Thursday, October 12, 2017

If It Fits...

I have been worried about the fit of my saddle for the last few weeks, but Stinker has been going so well I convinced myself that it was still fitting ok.  He has a history of being very dramatic about saddle fit, so I was depending on that as notification that things were not right.  Unfortunately, the saddle fitter that is kind of sort of local (ok not really but I think he does come to this area) is in the UK for the next few weeks.  Which means I just shipped my saddle off to Florida to my old saddle fitter.

#whyheischunky

The good news is she is changing out the panels and the head plate, because someone has been packing on the muscle and the weight.  The bad news is my saddle isn't going to be delivered for a week, then she needs to make the changes and ship it back.  I am most likely going to be without a saddle for three weeks.  Sob.

What happens to me if I try to ride bareback

I am really bummed I had to cancel my lesson this weekend.  I am also sad to miss out on riding in the fabulous fall weather we have been having.  But my plan is to do ground work with him to keep him in shape and using his back.  And then steal Cowboy on the days my mom isn't riding him and see if I can start getting him more supple for her.  Hopefully this will give Stinker a nice little break and he will come back even happier.

Exploring is on hold for the moment

I felt bad because his back was sore yesterday morning.  But by evening he was no longer reactive, so I think I caught things early enough it won't be a big deal.  Here is to being neurotic and obsessive I guess.  Plus it is way way way cheaper to be able to send my saddle off for an overhaul vs being saddle shopping, so I really shouldn't complain.  Heck I might even get around to organizing my tack room, getting ground poles, and all of my other projects I have planned.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Dream Horse

Awhile back Olivia posted about the perfect horse, and I am finally getting around hopping on the dream horse wagon.  I have actually been giving this a lot of thought lately, because I know Stinker's body is limiting.  Back when I got him, I didn't have a long list of wants.  I believe my list was something along the lines of fun, has potential, and not grey.  Which he checked all of the boxes, but the future horse is going to have some higher standards.  It is no secret that I absolutely adore Stinker, but there are definitely things I don't enjoy about him.

Sass monster

So what would this dream horse look like?  I really don't have a color preference other than not grey.  Honestly, I would prefer less white on the legs too.  Basically anything that doesn't show a lot of dirt is fine by me.  Don't get me wrong, I love chrome on a horse when it is clean.  But keeping it clean makes me a little nuts, plus #effor.  As far as size goes as long as I don't look ridiculous on them I don't care too much.  I do lean towards smaller quick horses.

Only stay white for 30 seconds

Personality wise, Stinker has a lot going for him in the dream horse department.  He is very personable and fun to be around.  Plus he has a ton of heart.  The horse never quits.  He may get frazzled and need a moment to get the brain back, but he keeps trying.  The licking is a little weird, but I will keep the weird because he always manages to put a smile on my face.  So dream horse is a little weird with tons of heart and try.

Such a goober

Conformation wise, in the words of my old vet, I would like to see myself with "something that is put together a little better."  Poor Stinker shows his backyard roots when it comes to his conformation.  But dream horse will be put together more correctly and hopefully won't have neurological issues.  The bar was set pretty low in this area.

Everything slides back.  Way back.

What will dream horse do???  A little of everything.  Obviously, I really like dressage so I would love for dream horse to at least get me my bronze medal.  It would also be cool like Hampton and be able to go dabble in eventing (I have come to the conclusion that I don't have the balls for anything above BN).  And maybe if I get a really wild hair be able to do a 25 mile endurance ride.  Dream horse definitely will be good on the trails, because I like having the ability to get out and explore.

Exploring is a must

Hopefully, Stinker will have quite a few more years before his body starts saying no, but in the meantime I will keep dreaming on dream horse.  Who knows by the time I am actually looking I might have totally changed what my dreams are.  All I know for sure is it has to be cob sized so I don't have to start over with my tack collection.

Friday, October 6, 2017

It's Electric

I have a problem.  My beloved Teddy's Tack Truck Brushes cause a huge static problem.  Grooming is no fun when both you and your horse are going "DON'T SHOCK ME!"  So far I have tried dryer sheets, a spray bottle with water, and the combination.  It is still hit or miss on the shocking.  Which is really bad because Stinker gets fidgety and nervous because he is anticipating getting shocked.

