he gets more play time it will be WELL worth the money for turn out. He did have one battle scar that I can only assume was from rolling? Just a half-dollar sized skinned section of the point of his stifle on his right side. It appeared only a flesh wound so I put some goop on it. It didn't seem sore and he was walking fine.

Until next time, enjoy the love story of Junior and Zippy:

Notice he's the only one running in that one?

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Reality Check

Isn't it always when you feel like things are going really well that something happens to smack you back into reality?

I haven't ridden in an English saddle in over two years. I haven't put ON and English saddle in that long and never on Junior. It took me forever to get the saddle on and in a position I thought was correct. It seemed really far back and the girth looked like it was reaching forward, plus the saddle blanket was sitting funny. I had to pick up the front end of it otherwise the girth keepers were too far back. The pictures are BEFORE I rode. When I went to mount the saddle slid off towards me. Ooops thought it was tight. I moved it again and it wanted to be even further back. KAT saw it and said she liked it and that I had it fit correctly. I made it as tight as I could get it on the stiff billets. This new saddle has barely been ridden in - the plastic for the tag is still on the saddle. I LOVE the color. I mounted but still felt like it was loose. I eventually got him to stand still and I took it up one more hole.

Here is where the reality check comes in: I've been planning to show him in WP and HUS. I THINK we've been making really good progress, I even loped him this week one handed and he did pretty well. Probably not in the ribbons, but respectable progress. Now, here I am THINKING I will only use an English saddle for a few lessons and then at shows and that he'll be so used to working in frame he'll be fine in a snaffle. Um. Yeah. NO. Neither of us passed this test. When I started riding I felt just like I did when I took a lesson after not riding for about 5 years. SACK O' POTATOES. You can see that it's not the deepest seat available, but it's certainly NOT racing flat, but I was VERY unbalanced and insecure. It doesn't help that he hasn't been ridden in a plain (slow twist) snaffle since December and I could NOT get him into frame. I got about a half a lap of JOG in proper frame a few times, but when I would ask for extension he would pop his head up. I do not think the saddle was ill fitting or that he was uncomfortable, I think he was confused why I was using some contact and asking him to trot out. He has been going so nice and slow at the jog without much interference from me so I think he was saying "what the hell lady?! You're giving me bit contact and leg - doesn't that mean you want me to stay at the same gait, slow down and get in frame? And why are you bouncing? What's with the bouncing? And why can I feel every little movement of your legs and shouldn't I be weaving around if I LISTEN to those floppy legs of yours?!?" I'm not sure if HE'S ever had an English saddle on either and my guess is NO.

On the bright side I actually thought our canter wasn't all bad, but I could be wrong, it's hard to see from atop when you're trying REALLY hard to just not fall off. So I THOUGHT I could just jump on an English saddle a few times and be fine but it seems I've gotten used to the bulk and security of my western saddle, he's gotten used to a shanked bit, and it's going to take some serious work to get us comfortable in English. This is not something I anticipated because I STARTED riding English and didn't even take a western lesson until fall of 2007 when I started riding here. I used to HATE how western saddles felt so stiff and bulky. I guess the tables have turned and this means a LOT more work is ahead. I think I like the saddle, though. I wasn't uncomfortable, just weird.

Once I get new leathers (I was using my god-awful old cheap ones and they were not comfy) I will schedule a private lesson with KAT and that should put us on the right track..... I hope. Maybe I was doing to wrong? Riding my WP horse like my old Arab hunters? I'll see if she thinks we should concentrate on one discipline for this first year or if she thinks I should try to do both. One would certainly be cheaper, but would make going to a show for one class a little expensive.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Turn Out

I received a comment on my last post that makes a very good point. I wish the reader hadn't commented as "Anonymous" because the person is making a very valid argument about my non-turn-out decision being based on money. I read it all the time on Craigslist and on Fugly Horse of the Day: people who cannot afford to keep horses but do anyway at the expense of the horse. I don't want to be one of those people, but the reality is that I am a first time horse owner and these decisions are a process for me. I will need some time to learn what's best for my horse. Different horses have different needs. There are horses in my barn that never get turn out and they are sweet and happy as clams. Then there's a mare across the aisle from my horse who canters around her stall (14x16) because she never gets out. There are people who take her out and lunge her out of pity. I sneak her treats and scratches and wish someone would pay attention to her... but I digress.

