Thursday, June 25, 2009

Before I go...

First of all, thank you all for your very encouraging comments on my last post. I truly took every one of them to heart. I'll admit that as awful as I felt at the end of the show, by Sunday night I was circling things in the Schneider's catalog that would make showing easier so I haven't given up yet!

I HAVE made a few decisions this week....
1. I am NOT going to show at the 4-day Fall Roundup show in early September that I had planned on. I don't think that it's a good idea to do a multi-day show until he's calm all day for a one-day show. KAT agreed. It's a LOT of money with hotel/hauling/stalls to have a crappy time. We're looking at a few one day shows late in August and in September as being the max we'll do this year. His performance in the ring improved greatly between the 1st and 2nd shows so I know he'll continue to get better.

2. Junior is going into the lesson program. I have talked before about my reservations about doing this and they still exist, but there are possible benefits to it, too. KAT is the only instructor and I know she keeps a close watch on the lesson horses. I've seen many of the college lessons and they are very low key, much more like pony rides than real lessons. Plus she has some more experienced riders in her public lessons that she thinks would match with him. He's really really broke, (he's just not show finished quite yet) and has been ridden by beginners before. I get a decent reduction in my board, he'll get exposed to different kinds of stimuli, he LOVES attention and spends the majority of his time with his nose stuck out of his feed hole (see my video "Junior Wants a Cookie" in the YouTube link on the side bar) so he might just love it. We'll have to see.

3. The next time we go to a show, KAT will ride him in his first two classes so she can work through his out-gate antics and I can see how she does it.

I went out today for the first time since the show. I had a very busy week with work. They were cutting the pastures so he was inside. It was blazing hot out and much cooler in the barn anyway. WAY too hot to ride. I mounted his fan and he chewed on it already...big surprise. I made sure he can't reach the cord. I also moved his himalayan salt lick and Stall Snack to right in front of the fan. I think I had it hung too high from when the thing in the apple was just a treat and didn't want him to be able to grab it. He won't (hopefully) grab the salt and I'm not sure if he could bit it anyway.

He looked fine and was enjoying his fan. His stifle cut is healing fine. I happened to look in the stock tank and found his nameplate. I will not be putting that back on since he keeps managing to lose it. I thought it was gone for good since the grass is so high.

I leave in the morning for two weeks. I have a college reunion and will see lots of family and friends including some of my old horsey friends. KAT and Max's mom are going to keep an eye on Junior. I hate leaving him, but I know he'll be just fine.

Have a great fortnight!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Show #2

We survived show #2....barely. It was a very, very rough day. The good thing was that I was not nervous or anxious like I was a the first show so I can't blame ME for the stuff that went wrong. Also good was that Junior performed better. He was more consistent with his frame and though we blew our horsemanship pattern (details later) he was better at the pattern work. The NOT good stuff was pretty awful, though. Here's the play-by-play:

Thursday's English lesson went pretty well. I used the Myler bit and it certainly worked better than the regular snaffle. The first time I asked for the canter he caught a front hoof and fell to his knees. This is the 2nd time we've fallen to his knees and he recovered quickly but took several funny steps after. We walked a lap and he seemed okay so we asked for the canter again and he was fine. I found it easier to keep my leg position even though this is the first time I've ridden English since the May show and he didn't seem bothered by the tack change.

I got to the barn around 10:30am on Friday and rode him in his western bit, worked on keeping a frame through circles and serpentines. His lope was too fast but that is expected after asking him to amp it up to a canter the night before. He slowed down well enough. We took the horses to the grounds at about 6pm and I rode a little bit. He wasn't nearly as uptight about things. It was SOOO hot and humid, though and everyone (human and equine) was covered in sweat. I got home around 10 and still had to shower, eat, iron my show shirt and pack the show clothes. I got to bed around 11pm.