Plz make it stop

Does anyone have magical tips?  I didn't have this problem in the south with the high humidity, but the lack of humidity here has everything electrified.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Expectations Vs Reality

I was quite delusional when I first got Stinker.  I was going to take things "slow" but I thought by fall (a little over 6 months from when I got him) we would be able to be doing training level dressage and hopefully by the following spring we would be jumping a little.  (Insert hysterical laughing)

Wee little baby Stinker

As with many many many things Stinker had his own opinions on how things were going to go.  Part of it is because of mistakes I made.  Unfortunately when D still had him, the first barn he was at did not appreciate his quirks and he had to be moved.  To tally up the moves he had, the previous owner moved barns right before I bought him, then he moved with D, then he moved with D again, and then he moved down to me.  So in under 6 months, he had three people and 5 places.  It is no wonder he promptly got EPM.

Early attempt at a trail ride

As he came back from EPM I was faced with the reality.  I had a horse that was not sound nor was there any guarantee that he would get sound.  Plus he didn't have any skills to make him worth anyone else putting the time in.  Who would want an unsound, hot, difficult to rehab, green broke (at best) horse.  It basically sounded like a bad Facebook ad that gets screenshot and passed around while people laugh hysterically at the poster.

Just what everyone wants every day

Since I am too stupid to know when I quit, I decided I was going to give things my best effort and see what happened.  After months of tears and I DON'T KNOW WHAT THE FUCK I AM DOING moments I slowly started to see progress.  He started to get a little straighter, his right hind didn't feel as wonky, he was getting small amounts of muscle back.

Slow and steady

We still had set backs and I was constantly terrified of every little hiccup.  At every little thing I would be sure he was having an EPM relapse.  Slowly I realized, I didn't care about the original plan. I just wanted to have a sound and happy horse I could enjoy.  Sure I drug him to a couple shows, but that was more about the trailering experience in preparation for the move.

Always preparing

My new reality is I know he has a hind end that is at high risk for injury.  My new expectations for him are to have fun together.  Right now dressage is great for him because it is helping his body and the stronger it is the less likely he is to have an injury.  Getting him out on the trails is great because it helps to muscle up that butt.  Sure he could have a slip on the rougher parts, but we take things slow and I will hand walk him when necessary.

Don't worry he is having fun too

I don't know what our future looks like, but I do know we will have fun getting there.  He has never looked better and I know exactly what I am getting every day.  I have a horse that tries for me and enjoys going to work.  He never fails to put a smile on my face, even if I am calling him an asshole for a new shenanigan.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Wild Horse and Cows Oh My

The other day was one hot mess.  It started off with wild horses being across the fence from Stinker and Cowboy.  I grabbed Stinker since he was squealing and trying to sniff noses and thought Cowboy would go back to eating, which he did.  I decided to get a quick ride in and tacked up.

I eat you

As it happened our neighbor was using their place to wean some cows.  There was lots of mooing going on but I didn't really think anything about it because they have had cows the entire time we have been here.  Poor Stinker had a complete and total meltdown over them.  And right as he was having his meltdown Cowboy discovered he was in love with one of the wild horses.

He shoved his head allll the way up in my face

Stinker was spinning and trying to bolt.  Cowboy was squealing and trying to climb the fence.  I finally got off Stinker and put him in time out and Cowboy got stuck in the barn.  Finally, after much standing and staring at the cows Stinker settled back down so I got back on to try and get some decent work done.  He still wasn't entirely sure about the whole cow thing, but he walked and trotted like a horse so I called it a day.

Always creeping

Cowboy proceeded to have an epic meltdown to finish off my morning.  Needless to say the electric wire is getting turned on as soon as I get the solar box in.  I don't know what Cowboy's feelings are about hot wires, but Stinker is absolutely terrified of them and it will keep him off the fence and away from the wild horses.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Only Sort of Lost

This weekend we went exploring new paths.  Unfortunately, we took a couple wrong turns and didn't end up where we expected to be.  Luckily we accidentally ended up coming back the way we meant to go in the first place.

Always happy to explore

My mom decided she wanted to see a canyon that was on the endurance ride, after my previous experience I was a little leery, but said we could give it a go.  I looked at the map and thought I knew where we needed to go.  My mom had been part way up the trail on foot earlier this summer, so I made the mistake of listening to her about where the trail went.

Headed home

We wandered for awhile, I got royally confused and decided we had weren't going to get where she wanted to go and we could just ride around.  I followed some dirt bike trails for awhile and my mom got worried we wouldn't be able to find our way back.  I assured her that since I had my GPS running and both horses have demonstrated a clear understanding of which way is home we would be fine.

We found the canyon

After some wandering through the hills I finally found a more road like path and decided to follow it back home and make a bit of a loop.  About half way home my mom started getting really really quiet (very odd for her) so I asked what was up.  After some prodding she finally confessed that the road we were on was the one she had assured me we were on earlier.  I just laughed at her, because I had a fun ride even if we didn't find her canyon.

