Wednesday, June 27, 2012


Jumping lesson today, leaving for show/clinic tomorrow. When I watered the arena this morning, I noticed that the jumps were all set down from Steph's last lesson yesterday. Some cross rails, lots of 2' verticals, one 2'6" oxer.

And I thought, "That looks a little boring".

I KNOW!!! ME!!!!! I just thought that about a course that would totally have scared the crap out of me a month ago.

Carry on.

White wraps today
It was a group lesson with two other fun people on nice horses. I got Cuna warmed up. He was fine, nothing too spectacular, but I felt focused and on it. We got our first course to try (a series of angled jumps to develop straightness and purpose), I picked up a canter, and...


It was just right. Balanced, comfortable, forward. I could move him forward or back. I could turn. I could literally do anything and knew he would be fine, right there with me. Scary gate? Didn't even look at it. Scary planks? Pssh. Whatever. Giant square oxer? No worries. I'll admit when Steph set the 2'6"ish swedish up to a 2'9"ish square I chased him to it the first time.

It didn't feel right. We circled around and tried again. I found my balance in the corner before the jump and just stayed steady to the base.

And it was perfect.

We jumped at all kinds of angles, did rollback turns to stiff verticals, and stayed straight all the way through a triple combination with the scary gate set at 3'. Oh yes we did. Cuna was like butter--soft, flexible, and so yummy you just can't let go. I was actually a bit bummed when the lesson ended because I was having so much fun with him over the courses.


And if that wasn't enough, my super fabulous ebay score showed up. I can't use these in a sand arena, but they will look super sexy jumping on grass this weekend. Guess how I much I paid for them?


No joke.

OH, AND we most likely get to use Steph's super spiffy new XC boots (the premier equines) for the clinic/show because she doesn't think they'll rub him. Winning! 

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Follow Through

This face saves me a lot
When we were cross country schooling last week, Steph pointed out that I never actually showed Cuna a fence and said "I want to jump this" to him. I went through most of the right motion, but just had him generally aimed in the correction direction and hoped he'd save me. 

While that works for now, it really isn't ideal. 

Today I did a short jump school over a couple of verticals and focused on telling the old man I actually wanted to jump them. We took the first one off of a big left hand canter circle. I lined Cuna up at the jump, and he tried to wiggle away a bit. I kept myself focused on the top rail of the jump, with my legs steady, hands quiet, and posture definitive. I want to jump this (tiny 2'6" single vertical). 

He locked on and obliged. 

As we cantered around the arena to come again, I realized there was a convenient bending line to another vertical, this one probably 2'9" or so. I decided to do the sequence. 

Again. Lock on to jump #1. Check. Stay balanced and forward through the turn, lock on to jump #2 and settle to the base. Well done! 
Part of the fun course we didn't jump
I cantered around our little pattern again to make sure it wasn't luck and called it a day. Cuna probably felt a little underwhelmed, especially since I set such a pretty course this morning that looked super fun, but I wanted to hammer home that detail in my head. I need to be able to kick him at it, and I need to want to jump. 

It's those same little details that apply across the whole spectrum of horsemanship. 

Well done, SB
PS I will say, my wrap job is getting a lot faster and better. I can even do a decent job with the nasty, thick, wide, weird polos. Look at the picture--the velcro is all aligned, the legs look mostly even, and nothing appears to be a misshapen potato, which would be unsightly. Win! 

Monday, June 25, 2012

Managing My Marbles

Someone is growing a topline

  Mr. Princess Horse is recovering nicely and enjoying his new routine a little more than I'm comfortable with. I pow wowed with my barn working counterparts and now have an official plan to make sure he has his flysheet on by 8.30am every day, so he's really quite happy. He likes jumping, he likes trail riding, he likes that I keep the dressage sessions short and to the point, and he probably likes that I bought him brand new polos just so they're match his bonnet.

I'm busily trying to think of anything and everything except this weekend. We're scheduled to go out of town, ride in a clinic two days (SJ and XC) and then compete in a derby with dressage and xc on Sunday. We're riding in a BN group, which means he and I can totally sneeze at the show jumping, at least theoretically. Part of me really wanted to stay with the intro group (2'3") just because I knew the cross country would be easier, but I also knew we'd be bored stiff in the show jumping and I have high hopes of coming out even better than last time for XC.

It all sounded like a great idea when I discussed it with the organizer yesterday. I'm feeling less firmly committed today. I guess I sort of feel like this is a make or break point for us--we've had two good experiences to build on. We're going to have more jumping going in to the show, so I should be mentally prepped. I know it's way to much pressure to put on myself and it really won't help, but at some point, we can either do this or we can't. It's either fun or it isn't. Either way is fine with me, but I don't want to be afraid to ride anymore.

I have made huge, leaping strides of progress in that area as far as anything not related to cross country goes. I'm hoping that rebuilding my confidence in this area will be less emotionally intense and gut wrenchingly difficult than the rest of the internal/brain work I've had to do this year.