Saturday morning I got up at 4:15 and got to the fairgrounds at 5:15. It's nice to be able to sleep in your own bed before a show, but the 30 minute commute does mean you have a little less sleep. I lunged him and he seemed totally relaxed. He listened to all my commands, didn't scream like last time, and seemed quite at home. I didn't want to overwork him since it was so humid already. I led him out the out gate and he started spooking at the trail obstacles in the corner. I took him over and made him stand on the bridge (which he did NOT like) but it was a good schooling lesson. He did pretty in our first class of English Pleasure. He did much better than last time and stayed on gait, just not as consistent or polished as he could be. The big problem was that we've been drilling him so much on his pivot refusal that instead of backing along the rail he executed a very quick pivot to the right! Ooops. The bigger problem was that we were in a class of four and three were really nicely broke horses including one of my barn mates' though we improved from the last show, we came in last.

I let him rest in his stall with water and hay between Pleasure and Equitation. We did a "respectable" pattern according to KAT, but we came in last again. The pattern was four cones: Start at A, canter right lead to B, trot circle to the right back around to B, walk to C, canter left lead to D, Stop and back. We drifted to the opposite side of cone D but the rest was fine, even the back, but he got really cranky in the out gate and started crow hopping and I held up the line to leave.

I was so hot I kept having to take the frozen wash cloth out of my cooler and running it all over my body. I forgot my neck coolie at home but remembered four half-frozen bottles of water and the wash cloth. I let him rest untacked for the rest of the morning until the lunch break. I got him tacked up in my western stuff and brought him out to KAT. She rode him a good 20 minutes and he looked REALLY good when she was finishing up. One of my barn mates said "he looks really good!" and I replied "Of course he does, that's what we pay her for!" I should have brought my helmet and spurs so I could get on him but we only had 5 minutes left of break and it would take me almost that long to go back to the barn to get them. I let him rest with water and hay until a few classes before mine. I asked two of the barn moms if they'd be MY show moms for my western classes. It was SOOO nice to have them. They got me on the horse and ran back for my spurs and fly spray and held Junior while I put my spurs on (while mounted) and adjusted my chaps. I warmed up and he was just okay. I could tell he was hot and cranky and so was I. I went into the class and went first for the pattern. It was three cones: begin facing away from A, pivot Left at A, lope left lead to B, FLYING LEAD CHANGE at B, at C Stop and back. When I saw the pattern I wasn't happy because though we've done two successful ones, the odds of me nailing it at a cone are like infinity to one! KAT told me to do the class anyway and just do a simple change. Well.... then what do you do if your horse picks up the wrong lead to begin with? Do you switch? I didn't...I TRIED, but it was too small of a space for us to really organize a simple change so instead we had a few bounding strides and stopped. We finished 4th out of 5 and as soon as the announcer started the placings he started to act up really bad, REALLY bad! I actually had to jump off of him because every time I pointed him to the gate he started hopping and bucking and it was getting worse by the second. He was still a jerk leading him out and I ended up handing him off to my barn mom (good trade for a cold water bottle!) and decided to scratch my last class, then talked to KAT about how to work on this behavior.

It's weird, because after the show I was nearly in tears. I was so hot and tired (and PMSing which never helps) and was really wondering why I even do shows. It's so much work, it's SO expensive, and what am I getting out of it? We're not placing well. I don't have a close person to share the experience with (Cari, I missed you terribly!). Right now it feels like I'm only getting frustration because he's starting to do the exact thing I didn't want: a horse that is one way at home and a basket case at shows. I specifically did NOT want that in a horse. Sonny was like that the first time (but much better the next time 4 years later)Gigi was like that, Banee was like that in a way, and that Arab mare I showed last in Minneapolis was CERTAINLY like that. I know the golden answer is MILEAGE, but it's just so frustrating! I can't wait 6 years for him to chill out! I know no horse is perfect, but this is precicely the type of behavior I wanted desperately to avoid. I'd be fine with last place if I was having fun doing it!

I'm sorry there are still no English pictures. After the crow-hopping exit we made I just wanted to take of that hot jacket and before I knew it we were un-dressed and un-tacked and no pictures had been taken. I'm one of very few in my barn to show Western so there are many more barn mates just hanging around. I asked the daughter of my Surrogate Show Mom to take some pics and here they are. These are of my Horsemanship class which is why the rein is shorter, but I know he's behind the vertical, and I know I'm looking down too much and leaning forward, just add that to the list of stuff I'm working on. :) It's indoors so of course the lighting isn't good enough for basic cameras but here they are anyway....

