Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Shock and Awe

Stephanie had a dressage lesson today, so I stayed late to watch. I very consciously stayed out of the line of sight of the instructor, but stood close to her so I could hear. It was an excellent lesson, but at the end of it, I was most impressed by this:

The instructor had perfect hair, perfect skin, perfectly clean clothes, smelled lovely, and could ride the snot out of anything without ever leaving the small arena. Did I mention she's also pregnant?


A competition shot of the instructor, duly kyped from facebook.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Treading Water

This is Tommy, aka Giant Gelding #4. He comes from a dressage background and is a ridiculously fancy horse. This picture really doesn't do him justice; I'll have to round up one that does eventually. I purloined a ride on him on Saturday. We did a little tiny bit of work in the arena, then headed out for a trail ride. He was a little snippy with the other gelding, but otherwise was super quiet.

No rides for me Sunday or today. That's the problem with not having my own horse available--I can catch ride when other horses are available, but when it's 55f and sunny? Ha. Everyone else rides. Get well soon Izzy!

My poor old phone finally bit the dust last week, so I excised some of my pent up nervousness about the pony situation by upgrading to some sort of fancy, newfangled smartphone. It's not an iphone. It's red. I had to have someone help me set it up, but now it's working brilliantly.

The good news about that is I can now check email when I'm at home. I haven't figured out mobile blogger yet, but it will probably happen. Eventually.

And Izzy's flooffy butt. She's still on stall rest until February 26th, so I made a list of things I am going to do with her. In fact, I used the "memo" function on my new phone. I am so classy now.
-Remove chestnuts
-clip bridle path
Wash tail
-Trim Fetlocks
-Touch up trim jawline
-Tidy up mane
-Wash legs
-Clean up hocks
-Watch for thrush
-Clean/condition halter
-Replace lead rope.

Nothing too exciting. I keep telling myself that this is just a phase. I'm learning and riding other horses and it's killing me not to ride my own horse, who really is the prettiest one there. Hopefully, she'll be back with a vengeance at the end of February.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Giant Gelding, Round 3

In keeping the my theme of riding giant geldings, today I decided to tackle Foster, the giant Irish spotted boy. By "I decided" I mean "the schedule most conveniently allowed".

I think most of you have seen his face before. I rode him a month or so ago, and could barely get him to move. At all. I was sore for days afterwards.

I didn't have high hopes for today, but he was on the schedule and there was no particular reason why I couldn't ride him. I decided that my goal for the ride was to get him to canter.

Also, I put on really sharp spurs.

To my advantage, there was a jumping lesson going on the in the indoor at the same time. Foster LOVES jumping, and he was pretty sure we were part of the lesson. He was actually fairly forward. I got a nice walk, a decent trot, and shockingly, he has a lovely canter. He gave me all three of those gaits with a minimum of grunting and kicking and humping the saddle on my part, which was awesome. He is completely unperturbed by people cantering by right next to him and was only minimally bothered by the other boarder's horse that was acting like a complete loon.

For the first time in my riding career, I had to manage two sets of reins--Foster's early training was... laughable... so he goes in draw reins about two days a week (down from every ride. yay!). Anyways, it wasn't pretty. I couldn't seem to keep the reins at reasonable lengths while going forward and steering. It wasn't like one set was a little wonky; no, I just pretty much had no reins. Clearly, we need to work on this.

IZZY UPDATE: Mareface has figured out that stall rest is way less awesome than she thought it would be. There is no wrapping, no mashes, no pool boy, greatly reduced attention, and NO COOKIES ANYWHERE!!!!! Scandalous, really. She got a funny look on her face when one of the girls went in to clean her stall, and apparently came bursting out when the girl tried to leave. Wondermare escape #1. I'm pretty sure it won't be her last attempt, either.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Giant Geldings Galore

Day one of stall rest is complete. I pulled Izzy out for a quick grooming and she was ridiculous--wiggling all over to make sure I curried her thoroughly and making faces at me while begging for treats.

What can I say? So far, the time off is definitely agreeing with her.

I pulled her braids out to let her mane rest for a day. It's all on the correct side now, yay!

That's all the news on the Izzy front.

I forgot to take a picture of his face, but here's the giant gelding I rode today. He's like 17+ tall. He's much more attractive than Seamus (I think), but he also doesn't jump. So it goes.

I rode in a dressage saddle for the first time in ages, and actually felt ok. Laddie has the same sire as Izzy, but his dam must have been fancier. He's like riding around on a giant, fluffy, slow cloud. He is deceptively elegant to watch--big moving, graceful, pretty.