Thoughts? Tips? Who else is overcoming fear or has done so successfully? Tell me it's flowers and rainbows.

Or the truth, I guess.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Shorts. Sliced Bread.

I'm totally trying to play off this casual, amazing attitude that's like, "Oh yeah, so we totally jumped a couple of huge ass jumps today. What about it?"

But the truth is, I'm more likely to squeal "OMGEEEEEEEEEE WE JUMPED GIANT JUMPS!!!!!" My apologies in advance if you're going to see me today (ahem, Carie).

I pulled Cuna out, unwrapped his cold, tight legs, hosed off the remaining poultice, and trotted him for Steph, sans any leg coverings. Sound. YAY!! It was just those silly boot rubs. <3 my sensitive princess horse.

Sexy wrap job
Because, of course, one simply doesn't jump in a lesson without some form of leg protection (particularly on a horse that isn't yet completely paid off with an instructor who has an evil sense of humor regarding our ability levels), I got to wrap today.

My early equestrian upbringing inclued zero information about how to do this, and my barn schedule means I rarely have time to practice. I think it took me like 15 minutes or something ridiculous, but they looked mostly ok at the end.

And then it was jump time! We have a show in like 8 days, so I'm super excited to take some lessons and maybe continue our streak of not completely sucking. This is a whole new concept for me, and I kind of like it. Because of my weird mental XC issues, we're doing the derby (dressage and XC) at 2'3", so we will most likely just jump tiny logs. That is FINE. However, we are also entered for a schooling round in the BN, which may include slightly larger logs and maybe even actual jumps.

So. Lesson. We started trotting in and cantering out of a tiny grid. 12" crossrail to 2' crossrail bounce, one stride to ground pole. So far, so good. Add left roll back turn to 18" crossrail with placing pole. Sure. End with right circle. No problem. I get tense over fences, so we jumped through the grid a couple of times, with me focusing on staying balanced over over him and riding forward instead of letting him suck back behind my leg over the second crossrail.

I was able to cogently discuss the failings of each attempt with Steph and then correct them, so that was good.

Then she put the jumps up.

You know, UP. ^ That way. Now it was crossrail to crossrail bounce, one stride, GIANT FREAKING OXER, left rollback turn, GIANT FREAKING OXER, right hand turn to another line of bounces, right hand circle. Whoa. Intenseness.

I made a first attempt. We were ok through the grid except I tried to grab his face and hold for an invisible stride, then realized it wasn't there and just grabbed mane and prayed, then made a decent rollback and CHASED him to the second oxer, and then Steph thought maybe we should try the whole thing again, this time with some thinking and breathing and whatnot. Quite a concept.

Here's what I'm most happy about: I agreed with her. I was able to discuss what needed to change, and I actually wanted to try the course again. I wanted a chance to do better and give my horse a decent ride. I wasn't afraid. I wasn't wishing I was dead. I was ready to have a decent go.

Again. This time, I kicked him forward through the grid, let the fences balance him, and stayed in balance as he jumped the first huge oxer. We got our lead before the corner, cantered the left rollback turn, and I sat and waited as he took me to the fence. As soon as we cleared giant oxer #2, I used a strong inside leg to keep him out on my line for the right hand turn to the line of bounces. I got him straight, locked on to a line, and kept him between my hand and leg through the bounces. We finished with a right hand circle at an excellent canter.

Super giant
Oh yeah. Casual like shorts. Awesome like sliced bread. That is us, today. I even got the working student to take a picture of me by giant oxer #1 once Cuna was rinsed, re-wrapped, and put away. Then I measured it. 3'1", baby. I didn't even freak out.

That's how cool I am with Cuna. Scratch that.

That's how awesome Cuna is.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

10.30-11.30am 6/21/12

Cuna ended up getting yesterday off because of work commitments I had. He got turned out, but no one paid too much attention to him.

He seemed fine today. I pulled him out, groomed him thoroughly, tacked up, and went to the arena. After a long walking warm up, I asked him for a trot.

He obliged with just the slightest head bob.

Hm. Drop back to walk. Walk and think, "Did I imagine that?"

Trot again.

It's still there. Just the slightest head bob, maybe now a hair more pronounced.

Walk. Seriously? I don't feel any unevenness, but the head bob is totally not normal.

I ask an experienced dressage rider to watch us and give me an opinion. We trot off. No more slight suggestion; he's now full on head bobbing and very uncomfortable. She says left front. I slide off and take the old man back to the barn. He's walking fine. I rip his boots off and check his legs, paying special attention to the left front.

Nothing. No heat, no usual swelling, no sensitivity.

It's that dark swirl in the center of the pic
Steph shows up and I trot him for her. She agrees that he's somewhat off, then flexes and thoroughly palpates both legs. Nothing. No reaction. The only problem is just a slight skin abrasion on the inside of his front fetlocks that is mildly worse on his left than his right. Hm. They are symmetrical, most likely rubs from sand getting under boots on a thin skinned TB. That would explain why it got worse the longer I rode him in boots and why it was less pronounced and not effecting his weight bearing when he trotted without them.