Being a first time horse owner (or any horseowner, I'm sure, but this is my story) in this economy is scary. I'm spending SO much money on start-up costs (stimulating the economy!) while hearing about job losses and mortgage failures. I try to economize as much as possible, buying used tack, trying to get a few more seasons out of my old show clothing. Making my own things whenever possible IF it's cost-effective. Many times the materials to make things cost as much or more as a finished product. The markup on fabric and notions in retail stores is obscene. So in these first 6 months I have been feeling out how horse ownership is affecting me financially. I did lots of research, but there are "hidden" costs such as the fact that it costs $2.60 in gas EVERY time I go to the barn. I average 4 trips per week. That's $10.40 per week or over $40 a month. Just in gas. My mom asked me a few months ago how much money I had spent on the horse so far. I actually did the calculation for board and the animal, not even the vet/farrier/dentist or the material stuff I've bought and it would make a fine down payment on a condo. I haven't bought ANY new clothes since I bought the horse, except a winter jacket TO RIDE IN. The extra money for turn-out is just another thing that now I have to rearrange my budget for. I just have to be careful and spend my money wisely.

Just so you know, I already emailed the barn asking to be put on the turn-out list. He was doing really well for a while so I thought he was acclimating to the stall life (he was stalled for a year before I bought him with moderate turnout but I don't know about before that) but he's obviously regressing and I can only assume it's because he is the kind of horse that NEEDS playtime and since he doesn't get it with other horses he tries to do it with me. I am learning.

He needs to treat me like the boss, not a herd mate, and I need to treat him like a horse, not a caged gerbil. It's clear that he needs more stimulation than I give him.

One way I was hoping to save on board was to have him used as a lesson horse. This would accomplish three things: cheaper board (by over $40/month depending on the number of lessons he does), more saddle mileage, and more (free) turnout. As a lesson horse he would get turned out with the other lesson geldings, but that turnout isn't as dependable as the turnout that is provided by someone who works at the barn and costs extra. The lesson horses don't always get out, especially if the seasonal pastures are closed (preference is given to the paid turnout horses) or if KAT is overly busy or at a show. The paid turn out is 5 days a week weather permitting. Though during the real winter months I think there was at least a month they weren't turned out at all and of course the money is not refundable or prorated.

He'd also get more exercise as a lesson horse, probably ridden at least once a weekday, sometimes twice a day.... walk trot and a teensy bit of canter during the latter weeks of each quarter (most of the lessons are college students taking it for credit).

The one "con" to these three "pro"s is that I worry about his training being "ruined" by beginners, though. It's hard enough for me to keep up what KAT teaches him. I know he's beginner SAFE, but how do I make sure he knows when it's time to be a show horse and when it's time to be a lesson horse? There are other lesson horses that show so I know it's not impossible. I'm not SERIOUSLY showing anyway. I'm doing open shows that are full of lesson horses and 4-H horses, as well as people like me, so it's not like I'm trying to take a school horse to Congress or APHA worlds. I also worry about him as a lesson horse with this mouthiness, but maybe with more stimulation that won't be a problem.

I have a lesson tonight and have a just-for-fun blog entry planned.

Thanks for you comments. I am a big fan of learning. And you can be brave with your comments. I will not flame you or cyber stalk you. I may delete your comment if it's inappropriate or offensive..... or SPAM FOR ONLINE DATING... but I won't be mean to you. I know I have a lot to learn. I didn't get a masters in horses, I got it in something else so I could afford to HAVE a horse.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

New Saddle #2!