He also has a fused vertebrae in his neck and isn't always sure where his hind legs are at any given time, so he is prone to falling if he gets to stretch forward too much. Still, he's a sweetie. A large, dumb, sweetie.

I think I'll be investing in a pair of spurs here shortly though. I'll be lucky if I'm not sore tomorrow from all the leg I had to use to keep him forward.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Verdict

Izzy was jogged, flexed, and examined.

She is not sound. She isn't worse, but she isn't better. There's still heat in her right front and she's quite sensitive to it. Conclusion: I can call a vet who can do all sorts of tests and tell me she strained something and give her 30 days of stall rest and charge me for the opinion. I can take her in to the hospital for all kinds of fancy treatments and spend thousands of dollars, or I can give her thirty days off to recuperate.

I took this picture yesterday. Hope Ms Mare enjoyed the view, because all she's seeing is her stall for a long, long time.

Despite literally everything else going well for me right now, I feel like I got punched in the gut. I spent most of the morning telling myself I would not cry about how frustrated I am. I even tried to stay optimistic and make a list of positives coming out of this:

1) Izzy is getting great care and has attentive, knowledgeable people around her constantly.
2) I can ride other horses and learn without messing her up.
3) Maybe a little break will be good for us.
4) I have more time to get work done since I'm not riding her.
5) I won't have to find someone to ride her for me when I'm out of town for shows.

Of course, there is an equally tangible negative to each one of those.

1) I am paying very expensive board for a lame horse that will not leave her stall for 30 days.
2) Izzy and I were finally starting to make progress. Now she's just losing fitness.
3) We already had a break and it wasn't exactly world-altering.
4) The whole point of working is to get better at riding my own horse.
5) I guess this one doesn't really have a negative. She's super low maintenance right now.

I also got paid today and a jumping lesson on a much more broke horse than Ms Mare. Meet Seamus. He's a training/prelim horse who is currently being leased by one of Stephanie's students. When she can't come to the barn, I get to ride his big, stupid, ugly self.

I should be more charitable. He's a fun ride, but he's not attractive and he's a gelding. He is an excellent jumper, so it was fun to ride a horse I knew I could trust to go.

Ugh. I wish I could say something more positive, but I'm trying not to cry. And I'm at work, so that would be super awkward.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Cross Your Fingers, Say a Prayer

Just another day at the barn, you know, with horses and deer! I didn't actually see the deer, but I was out walking Izzy on a trail and saw the footprints. Fun times.

Tomorrow is the big day. We re-evaluate Izzy's soundness level and behave accordingly. I'm crossing everything I have right now... She's been looking really solid at the walk and moving forward nicely, so I hope that she gets to go back to regular turnout and at least light work under saddle.

Also, a funny story to share: Izzy's former farrier and I had some ideological disagreements, which resulted in him trimming her hooves and putting on one shoe, then us deciding he was done working on her. I offered to pay him the value of his work so far, but he declined. The new farrier came out and put the other shoe on her. He charged me $25.

Yes folks, I just got front shoes and a trim for $25. Beat that.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Winter Days

Izzy continues living large and enjoying life. She's been getting IV bute because she's good for shots and it's cheaper, plus she gets wrapped every night and unwrapped every morning. I hadwalk her twenty minutes a day and give her a thorough grooming.

All that and she does NO WORK. We better move this thing along or she's going to start hurting herself recreationally. Ms Mare loves all this attention.

I'm spending my free (haha! as if) time taking pictures and video of other students and then watching jumping videos on youtube. It's to the point that I really want to actually ride my horse and jump something, but can't right now. Definitely progress.

I braided Izzy's mane to help train it to lay on the correct side. Just another luxury for the wondermare. It's a little long right now, but I figured that would make the braiding process easier anyways.

Other than that, not a lot is going on. Well, unless you count getting actual winter weather and me riding lots of other horses both indoors and on hacks and over jumps. Those things are happening.

Also my beagle is adorable. Who wouldn't love his little funny face?

Thursday, January 19, 2012


The barn is currently lakefront property. After all the snow we got yesterday (like 6+ inches, which is oodles for us), the temperature soared up to like 36 and the downpour started.

It's been raining nonstop for over 24 hours on top of 6" of snow. I'll leave the rest of it to your imaginations.

Anyways. We're obviously confined to the indoor for now. (Did I mention it's also a bit slick?) The indoor is a good long walk from the barn, so we take the horses over in pairs and then tie one while the other works. At least, that's what we start out doing, but we keep adding more horses...