All wrapped up
To be honest, it makes me feel a little better to know just how sensitive he is. I'm more comfortable around horses that I know will tell me when there's a problem and he's never mentioned one before. Of course, with that level of sensitivity comes a lot of responsibility for me.

Old man needed to be poulticed, wrapped, and carefully sheeted to make sure he didn't fuss too much with bugs around.

He'll be fine soon. The situation is in hand. It just gives me one more thing to neurotically clean. I mean, I wash boots all the time anyways, but now nothing but the cleanest and best fitting can go on him. I'll spend the rest of my afternoon researching the best boots for uber-sensitive horses. Sheepskin, maybe? It's hard with all the fine sand in the arenas. That stuff gets in to everything.

Despite my mild panic and near-obsessive pandering, the old man takes everything in stride. He pointed out the problem. Now he's enjoying all the pampering that comes with the solution.


Cute, wonderful, huggable bastard.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

We Go XC, Take II

We are not thinking about it.
Kind of last minute on Monday I found out that Cuna and I were going XC schooling at a local facility on Tuesday evening.

From then on out, I didn't think about it. Intentionally. My thought process was this:

1) Your subconscious completely wigs out about this whole shebang.
2) What your subconscious doesn't know most likely won't hurt it.

As such, I didn't mentally prepare, didn't watch XC videos, didn't visualize anything, and didn't talk about it much. Even on the drive over, I chatted about absolutely everything except riding horses. My sole concession to my subconscious was to switch Cuna's bit from his full cheek happy mouth mullen to an eggbutt Dr Bristol.

We tacked up. The other ladies were taking forever, since apparently their job has never entailed riding 4 horses in three hours while feeding, doing turnout, and cleaning tack. I took Cuna away from the group, hopped on, and started hacking around. I hadn't ridden at this facility since the accident with Izzy. I have gorgeous photos of us there and vivid memories of how it felt. Every time we came around a turn, I could just picture Izzy and I.

And I put it out of my head. I read an article by a prominent female showjumper (Beezie maybe?) who said that's how she deals with coming back from accidents. It sounds kooky, but I had to do something. I focused on warming Cuna up. Not Izzy. Not me. We walked all around, trotted and worked on moving off my legs, and cantered, focusing on going forward and back and doing lots of transitions. I wanted him balanced and adjustable.

Stephanie asked if there was anything out in the field I wanted to jump.

"YES. That teeny, tiny little log way over by the fence. It looks ok."

Us on course. 
I'm not sure how she kept a straight face, but we were sent off to jump it. I knew I had to give Cuna a better first ride than I did last time, so I kept my eyes up, put my leg more or less on, and grabbed mane with one hand and breastcollar with the other. The reins may have been a little wonky, but at least I wasn't pulling on him.

Cuna trotted over the jump and cantered away without so much as a peek. Excellent. I didn't go back to Steph for instruction, but just kept trotting back and forth over the tiny log. "I can do this," I thought. "I can do this all night and be happy."

Then she called us back. New pattern: trot over tiny log. Turn right, CANTER OVER GINORMOUS LOG PILE. Make a right hand turn, canter up the hill over pretty intimidating coop.

Ok, the log pile was 2' tall. In my defense, it was also the jump Izzy and I wrecked at last year about this time. I was thankful for the coop--it gave me something else to completely stress about.

Off we went. The first jump was pretty easy. I kept my eyes up and we trotted the tiny log. Then we came around for the GLP. I thought I would die, but I kept my eyes up and legs steady while grabbing everything I could hold on to that was not Cuna's face, and he hopped over it like nothing. We came around for the coop and I finally started to settle a bit. Cuna was in a nice, forward rhythm. I could see a comfortable close spot. I counted the last few strides and he popped right over it.


Ginormous log pile #2 as demoed by Rinsie
We weren't done yet. After repeating that pattern a couple of time, Steph added in an EVEN BIGGER GINORMOUS LOG PILE!!!!!!!!! Omg. It might even have been 2'7". We did the first couple of jumps, then headed for it. As we got within about 10 strides, I heard Steph yelling at us to stop. We pulled up in a couple of strides and did a nice balanced halt. Apparently, we were supposed to be demonstrating a pulley rein. Oops. She told us to just jump the jump from where we were, maybe five or six strides out.

"Cuna can do that," I told her. "I can't do that." We circled around and came again. The closer we got, the bigger that jump looked. I swear it was rolex sized by the time we got to the base. Again, I had mane in one hand, breastcollar in the other, and kept my legs steady. Cuna hauled my butt over the fence. Good boy!