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

My Little Runaway.

I can't remember if I blogged about this or not so I'm sorry if this is a repeat...

One evening (probably less than two months ago) before a lesson I went into the stall, put his halter on and clipped him to the wall tie. I walked out of the stall and went over to grab my brushes and I hear the "clip clop" of my horse in the AISLE heading towards the open door and there is no one there to stop him or to yell LOOSE HORSE at. Everyone else in the barn was behind me. I THOUGHT I clipped him... I panicked, of course and had visions of not being able to catch him and of him getting onto the road and hit by a car, etc. I calmly walked behind him saying "whoa, whoa" and calling his name but he was so pleased with himself he jogged down the aisle towards the door. He stopped, looked left and then headed right. There was grass right outside the door so he dropped his head but as soon as I got a few feet from him he moved off. Now, just in front of him were two choices: open (NO FENCE) hay field with yummy alfalfa (then corn field and woods...), and the mud-lot he's been turned out in often. He chose to go into the mud lot THANK HEAVEN!!! I went over and shut the gate and shook my head. I went back into the barn and got my rope. He let me catch him fine and I have been MUCH more careful about making sure He is actually clipped to the wall before I walk out of the stall. I was so scared that he was going to really run away. What a shit.

So why am I telling this now? Because it happened again...sort of. I could tell that KAT had ridden him today. He looked like he'd been hosed off/sweated up and his blanket was damp on the bottom. We had to ride in the indoor because the outdoor is too wet right now. It was SOOO humid in the indoor it was awful. We rode for 25 minutes and we were both dripping. I figured with a show 3 days away and a weather report of thunder storms from tomorrow until Saturday it might be a good chance to get him bathed. Most of the folks at my barn just hold their horses to bathe but I much prefer to have him tied because I don't have a show mom to hold him for me. The hose was hooked up to the other end of the barn from the wash rack, though so I was going to have to move the hose and then put it back and I was so hot it just seemed like so much work and I wanted to get him wet asap to help him cool off. I grabbed my bucket and shampoo and filled it up, got Junior and headed outside. He danced around me while I hosed him off...wishing I had put the chain over his nose and wondering if I should go back and get it, but he got better and better and eventually he was just standing with the rope over his neck like a good boy. I got his body all clean and stuck his tail in the bucket. I put the bucket down to work on his tail and he started to walk away. I reached for the rope but he walked faster, JUST like the day he escaped from his stall. I know running faster will only make HIM go faster so I just walked along calmly behind him. He went into the other hay field (fenced on three sides so I wasn't as worried) and dropped his head into the lovely alfalfa. He stepped on his rope a few times but he's not a panicker. I walked up and grabbed him and led him back to the barn. I called Max's mom outside and asked if she would hold him while I finished rinsing him, just in case. At least I know he's going to go to grass and not necessarily RUN off. I'm not sure what he'd do if that happened on a showgrounds, though, and I don't want to find out!

I know his previous owner would just open his stall door when sending him out to the pasture and I'm sure he equates an open door or not being held in place as permission to go find the grass. Nothing wrong with that. It's how my first barn worked; we'd open the door to the pasture, close the other doors, then open the stall doors and the horses would go out. We'd do the same thing when it was time for feeding, close all the other doors, open the pasture door, call them in and then shut them into their stalls as they ate.

Both of these instances were him taking advantage of a little freedom. He's never tried to get away from me. He's needed to be reminded when being led out to pasture (if he hasn't been in a while) that he needs to BE LED and not be the leader, but if someone's got the lead he knows to behave. I've been thankful that he's only gone only so far and allows me to catch him and lead him back with no real issues, but what it makes me a little nervous. Maybe it'll just make me more careful?

I have a lesson tomorrow night and am riding with my English tack, including the Myler bit I'm borrowing from a barn mate. She isn't showing this weekend because her horse is recovering from some hoof issues so I can use it until then. KAT said she rode him with a ported bit the other day and he was fine so I'm not as worried about using this one on him. KAT is under the philosophy that you should use milder bits at home and use slightly stronger ones at shows so they respond quicker but don't become desensitized to the more severe bit. Sounds pretty good to me. If this bit works I think I'll buy one but only use it to show, staying with the slow-twist D-ring at home. We'll see.