Here's where Izzy was tied. Those woodchips? Yeah. She made them. She objects strongly to straight tying, so she spent the entire 30 minutes she was standing there throwing a massive fit--pawing, bitting, pulling (but never back), spinning around, all the good stuff. One of Steph's clients was watching her horse being worked and got kind of worried about Izzy.

"She's just having a temper tantrum and she's way too smart to ever hurt herself," I assured the lady. True to form, Izzy pitch a fit, then stop and look at us to see if anyone was watching.

I tacked her up and brought her out. She was reasonably quiet on the lunge line, but quite prancy. She looked ok to the left, but again (still!) just ever so slightly off on her right front when going right. The theory is that she strained something in the initial incident of being completely wild in soft footing a week ago, then continues to restrain it every time she comes out and is wild again. Like today. Or Tuesday. Or any other time she sets foot outside her stall. Yay.

Current plan of attack is five days of bute, wrapping every night, and minimum 20 minutes walking (aced if necessary) every day. That should allow her to heal without stressing anything else.

We will stick to that schedule like the world's most official corgi is looking over our shoulders.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Snow Days are for Tack Whoring

We have 6" inches of snow and more is falling rapidly. The ground was dry 5 hours ago. I got the day off at the barn because Steph didn't think my car would be able to make it there. Pretty sure she was right--this picture was taken two hours ago.

So let's talk tack whoring. We haven't done that for a while. I considered dressing up in my $3 knee high socks (TJ Max), $20 kerrits breeches (eBay) and my $30 danskos (also eBay), but I'm at the work where stretchy pants are less socially acceptable right now.

I'm by nature a fairly happy and obsessive person. I also like Izzy to look perfect. I also have a budget that flutters around zero. Hence, I am a compulsive bargain hunter. Even if I have the money to buy something I want off the shelf, I rarely do. My only exceptions are hoofpicks and undergarments. You just don't want those used. ;-)

So here are my rules for bargain hunting:
1) Know the market. At home (where I am internetless), I stockpile catalogs. I keep current copies of Dover, Smartpak, Bit of Britain, and Bartville Harness Shop.

2) Know your item. If I'm shopping for my favorite breeches ever, I know they run around $110 new, can usually be had for around $100, go on sale for $70-$80 this time of year, and pop up on eBay occasionally for less. That means that if I go to a store and see them on the shelf, I know -exactly- where they fit into that scale and whether or not it's a good deal. Hint: just because it's 30% off does not make it worth buying.

3) Have good sources. I mentioned the catalogs I keep at home. Here is my analysis of them:
~Dover has the most selection. They're excellent to get an idea for what's out there. Their list prices are ridiculous, but their sales are palatable, especially with the $10 off shipping coupon they sent out. I rarely buy from them, but I reference them frequently.
~Smartpak has free shipping on orders over $75, which I adore. Their selection is less than Dover, but still pretty sweet and their customer service is fantabulous. They have good sales occasionally, but in general are my go-to for non-discounted purchases.
~Bit of Britain is like eventer heaven in store format. They have all the coolest stuff and pretty good sales and discounts. Their shipping is reasonable and they are good to deal with.
~Bartville Harness Shop is a little Amish owned place in Pennsylvania. If you call them and leave a message, they'll send you a catalog. They make many of the leather goods for Bit of Britain, but sell they for quite a bit less money. Like 40-50% less.

Other sources I use a lot:
~eBay is pretty self explanatory. You have to know key words and sort through a lot of junk, but there are some cool deals out there. My favorite sellers are gorge-us.girls for clothes and lancamishgoods for strap good from Bartville that are magically sold online.
~Bits and Barter board is a collection of people selling peer to peer. It's not as reliable as eBay, but you can get some super deals if they have what you want.

4) Do Your Research-I got my dressage saddle off of a website I'd never heard of, but I researched it on the Chronicle Forums and heard good things. Conversely, there are sellers (and brands) that I've done similar research on and decided to have nothing to do with. I like the Chronicle because it's an established community with members you can research further through their posting history. You know, "sure she thinks that saddle is great, but she rides in a wintec according to her prior post, so she's hardly a judge of leather quality". It takes a little time, but it pays off.

5) Network. I have very little luck with craigslist (thank you cow country USA), but I've had considerable luck with fellow bloggers and equine friends. I got a steal of a deal on my much-beloved Ainsley XC saddle from blogger Gingham and the exact XC vest I wanted from blogger friend Rinsie.

Here's last fall's ensemble. The only thing I paid full price for was the custom saddle pad and ear bonnet. Those totaled around $50.