Scary barrels as demoed by Rinsie
The last jumping exercise was to jump the (now non-threatening) log pile (the first one) and then come around and jump this horrifyingly huge barrel jump. It may even have been 2'6". I figured we would just power through it (shut up), but Steph wanted me to drop to the trot to do the barrels. I made her explain that insanity in great detail, and it actually made sense. Cuna was comfortable with everything we were doing and taking me to the jumps very nicely. Since eventually we will jump a fence that might make him want to back off a bit, I need to feel like I can kick him at a jump. We were manufacturing a situation in which I could do that.

Breathe. Ok.

We came towards the barrels. I got him down to a collected canter before Steph yelled, "Kick him." I did, and over we went. Nicely. Safely. Happily.

Then it was off to the track to do pacework. (Thank you Katie for setting the flags. They were great.) My lesson buddy went first. I watched them slowly canter around and come in just 10 seconds over and realized that 350 mpm was going to be painfully boring. As predicted, Cuna and I came in at 55 and 57 seconds (goal of 60 seconds) and we were barely moving. Cuna actually had two of the biggest spooks I've ever seen from him--one because a giant cow was hiding behind a bush, the other because who knows why but we got a perfect lead change out of it.

My buddy went too slow both times, so she was sent back to go a lot faster. I whined a little, and got to take a turn going more hastily.

Cuna and I walked onto the track. I put him into the canter, and just let him roll forward. We hit the nice novice pace and sped up in about a stride. His stride got longer. As he and I found our balance together. I stayed poised above him, steady without resisting. Each quarter of the track, he picked up just a little more steam. As we flew around our final corner, I realized that I hadn't really tested the brakes and he had no particular plan to stop. I tried a half halt and got nothing. Right. We are galloping. I need to change his balance...

Ready to head for home
I slipped the reins through my fingers and let go of the hold I had of him. We cruised down to a trot, then walked a lap around the track before returning to our group. It was a great group, composed of nice people on solid horses, and I knew that I was sitting on the best horse in the whole group, bar none. <3 Cuna.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012


Ellie took this
I'm sure you all remember my favorite equine photographer, Ellie. Basically, any time you see a stunningly gorgeous shot of a horse I like on my blog, she took it. She has other skills than just that, though. She's also a top-notch pedigree researcher. How do I know?

It's simple. She and I were both curious about Cuna's background. I gave her a fragment of a name that I knew may or may not have anything to do with his Jockey Club registration.

She ran with it. In a couple of hours, she came back with this:

1) His pedigree.

2) A brief report on him.

3) A race report for the race he won.

4) An article about the sad passing of his race trainer, who sounds like she was a wonderful lady.

Cuna face!!
Then it got even more interesting. After all, we weren't really sure the horse she was researching was my beloved Cuna until we saw this:

This is a picture of a Cuna sibling from his damline.

The big, soft eye? The little stripe? The tiny muzzle? It's totally Cuna.

Ok, officially it's "The Riddler" and he's for sale on dreamhorse. Reading through his description is like reading about Cuna. He's "Not for a beginner rider, but is a very fun ride for a rider with experience." and "an excellent mover with great natural balance, big stride" AND "has been showing at Events and Combined Tests, winning a Novice level event and Training level Combined Test, but would be happier with a career in an arena". 

Yeah, pretty much they just described my horse, except it's his brother. Side note: someone buy this horse and GIVE HIM TO ME. I want them all. 

Another Cuna face!!!
As if that wasn't enough, she next found this guy, known to his owners as Irish Lexicon.

Again, look at his face. Same shape, same markings. He's a little straight through the hind end and is that bright, flashy chestnut.

Here's an excerpt of his description: "an OTTB retiring sound and with no track blemishes or vices, super quiet and willing without being hot, laid back attitude but not lazy, very sweet and kind, trail rides on the buckle".

Yep. It's what you think. There are other Cunas out there! 

Of course, at this point it was officially speculation despite the fact we were finding horses EXACTLY like him. Another one that stood out was Seattle Blossom. His story has more similarities to Cuna: old horse living in a pasture, loaned out to a friend to "try". One ride later, the friend says, "I'm keeping him forever." 

This morning, I talked a friend into helping me check Cuna's tattoo. (Ok, I'd never done it before and I didn't want to hurt him. Lay off.) I took a picture of it, sent it to Ellie, and she got confirmation. Cuna is officially registered as "Acuna" and was born 2/20/95. 

Think about that. 

1) HE'S 17!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I'm totally going to tell his old owner that she misrepresented him to me. After all, I bought him thinking he was 19 and he isn't. :-p It's a small thing, but I'm pretty happy to know that the old guy might have a few more years left than I thought he did. 

2) 2/20... doesn't that sound familiar? Sort of important? It is. On 2/20 of this year, I posted a blog about a lesson I had on Cuna that had taken place a couple of days earlier. A mere two days later, I made the hallmark post "Crossing the Rubicon" in which I decided to sell Izzy.

Yes folks, that means that pretty much on Cuna's birthday, I put my horse up for sale so I could buy the old red man himself. That connection seems almost too perfect. I'm pretty sure that I officially bought Cuna on Izzy's birthday too, but that's another topic for another day. 