The Ebay gods were on my side today and I won an auction at the last minute for a Toulouse Celine 17 Close Contact saddle. According to the seller it has about 10 rides on it and the pictures make it look pristine. I find these online for $799 new and I paid $440.52 with free shipping. I could get it as early as Friday if she gets it shipped tomorrow, but maybe not until Monday if they don't deliver on Saturdays. Keep your fingers crossed that all goes well!

I rode today but his feet are so bad I didn't do much. I did lope a little bit both directions, but the footing wasn't great and with his feet the way they are I didn't want to push it. He was a jerk on the ground both before and after the ride and he switched a LOT during lunging. He kept grabbing my jacket! Actually biting it! I got REALLY frustrated with him. He didn't want to stand in the aisle, but he had food in his stall so I didn't want to take him in there either. Then he took a bite out of my tack box because I had it latched so he couldn't get it open. Now there's a big scrape on the seat of the bench. Not that I expected the box to remain flawless, it's just soft pine after all, but I didn't want a BIG TOOTH MARK on it either! Argh! Jerk! I'm sure it's my fault because I let him sit since Saturday and I only turned him out that day. I'm starting to reconsider paying for turnout. He might need it. Maybe he'd stop being such a jerk. I actually think the biting is getting worse. I'm glad I've been wearing thick winter coats, what's it going to be like when it's summer and I'm wearing a tank top!?!?! This has got to stop. But I don't know what to do.

The nice part is that I am NOT afraid of him. Even when he was rearing in the turnout on Saturday and being a real pain, I didn't think I wasn't in control. This is a good thing. I don't know what do do about the biting, though.

Sunday, March 1, 2009


Here are a few pics of Jr's (dirty) feet. Taken today, March 1. His last trim was December 12. He's scheduled for a trim in 3 days.
Front feet from the front:

Left front from the left:

Back feet:

His front feet don't seem to have the same size footprint, do they? Other than that I don't think they look super over-grown, do you? I'll take pictures again on Wednesday night after they are trimmed.

The wind was bitter cold today but I let him out in one of the big pastures. Chance was in the adjacent pasture. Jr. didn't do much so I went in the barn to warm up. I came out and caught the two of them running around their pastures. When he does this I like to say "Dude, your TB is showing." Maybe that's only funny to me. Of course then he found the muddiest spot and rolled in it. I wish I'd had my camera out faster because he spun around like a dog before he dropped to roll. I'll be spending tomorrow evening brushing that off.

After the mud, (but after I scraped his feet off) while trying (and eventually succeeding) to open my tackbox:

And here he is trying to eat Princess Skittles, the cat:

He's a funny guy.

Falling Down on the Job

It seems I need to take it easy until Jr's feet get done on Wednesday. Yesterday (Saturday) when I asked him for the first lope he tripped and fell all the way to his knees. He got back up again just as I was contemplating bailing out and was pleasantly surprised that my balance was good enough to stay balanced through the whole ordeal. I did put my hands straight out onto his neck when he first went forward. It happened very quickly and he fell straight forward. I walked him for a while and he didn't seem to be bothered by it. Once my heart rate went back down I put him back to work and even did some canter work after all. I felt very brave asking him for the lope but I was confident that he was not going to fall again. I think it was a combination of his feet AND there was a horse lunging that Jr is always a bit interested in. This one's a big bay QH named Charlie from the other barn. We were facing Charlie and her guy when I asked for the lope. His feet do not LOOK like they need to be trimmed, but he get's very clumsy when it's time. I need to decide on a schedule for him and just have him done regularly instead of waiting until he gets this way. This will only be his third trim, so I'm learning.

Other than the near-fall he rode pretty well. His lope is steadily improving and I loped one-handed! I've figured out that MOST of what I've been telling him to do with the reins can be accomplished with my legs. I can get him to pick up his inside shoulder with my inside leg. He does tend to speed up when I do that, but I can pick up my rein hand at the same time and he keeps pace better.

When we got back into the barn I noticed his knees were dirty and that's how I know he got down to both knees. I wonder if he'll be sore today. I think I'll just lunge him today and let him stretch out. I should be able to get to the barn tomorrow, Monday, AND Tuesday so that he's in good condition for our Wednesday lesson.