Otherwise, we have this list:
Five Star Tack Magnolia Bridle: $120 (used, tacktrader.com)
Thinline Reins $70 (new, sale at local store)
Korsteel bit $10 (new, local sale)
Black dressage boots $40 (new, from blogger friend)
Passier dressage saddle $800 (used, online)
Thinline pad $130 (new, ebay)
Kerrits breeches $40 (new, Dover)
Ariat half chaps $40 (new, Dover)

And so on. I firmly believe in buying higher quality good that will last longer and need less replacing. I also believe in buying the thing you want, because otherwise you will spend a great deal more buying multiple unsatisfactory replicas of it.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Wild Ponies!

Izzy is cantering around on the lunge line. Who knew my phone could take action shots?

It's supposed to snow a ridiculous amount tomorrow (like 6") and the horses were all completely batty. Izzy was no exception--mareface was rearing and bolting in hand while I led her to the arena.

I ran the lunge line through one bit ring and she TOOK OFF!! Fortunately, I still had both ends, so I was able to recapture Ms. Crazy brain and get things properly attached before she had a bolting/bucking/leaping fit on a circle.

Is she sound?


She's looking a lot better, but there's still that little unevenness and tiny head bob that tells me she should in no way be acting like a nutter like that.

On the other hand, her pain tolerance is so ridiculously low that I can generally count on her not to make herself worse. I guess that's sort of a win.

Monday, January 16, 2012


In the absence of Izzy as a regular mount, I've been riding other horses. I'm moving beyond my comfort zone, and consequently, my comfort zone is expanding. It's a good thing. The only problem is that I'm currently itching for a jumping lesson, but that is a no go with an unsound pony.

Yes, I just said that. Me, the generally terrified chicken rider. I. Want. To. Jump.

It's taken a while, but I'm finally there. My riding has changed so much and my confidence has improved enough that I actually want to do what I'm here to do. It's good.

The ears aren't black, but here's the view from my saddle.

Me, the long-time arena rider, took the upper level prospect mare for a 45 minute hack in the mountains by myself.

I also somehow earned the title of 'hacking queen'. Go figure.

Other excitement: I got to body clip my second ever horse today. I had zero notice, but I think I did a pretty ok job. Much better than last time.

Strangely, the clippers died so there was no way for me to remove the cutesy lil' heart on his butt. :-D

No, I would never do something like that intentionally.

Izzy update: pony mare is making strides towards soundness. She is on limited turnout and we are tack walking as much as I can stand. I'm hoping for limited trotting tomorrow, but that depends on whether there's any time to ride.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Wondermare At Rest

As I mentioned yesterday, Izzy got a day off. It was partly because I had this ridiculous schedule that left me with 20 minutes to tack up, ride, and put her away, and partly because I didn't even want to deal with her.

It's not that she's been so bad lately (although she has), but because her left front was puffy. Being the logical, rational person that I sometimes am, I immediately leaped to a Kristin and Laz styled scenario. I didn't want to know any more about it and Stephanie told me she'd wrap her leg before leaving for the night, so I left Izzy in her stall and instead watched a dressage lesson for 20 minutes.

Thankfully, Stephanie didn't let me know that when she went to wrap Izzy's left front fetlock, the problem area, both front legs were puffy, particularly through the tendon area. Izzy was sensitive and sore and seemed quite happy for the extra attention. I say fortunately because I would have promptly freaked out, left the family gathering I was at, headed to the barn, and continued freaking out in the cold to no specific end.

Instead, I showed up this morning to find that both Izzy's front legs had been bandaged, but Ms. Mare had started removing the bandages. I left her alone while I fed and started the turnouts because I know she's way too smart to do anything to hurt herself. Then I unwrapped her, bracing myself for the worst.

I should have taken a picture of Izzy's cold, tight legs. She looked perfectly normal standing still. Stephanie had me jog her out, and said it looked like she had a grade 1 (non severe) lameness in her right front, but despite lots of manipulating and palpating, even the drama princess mare didn't have a response to any localized pressure.

Mostly likely, the limited turnout induced by the rather icy conditions mean that Izzy isn't exercising herself at all. That would explain why she was completely wild under saddle on Sunday and why when I turned her out in the indoor on Monday (had a hunch) that she galloped and bucked like a maniac. Unfortunately, galloping and bucking like a maniac in soft footing is not the best for soft tissue and she probably tweaked something.

Due to the low grade stiffness and Izzy's gorgeous legs this morning, the best thing for her is to go back to work and sleep in bandages for the next few days. She tried to get a couple mashes and a pool boy, but no luck.