The hunt continues. I'd love to come across some pictures of Exclusive Partner, Cuna's sire or Cabarnet Dawn, his dam. The common thread for the identical siblings seems to be Cox Ridge, his damsire who stamps his offspring with darling faces and sweet personalities. Oddly, that old man was a bay. 

The Original Cuna Face <3
The search isn't over yet. There may be baby pictures of Cuna out there somewhere and OMG you know he must have looked like a "giant red bambi" to quote Ellie. Even if I never find them, though, I'm still loving every day with my not-as-old-as-I-thought-he was man. 

Monday, June 18, 2012

Finding Our Groove

Schooling bonnet. Don't judge.
Cuna and I had a jump day on Friday. He was going well over single verticals, so I took him through the grid someone else had set that was a bounce to a bounce to a one stride to a one stride to a bounce.

It started with an inviting little crossrail. I trotted in like it was just a cross rail. He gave me the "this-looks-like-more-than-one-jump-but-if-you-say-so" trot in. We landed in a heap and he went, "OH MY GOD ANOTHER ONE" and LEAPED the next crossrail.

That landed us right at the base of the following vertical, with Cuna's nose almost literally on the ground and me seriously considering grabbing his ears.  Cuna couldn't believe there was ANOTHER ONE! We took another flying leap, at which point I thought we should pull out and try again. We jumped a single vertical with a bit more pace (Mr Cuna was GALLOPING away from the jump, reminding me that while he can save my butt, he prefers that I sit up and ride).

When we came again, I gave him a better ride, kept both legs on, and we made it through the grid.

That brings us to today. The same grid was still set with a couple more verticals scattered in the arena. I was just planning on having a nice, easy flat school until I heard rumors that we were going XC schooling tomorrow, which means I need to get myself into gear a little.

Again, we warmed up over the little verticals.

Official canonization soon
I couldn't see a distance to save my life. There are marks in the sand where I'd canter down to the fence, then have him take off half a stride away. I tried having less pace. I tried having more. I tried changing the line I came in on. I tried jumping an angle. Everything ended up in me riding like crap and Cuna totally saving my butt like the saint he is. I suspect it was the added pressure/my anxiety about jumping solid things tomorrow, but it was not going well. The only reason it wasn't dangerous is because Cuna is a solid citizen who always takes care of himself.

I dropped down to a walk. I was tired, I was riding like crap, and I needed something to change. 

I needed a reset. Almost like some sort of line of jumps set at measured distances that I already knew and therefore couldn't screw up so that we could get my act together. 


The grid was still mostly set up at the same height as last week. I picked up the canter, did a little forward and back to make sure we had impulsion, and headed for it. Jump. Jump. Jump. One stride. Jump. One stride. Jump. While we were in a rhythm, I circled around to the left, picked up the single vertical, then followed my line and caught the other. 

On a rhythm. At a decent spot. In balance. 

Good enough for me. I told Cuna what a wonderful horse he is and we meandered off to cool out around the grounds. Wish us luck tomorrow! 

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Tack Review #4: Leather Halter

In keeping with my tack 'ho roots, I have high standards for leather, both quality and workmanship. It took me a long time to find a leather halter I approved of. I like pretty things, but not overstated. Good quality, but not too expensive. There are a lot of leather halters out there to choose from, ranging in price from $20 to $$$.

My dream halter, the CWD stable headcollar, is fabulous 1" wide leather with snaps all around to convert to a grooming halter and a nice, clean look. One day, when I can justify spending $180 on a halter, I'll get it.

In the mean time, my budget is much smaller. That said, both of my horses have sported fabulous head gear.

Izzy's halter was ordered to suit her personality. I joked I would show her as 'The Dominatrix' for good reason. After extensive searches and lots of in-person handling of leather, I went with Kate's recommendation and ordered through Danzig Brothers.

Standard leather halters are havana with brass, which wasn't right for Izzy. I really wanted the black/stainless in a pretty but workmanlike ensemble. I got it in the large thoroughbred size and shipped with a nameplate, my custom colored halter was about $80. Not bad.

Love it.

Along came Cuna. His personality and color scheme couldn't be more different from Izzy, and as such, I thought he needed his own halter. I went with the same size, but ordered havana/stainless because I just don't love brass on him.

Again, semi-custom, came with nameplate, gorgeous, sturdy leather, excellent workmanship. I couldn't be more pleased with it. Honestly, I handle lots of leather halters in our barn, ranging from super cheap to plenty spendy, and this one is always hands down my favorite. The leather is supple and wonderful. It's very sharp looking and the leather is just so nice to handle.

The other thing I really love about these halters is that I can get them with the fixed chin. It looks neater, is sturdier, and just adds that extra touch of class.

A word about Danzig for anyone not familiar with them: CALL THEM. They have a completely useless website, but Bill is super to work with and can email useful information like size charts and color options. Look at the website to see what they do, but then a simple phone call will do wonders.