I bought a project shirt but I won't be able to get it worked on for this weekend's show. I found a simple white lycra button-up shirt with collar and french cuffs. It's a sheer stripe (worn over a tank, of course) so it'll be cooler for summer shows. I found it at a thrift store (while shopping for work) for $1.99 and I have a ton of crystals left over from my purple pattern shirt. I haven't come up with any inspiration yet, but I might go crazy with it and do some hand painting, or just some stone work. Not sure yet. The shirt has several small pulls, but they won't be noticeable in the saddle. We'll see if I ever get to it, though, or if it sits in my closet for years.

Monday, June 15, 2009

A New Decade Means A Goal Met

You may have noticed a small change in the sub-title of my blog. Unfortunately I can no longer claim to be an "almost" 30-year-old. I could say "barely" 30-year-old but I think at this point I am allowed to say "a true lady never reveals her age."

I'm not excited about 30. All my friends say it's a good year and all, but I'm yet to be convinced. The one very good thing is that 4 years ago I decided to make age 30 my goal for horse ownership. I had just graduated from grad school and was riding at an Arab barn outside of Rogers, MN. Nice place, nice owner/trainer. Very nice horses. He kept trying to sell me one but they were out of my price range and I was already starting to feel like I didn't want an Arab after all. I knew I couldn't afford to be competitive in breed shows and I had many years of being ignored by breedist judges at open shows. I was also a little tired of the Arab spirit. When I was 17 it was exciting to have a spirited horse. In my late 20's after several years off riding it was terrifying. I started remembering watching what I considered "dead head" horses at shows and thinking that might not be so bad after all. I ended up spending the rest of my summer working on ponies for a friend and though I fell madly in love with a pinto pony but as vain as it sounds I felt very fat on a 13 hand pony. Plus he has a tendency to colic and considering how much I worry about my sturdy guy I would have been a wreck during his 1,000 mile journey to get here. So I decided that I would make it happen by the time I turned 30. When I moved to Ohio (and started getting a grown-up salary) I was lucky enough to sit next to a new Equine Science prof (also a DVM) at our new faculty orientation. She got me into supervising our new Western Equestrian Club on campus, which led me to KAT, an alum of our college. I was lucky (or unlucky :D) enough to have been in a rather icky car accident in February of 2006. It was a commercial vehicle that ran me off the road at 75mph because the driver was on his cell phone and didn't look before changing lanes. In lieu of suing them I received a modest settlement from their insurance company and that became the nest-egg for the horse purchase. I also used the money to pay off my car and the small amount of credit card debt I had. I began shifting the money from car/cc payments to my saving account to build up purchase price and to get used to paying monthly expenses.. I set a limit of how much I would spend on the animal after talking to KAT and looking at lots of ads. I researched boarding stables and visited several. My back-up was boarding at KAT's barn because I didn't want to spend that much or drive that far, but it ended up being the best for several reasons. I wanted a Paint but since I know enough not to fall in love with a coat, I looked at QH's, too. I casually looked for a year while the account built up and then found Junior. I hate bay roan but I fell in love with him by his picture. He was the first horse I went to go see. I went alone and I didn't know what to think. I had never had to make that kind of choice before. I looked at a few others, almost bought one until my DVM buddy noticed he was lame. THAT is why you have professional help! I didn' t notice because I'm a novice. His owners didn't know, either. Anyway. I kept thinking about Junior and contacting his owner. I was feeling the pressure of finding one (which I know is a mistake many first-time owners make, but...) before school started, knowing that when school started I'd have no time to look and who wants to horse shop in the winter? Something about Junior made him the top of my list. I can't explain what it is. I just knew. I took KAT down and she helped me decide to make an offer. Then we brought him home, a week before school started.