The wondermare, chilling out.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Drivin' a Truck

Wondermare is out with a minor issue, so I got to spend my time this morning driving (and backing) the big rig around the barn parking lot. It probably doesn't sound all that exciting to non-horse women, but OMG BIG HONKING DIESEL TRUCK AND 4 HORSE GN LQ TRAILER!!!

We're taking multiple road trips in the near future and Stephanie thinks that I should be able to drive (and back) the rig.

She had a lesson to teach, so we hooked up the trailer and I got to go nuts. I'm so glad that most of you understand how exciting this is. It means that 1) I am being entrusted with something important and 2) I am actually useful and 3) I got to play with a giant truck.

I'm a reasonably intelligent person, but I really don't learn with people yelling at me. To just have a half hour to drive in tiny circles to learn about the turning radius and back up and pull forward and spend some time with the trailer was immensely helpful. I'll keep processing the information I gleaned to day, and hopefully will be even better next time I get behind the wheel.

Oh, and that will be soon. The current plan is for me to drive the truck every other day. It went kind of like this:

Steph: "I think you need to learn to drive the truck."
Me: "Awesome. I'd love to."
Steph: "My plan is for you to just work for me full time and make lots of money."
Me: "But you don't make lots of money, so it'd be impossible for you to pay me lots of money."
Steph: "But I make more money teaching than I do hauling, so if you learn to do the hauling then I can teach more and we both make more."
Me: "Let's do it."

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Brain Training

In my continuing quest to discover how I misplaced my confidence, I ran across yet another excellent blog post from Cherie at Go Lightly Sport Horses.

The essence of her post was this: confidence is a skill like any other, so it must be trained like any other.

Simple, brilliant.

It makes so much sense.

Part of the training she (and the USOC) recommend is to write down a single line every single day of one positive accomplishment.

I can do that. It's measurable and manageable.

I didn't ride today (grrr! projects!) so I'll do a quick photo acheivement update. I took Izzy from this:

Five year old unstarted baby Izzy who reared up and almost kicked me in the head right after this was taken.

To this:

Eight year old broke Izzy who actually looks like a dressage (and occasionally jumping) horse.

We are going to do this together.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

An Interesting Idea

I'm getting sick, so I took nyquill last night. Have you ever tried to work at a busy barn while your head is in a complete and unshakable fog? Yeah, it was pretty bad.

I took Izzy to the indoor, but Steph ended up doing most of the riding because Izzy had a little meltdown about things going on., to including bolting and bucking and generally wigging out on the lunge.

My apologies for the crappy phone video. Again, mental fog.

Anyways. I hopped on after Steph rode and Izzy was perfect. It made me wish I could afford training or something.

The point is this: one of Steph's more advanced students (a solid training level rider looking to move up) is trying to jump a lot more jumps without riding her horse into the ground.

Izzy needs to jump a lot of jumps.

This rider can't possibly screw Izzy up any worse than I would.

There might be a connection.

It's an intriguing idea--theoretically, Izzy would be getting a solid jumping education from a competent rider under Stephanie's supervision, since the rider is wanting to do a bunch of lessons. Depending on the scheduling, it could also help me out because I have trouble fitting in mid week rides. If the other rider rode 1-2 days a week, I would still be doing dressage on Izzy and then probably jumping once a week.

That would reduce the frequency that I could jump, but it would also further Izzy's training to a point that maybe she would actually know more than I do and like, you know, pack me around.

So... we'll see what happens. The other rider might jump at the chance or might not. She might ride Izzy once or twice and I decide I don't like what's happening and pull her. Steph might think I need to be the one putting miles in the saddle and not want me sharing.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012


We're trapped in the indoor! It rained a lot and froze, so despite beautiful sunny skies and temperatures in the 40s, we can't get out. We were just doing flatwork, so although you see jumps, I do not jump over them.
I feel like things are getting better-my riding is certainly improving every day (a wonderful feeling). My confidence comes and goes, but I'm at least to the point when I enjoy riding Izzy on the flat, don't freak out when she spooks, and am starting to actually want to jump when I'm not in the saddle. Put me on a horse pointed at a fence and it's a different story, but it's progress.

And this. I had a to do list longer than my arm Monday, and a nice fellow boarder was sitting around while her horse was turned out. Fortunately, she is the daring type, so she rode Izzy while I rode the giant black horse in her left hand. Ms Mare behaved herself quite nicely.

And since this is such a media-heavy type of day, here's a cute video of my beagle:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...