Maybe you too can be this cute.
I have no complaints about either halter. When I sold Izzy, I moved her halter along to a friend who seems to still like it. Cuna's halter gets used and abused daily. I think I maybe condition it once a month and it still look brand new. It's been dropped in mud, left out in the rain, hauled long distances, and it's holding up great. Yeah Danzig!

Thursday, June 14, 2012


Poor old man
When I went to turn Cuna out this morning, he threw a fit about me putting the halter on. He did get a little cut on his face yesterday, so I thought I must have accidentally hit it. I walked to his other side so I could handle the halter more tactfully, and saw this:

The little cut caused a huge lump of swelling on the left side of his face. Poor guy! He was clear-eyed and cheery otherwise, so I carefully maneuvered the halter on and took him to the BO for a consult.

It's ugly, but it's not infected (yet) or getting worse. He is now getting SMZs and a little bute to help with the inflammation and of course, I am monitoring the situation like the neurotic nelly I am. He seems fine otherwise, but the swelling is right where the cheekstrap of the bridle lays, so he also got the day off.

Looking like a giant chipmunk

I do sort of wonder if that was the plan--he was pretty tired of trail riding (which we've been doing all week) and he did look pretty bummed when I told him we were going to jump today until this happened.

I did discover that Mr Cuna is wonderful about taking his meds though. I put them in with a cup or so of senior and some applesauce and he licked out his feeder. No worries there.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Shopping on a Budget

As most of you are aware, I'm currently more than just a boarder--I work for my trainer and am at the barn 7 days a week. This is great for horse experience: I ride lots of horses in all different situations and have to figure out how to get along with them.

This is not great for my pony shopping needs. Barn jobs, even fun, educational ones, do not pay well. I've always been a shoestring budget kind of girl, but I have to admit this is tight even for me. I'm used to having about $100 a month of money that isn't specifically designated to go anywhere. I can spend it on entertainment, food, books, or of course, pony things.

Pony things win a lot. You have no idea how long I can go without eating out. ;-) Unfortunately, I do not have that cushion now.

Anyways. Due to the aforementioned budgetary restrictions, Cuna has gotten something less than full-on tack-whore splurging despite being my horse. Yes, he has his own saddle and several bridles and a new bit, but where is the monogrammed pad? The personalized fly bonnet? Izzy had those.

The truth is, since I have accumulated kind of a lot of horse stuff for someone who can only have one horse, there are very few things that I need as such. Instead, I'm squirreling away small amounts of cash in anticipation of getting this:
An Ecogold secure jumper pad. It's designed to allow air to circulate, to prevent saddle slippage, and to protect the horse's back. It's pretty, it's trendy, and it costs $165.


Non-barn-working me could have saved up and gotten this pretty quickly. Barn-working-me is hoping to be able to afford it before the end of the month so that I can use it at our upcoming show, the first weekend of July.

So what does that mean? I currently have a very limited income. I do not have the option to pick up any more jobs to make more income. My schedule is way too busy as it stands.

Instead of increasing my income, I am focusing on doing with less. I drive an old, paid off, fuel efficient car (35 mpg ftw!!). Even so, I limit my driving to essentials so I am not wasting money on gas. When I'm desperate and have to buy clothes, I buy small numbers of high quality clothes. I only buy the things I completely love that I can wear in many situations. If I can't wear it to the barn, my office job, and out socially, it doesn't come home with me. (I have a low-key office job, which helps.)

If I'm going to the tack store, I give myself a budget and permission to spend a small amount, say $20. That's a pair of socks and some dee savers. I remind myself of several other things the $20 could go for, like slushies at sonic after a long, hot day at the barn. If I choose to splurge in one place, then I do not splurge in another. My cellphone is the cheapest smartphone they had in the store. My plan is the most barebones dataplan available.

I don't go to movies. I don't buy coffee. If I eat out, it's for a reason other than "I'm hungry and forgot to pack a lunch".

There was a brief time period before I owned a horse but after I was married when I had a ton of fun discretionary income. Sure it was cool to go out with friends and have a social life and do all that, but you know what? I don't really miss it. There are so many rewards to horse ownership and the kind of people I've met along the way that I don't think I could go back even if I wanted to.

Of course, if I did, I could probably afford this:

Team Canada Pad. PRETTY! 

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

It's hot and humid here.

It's never humid here. Ever. 

Doing his giraffe impression
Needless to say, this is not exactly spurring me into a more motivated mindset. 

I tacked Cuna up. I told myself we would do 20 minutes of arena work, focusing on quality transitions and ending with some stretchy trot. 

Then we went on a nice long, slow trail ride with a fellow boarder. 

I love that I have a horse who can do that. 

Monday, June 11, 2012

In a Funk

Love these hills
The past week or so has been rough--I constantly feel tired and over committed. Any time I get on Cuna, I feel like just falling off the other side and taking a nap instead of actually accomplishing anything. It's really not a great feeling and our work has been suffering as a result of it.