So I made my goal 9 months ahead of schedule. It's been ups and downs. I'm learning. I'm gaining confidence. We can work together as a team. We've go a ways to go before we're really competitive but we'll get there. I was scared in the beginning I had made a mistake because it took so long to get him back to the calm confident boy he was at his previous owner's place. Also because I didn't realize until I got his papers that his dam was a TB. Aren't TB's as crazy as Arabs?!?!?! Nah. He's perfect. He's NOT a dead head but he's calm and sweet. He's my boy and I love him.

And don't think I'm not aware that the money I've spent on him, his equipment, and his care for 9 months would have made a lovely down payment on a house. But I'd MUCH rather ride than mow lawn and fix things. Someday maybe I'll get to have both.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

One week to Show #2.

We've been doing a bit better. KAT rode him on Thursday and used a ported bit on him. We've been discussing getting a slightly stronger bit for the shows so he listens a little faster but I am afraid I'll do more damage than good. I'll get over that just like I got over being afraid of wearing spurs. I could tell right away on Friday that his lope was better. We actually spent some time loping one-handed on a draped rein without me fussing with him. He wasn't going too fast and he was staying nice and upright. We're not going to be the slowest horse in the pen, but right now any slower starts to feel choppy. I think we'll continue to improve, but I simply will not show a choppy lope just because it's slow. I tried to ride him on Wednesday with my English bridle and it wasn't pretty. I started off with my western bridle, currently with a medium shank broken mouth "snaffle" (though I know it's technically not) with a curb chain. I switched to the English bridle and he was fine at the trot, extending correctly and was responsive to my aids. Very quickly he started to get above the bit, especially at the canter, and then it all went to hell. I couldn't get him to collect and round his back and ended up with a weird bouncy stride with his path all wonky and dropping one shoulder then another. I just feel like I have to muscle him into contact with that slow-twist D-ring snaffle. I've had some suggestions for what to use and I think we're going to ask a barn mate if we can test ride her bit. She has THIS MYLER BIT. It is similar to a kimberwicke because it has slots on the dee for the cheek straps and reins, and a curb chain, so it gives the curb chain pressure like my western bit, but it also swivels in the middle so you can give pressure on one side or the other. I still need to sit down with KAT and have her explain exactly how it works so I understand better.

I accidently rode without my spurs yesterday and he wasn't bad at all. Slower response time and bigger leg movement so my equitation was off, but he still listened well.

I have one lesson scheduled this week. I don't have to work as much this week as I did the week before the last show. I'm going to ride every day and hopefully get a day when I can spend the whole day at the barn and ride a couple of times. I'm going to show in the same classes as last time, but hopefully there will be fewer horses in my English classes. We're taking the horses in the night before the show so we can ride there. I'll get there earlier the morning of the show than I did last time and lunge/ride him in the morning before they close the ring to set up the jumps. I'll make sure to give him a break between my horsemanship and pleasure classes this time

Monday, June 8, 2009

Important Safety Lesson

First, our riding has been going well. We had an argument about pivoting to the right last night but other than that it's all good. I had a lesson tonight and KAT was highly complimentary. We even worked on some posting trot and she said that looks really nice, too. He's got an appointment for his feet on Wednesday so he'll be good to go for the show on the 20th.

Now to the safety lesson: Thursday night I turned Jr. out while I cleaned his stall after out ride. I went out to get him and he wasn't wearing his halter. I noticed it was lying on top of the corner post of the field.....broken. No one saw what happened, but I deduce that he got the top horizontal pipe of the gate which sticks out about 2 inches between his halter and his head and pulled back, tearing the leather right at the buckle hole. I KNOW that you should NEVER turn a horse out in a nylon halter that doesn't have a breakaway, but now I will never forget. I cannot imagine what would have happened if he had panicked and been stuck there in a nylon halter. the single-ply leather ripped clean through. He did not seem injured at all and I rubbed all over his head looking for tender spots. I borrowed a neighbor's halter to bring him in.

The "break."

The halter a few weeks ago so you can see how poorly it fits....and sans plate because he lost it and I hadn't gotton new screws yet. Found the plate, the screws...not so much.