Sunday I barely had the ambition to ride, so I took Cuna exploring out in the hills. We just walked and trotted a tiny bit, but we went on a trail I hadn't explored before. The grey, overcast weather isn't my favorite thing ever, but it has been a nice break from the building summer heat.

New toys.

I am attempting to rally--I mean, we may or may not be riding in a show this weekend and I need to get myself strong and jumping if I ever want to be the rider I have in mind. I got clippys for my breastcollar and some d-savers and tried them out today. I must say, I love the new arrangement.

After a nice warm up today (in which I convinced myself to stay more or less in the middle of the horse and not take a nap), I pointed Cuna at a 2'6" vertical. I hate to say it, but I think the last time we jumped was at the last show. :-/ Not great for confidence.

He and I cantered over the single vertical both directions until I felt like the adrenaline was starting to amp my system up to the point it was safe to try something else. Seriously. I hate being like this. The only other jumps that were pre-set was a one stride combination from the scary gate to a nice little vertical.

I know Cuna jumps best if he's in a forward rhythm, so I took him over the vertical, around a wide left turn, and on a nice line to the gate combo. About three strides out, I locked my eyes onto the gate, took my leg off, pulled back on the reins, and went, "Aaaahhhhh...."

For some bizarre reason, Cuna didn't think that was the cue to jump, so he detoured around the obstacles and headed for the gate.

I stopped him, moved him off my right leg, got off and put the fences down a hole (so I could jump from a standstill if need be), got back on, and tried again. First we cantered over the single vertical a few times--I needed to get my head back in the game and re-establish the whole "jumping" idea. Hands steady. Leg on. Eyes looking for a path. Body in balance. Let him choose the distance.

Drying off after a wet ride this weekend.
It took a couple of tries, but then we cantered the first jump in a nice rhythm. We came around to the left and headed for the gate. Cuna tried to re-create our last attempt--pushing right as we approached. I jabbed him with my spur and we were over, albeit awkwardly. We had another try which was better, and then I called it a day.

I'm not sure if I'm feeling unfocused because I'm tired or I'm feeling tired because I'm unfocused. The two definitely seem to go hand in hand.

Friday, June 8, 2012


It's Mistral Horjis!!
Since I have decided to work without stirrups 3 days a week, 20 minutes a day, I have done absolutely everything in my power to avoid actually doing the work.



Today I hacked out two other horses, then didn't have much time and didn't want to dirty more tack and so put Cuna in the super amazing practically-a-seatbelt dressage saddle (and a loose ring waterford, but whatever).

I was hot and tired and lazy and hadn't sat in a dressage saddle in... weeks? I don't even remember the last time this happened. I promptly decided I couldn't post and didn't want to sit the trot more than a few strides at a time, so we cantered and walked mostly.

I gave Cuna cookies when I got off and promised him a better ride tomorrow. That also means I'll be sans-stirrups the whole weekend. Fail.

As a reminder, all y'all need to take your final two point challenge times. To date, I believe I only have a time for L.Williams and Carly. I haven't even done one for myself...

Thursday, June 7, 2012


At the end of the day, I have the cutest, sweetest, most super awesome horse and I wouldn't trade him for the world.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Four Whole Months - A Tribute

He is cute

On February 6, 2012, an old red horse ambled into my life and completely changed how I felt about riding and horses. I've spent a little time looking back at our whirlwind relationship this week, and realized just how fast everything has been.

Cuna came to me unexpectedly on the 6th and I decided (finally) to list Ms Izzy for sale of the 22nd of the same month. I remember those two weeks like they were yesterday--it felt like an eternity as I waffled about what to do with the situation that had literally fallen into my lap.

He is wild!

I have to say, I'm completely confident that I made the right decision. Cuna has been so good for me that I can hardly put it into words. Every day, one step at a time, he has slowly taught me what it's like to really enjoy riding again. To enjoy horse care. To just plain want to hang out with him.

He isn't high maintenance or demanding--he's just a cute, cool old horse who is perfectly happy to teach me the ropes of riding all over again. Well, as long as I don't take too many pictures. ;-)

He is brave
It's hard to explain to people how far I've come just because it's almost embarrassing to put into words how far I needed to come just to be happy again. We started small--he had to teach me that things like pricking up his ears and walking on a loose rein weren't scary. I am not even kidding.

Slowly, we learned about the fun that it's possible to have outside the arena. The fact that he just plain enjoys it so much helps me to settle down and have a good time.

He is cool
Back in the arena, I had to completely re-learn how to jump. Cuna saved my butt time and time again as I froze up and made the same stupid mistakes. Together, we jumped the biggest fence I've pointed at in years. I choked, but he just cantered over it and took care of me. I think he knew how scared I was and was just demonstrating how it's done.

It took a good three months of riding before I really did any jumping on my own. That's how scary it was for me. I never wanted to jump until Cuna came to me.

He is fun!

Once I more or less got my groove back, Cuna started letting me learn to ride. He stopped with me for the first time, slowly teaching me that if I want to go over something, maybe I should sit up, put my leg on, and steer.

He's never rude or dirty, but he insists that I ride. When I ride well, he rewards me with excellent performances. When I ride poorly, he flips his head, bucks a little, and reminds me to get my butt in the saddle and out of his face. It's like getting a lesson every time I sit on him.

He's the best.

I know four months is a silly anniversary to celebrate, but let's be honest: he makes me just a little silly. I'm not a gushy goo goo sort of person, but I am around him. I love seeing his adorable face in the mornings, and he is my absolute favorite horse to ride in the whole barn of fancy jumping things.

He may never win a conformation class, but he's completely won my heart.

Sunday, June 3, 2012


I know this will shock you all, but I'm going to be honest: as much as I support showing as a way to sift the weirdness and egotism out of equestian sport, I was beginning to question why people did it. It's hard, stressful, and a lot of work. And they pay to participate? That's nuts. 

Summer gear at the trailer.
Then Cuna and I went to a little local schooling jumper show today. It's our second ever show together. Nothing fancy, but I thought it would do me good to get out. It was just me and one other of Stephanie's clients, and both of us are pretty independent with totally awesome horses, so it was about as low stress as it's possible for a show to be.

We showed up in plenty of time for me to check in, learn my course, amble around, get the hang of things, etc.

Did I say plenty of time?

I meant oodles.



I got on way too early.
The show only had 5 pre-entries (I and my show buddy were 2!), so they thought it would go really fast. A bunch more people showed up day of, which is great for them, but made things take forever.

Thankfully, Cuna is a total champ about standing around until the bugs start bothering him. We alternately stood around (until he got cranky) then trotted to get away from the bugs (until I felt like I was working him too hard).

At last, it was our turn to go in the 2'. Because I'd intentionally avoided all of the "open warm up time" in the show arena (aka kids on ponies slaloming off the horses), I trotted Cuna around the perimeter of the arena and had a quick look around.

I reminded myself to actually ride the first fence, and we were off. I put my leg on, kept my eyes up, counted all my strides, and kept in a steady rhythm.We didn't place because we were too fast for the optimum time, but we jumped clean and I was so proud of us. It was an excellent round.

When we went back in for the 2'3", I took another trot around. The jumps were essentially the same, but now they'd added some flowerpots and tiny trees as filler. Cuna didn't seem overly bothered, so I kept my eyes up and off we went. All was well until the combination at 7 and 8. It's four comfortable strides for Cuna. I know that. I also know I need to package his ginormously long stride to do that.

And of course, I was hot and tired and just rolling along in a happy forward canter until stride three, and then went "shoot! package now!!" which obviously is a stupid idea. He pulled a rail that was totally my fault.

Despite that, we kept it together (and it was probably a small class) and we pulled out a third place finish! Yay Cuna!!!

We were signed up for the 2'6" and 2'9", which felt well within reach, but the way the show was dragging on and my heat addled brain convinced me that it was time to pack it up. I was happy, I was confident, Cuna was jumping awesome, and I needed some cold water and shade.

And so our second show is on the books (/blog). Despite the heat, I had a great time and remembered why it is people do this crazy stuff. With the right horse, it's actually pretty dang fun.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Hello Summer!

Cuna in summer gear. HATE ALL BUGS!
The sun is shining, the sky is clear, and I am ready for summer.

I am also remembering when I was in school and got the summer off. Dammit, I want the summer off now. I want to go running every day and then ride while it's still cool. I want to come home, shower, fruit around, make over the top meals, and go shopping at random times when the stores aren't busy. Those were the days.

Ok. Snapping out of it. Since I can't have the above fantasy, let's focus on the exciting things going on now:

1) The two point challenge!! Riders, please take your final times and submit them to me no later than June 10, 2012. If possible, post them as a comment on this post. I'll be sure to remind you again. I will do some fancy math-y things and give everyone an improvement score. Hooray!!

2) I had a jumping lesson today in which Steph pointed out that I need stronger legs and core. I am working on the core, but it looks like a long month of no-stirrup work ahead for me. Anyone else want in on this excitement? I'm looking at you, Carly and L. Williams. I'm thinking three days a week, 20 minutes at a whack. Then I will have legs of iron, yes?

Mr. Cuna has moved into the main barn. Here is a super exciting shot of the front of his new stall. It's not so much because I feel any richer (haha, definitely not) but more because the old guy hates all things bugs and sun and this will stay drier and shadier.

In the meantime, let's have a moment of silence for my poor, thin checkbook. I think it has a body score of like 2 right now. If it were a horse, it would be considered severely abused and then taken away from me. 

Annnnd... I was going to upload a pic of how cute Cuna was today in the new barn, but every time I try, blogger makes my entire browser implode. Just know he was completely adorable, despite his hated of all things summer.
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