The halter came with him and I've just never been able to make a decision on what to replace it with. The halter was admittedly too big for him which made it easier to get himself caught. I'm not sure what size it was but as you can see, holes had to be punched in both the crown and the nose to get it to fit at all and luckily I was able to just give it another hole for the time being. It's certainly not a permanent solution, though.

If I had an unlimited budget I'd just go crazy, but I'd like to have one halter that can be used every day for stable and turn out, and then reserve a clean nylon one for going to shows. I don't know why I like that. I like leather but they seem so "English" and I really hate the color of brass. If I get a new leather should I get a new plate or just put the old one on the new halter? I have always liked the nylon embroidered ones but cannot find one that has a breakaway. I did find the Weaver Elite halters with leather breakaway crowns and I really like my Elite one that I use for going to shows. They have brushed silver colored hardware and I like that SO much more than the brass color. I could get a little round dog ID tag with Junior's name on it. I am also having trouble finding leather that's single ply and I'm wondering if it needs to be single or if double is okay. I think the halter I have might be this one from Dover, but obviously the wrong size. The details seem right, though, down to the hardware style and the reinforcement where the crown buckles. I do not know if it would have broken, though, had it been buckled through that spot. Dear reader Ellie uses halters from Quillin Leather & Tack and I like the turnout halter they have. The look really nice and I love how deep the engraving looks. They have nice options like the double buckle crown so you can replace the crown strap instead of the whole halter if it breaks away. Plus I NEED to have a throat snap. I've fallen in love with leaving the buckle closed and using the snap to put the halter on and off. That was not how I was taught in the beginning but it's how I prefer to do it now.

I would like to force myself to make the decision soon since the one he's wearing now makes him look like no one loves him. Maybe my mom will read this blog and get some ideas for my birthday that's coming way too soon.... it sure would cheer me up to have a fancy new halter on the way.... her grandpony would look so handsome...

Friday, June 5, 2009

Friday Funny

I will have a report on Junior after tomorrow, but for now, I give you something silly for this lovely Friday:

The Best of Dressage

Surprisingly good dressage.

Racing or Dressage?

Dressage is Bull

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Q for You.

Nope, not dead, just not much to write about and I was out of town for several days.

Junior got four days off while I was gone but he was turned out regularly if not daily and seemed fine. It's very humid so he was sweaty around the neck and needed a good brushing but didn't look like he'd even knew I was gone. He rode fine and considering he had 4 days off I was satisfied. Other than having to do several laps of an extended trot before he felt like he was ready to jog there was no real change from before I left. Ideally I would have had KAT do at least one ride in there, but it didn't work out this time and it's nice to know he can handle that time off. Much better than in the winter when he was cooped up and cranky about it.

Here's my question for you all, it's about fly spray. I've used several different kinds of store-bought fly repellent. The only brand I remember buying myself was Bronco. We'd use it before riding if the horses were being bothered during tacking, and as preventative measures at shows, even if we didn't see a fly. In 2006 I used only a homemade fly spray of 3 equal parts water, Avon Skin-so-Soft, and vinegar. Because I'm an internet nerd, I've been doing some reading. I've seen similar recipes on horse forums and lots of people mention SSS as a repellent. We used it all the time when I was growing up. In addition to the many claims of repellent qualities, I also found some more scientific-looking information. Most of this information included really low scores for SSS as a mosquito repellent, including ONLY 10 MINUTES. According to SNOPES, Avon responded to the overwhelming purchases of SSS as a bug repellent that they ADDED Picardin to the SSS in a new line called Skin So Soft Bug Guard Plus. I have used this on myself and it works well for light bug populations but for that really nasty awful part of a Minnesota summer in the woods where the Skeeters will pick you up and carry you away I chose harder hitting OFF. Anyway, here is another article in which Avon defends their Bug Guard
after the New England Journal of Medicine claimed it only lasted for 10 minutes.

So I am wondering if it is really effective or not. It certainly smells good and makes his coat soft. But I also wonder if it does anything for ticks. The pastures have no trees, bushes, or other wooded areas so the exposure is a little less, but I did find one tick on him (on his cheek) the day I gave him a bath so of course they're out there.

What do you use? Store bought? Home made? Do you worry about the chemicals? Think I'm crazy?