Champion drinker

On Sunday, I went back and easily found where you dropped off into the canyon.  I didn't go down because I learned my lesson.  Instead I snapped a picture and texted it to my mom to taunt her.  I was really impressed with Stinker.  There were places we crossed a stream and he consistently drank both days.  It used to be I couldn't get him to stand still to take a breather and now he is starting to figure out how to take care of himself on the longer rides.  And he handled 10+ dirt bikes without blinking an eye.  Who is a trail horse now?

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Redefining The Seasons

I saw this post from The Running, Riding, Writing Veterinarian and loved it, so I thought I would adapt it to fit me.  Of late, I have been dreading the coming of winter.  Typically I love fall, but as the days get shorter and cooler all I can think about is OMG I AM NEVER GOING TO RIDE MY HORSE THIS WINTER AND I MIGHT FREEZE TO DEATH BECAUSE I AM NOT USED TO ANYTHING BELOW FREEZING.  The freezing part has absolutely nothing to do with the fact I have unpacked none of my clothes and I am left with just my summer clothes.  I also might be a tad dramatic, but that probably isn't it either.

No drama llama here

At any rate Mel's post about redefining the seasons and tailoring your activities to fit the weather hit home with me.  Instead of sulking that I can't keep Stinker's socks sparkling white, I need to focus on the things I can do.

Fall (September and October)
-Enjoying the longer trail rides in the cooler weather on the weekend
-Master the 20 minute rides during the weekday
-Use the longer evening hours to catch up on blogs/work

Winter (November-Feburary/March/please end soon)
-Tack cleaning and grooming sessions when the weather is crap
-Weekends are for hauling to an indoor to get a decent school in
-Utilize the sandy trails when my ring isn't useable


Spring (March/April)
-Celebrate the longer days
-Start making goals for the year
-Start enjoying the hills again

Summer (May-August)
-Be happy I am not in the South anymore
-Enjoy the long days
-Keep the same schedule I did this summer


My main goal is to remind myself that not riding 5-6 days a week isn't the end of the world.  I have been so focused on getting Stinker strong that I am afraid to lighten the load.  Earlier this year with the move and all the life changes surrounding it I was unable to keep him in steady work.  And he was fine.  A light winter will be fine for us, and we will be back having fun exploring adventures before I know it.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Pampered Pony

I finally got a session scheduled with a lady that does bodywork.  I was a little hesitant because I typically have liked vets the best because Stinker has had so many issues.  And I am paranoid about random people thinking they know more than they do (I do realize that also happens with vets).  But this lady was recommended to me by trainer and after some internet creeping I determined that she has credentials and does lots of continuing education.

Creeper Creeper

There wasn't anything specific that I thought he needed, but I have found he does better with regular bodywork.  I think in part it is because he is gaining muscle and also because I am trying to retrain is muscle memory.  It is a lot easier to work with unrestricted muscle than it is when there are restrictions preventing him from wanting to stretch.

Love me

Typically it takes a couple of sessions before Stinker starts really letting the person work on him.  He gets anxious and fidgety with new people and doesn't give really good released initially.  For her, he immediately started relaxing and giving releases.  He didn't really care for the deeper hind end work, but once we tied him and removed the option of walking away from her, he let her get deeper and relaxed more.

Happy pup

I am hoping that with regular sessions he will really start letting go of some of the tension he has always held in his body.  He has made great progress, but there are still some underlying issues that are left over.  But that being said he has really come into his own this year both mentally and physically, so hopefully we can keep building on that.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Cool Weather And Sassy Stinker

I was able to sneak in a quick ride Monday morning to loosen Stinker up after the ride on Sunday.  Tuesday I intended to let him have the day off.  Sadly Wednesday the bosses left town, work blew up, and by the time I got home there was a cold front blowing in and I was not in the mindset to deal with Stinker and cold wind.

There has been a lot of that going on

Thursday I was determined to get a ride in before work.  It was in the 30s for the first time, and Stinker came out like a fire breathing dragon.  I was prepared for a ride just managing the excess energy.  But after much sass from the barn to the ring as soon as he stepped in the ring he went right to work.

The mountain got fresh snow yesterday

Color me impressed.  It is like he is actually trained or something.  His trot work is starting to gain consistency.  The amount of flailing is reducing every ride.  It is still very underpowered, but as long as he is correct I don't care.  The power will come with time and strength.  We even had a couple decent transitions.  Slowly and steadily he is gaining and getting better and better.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Not Tough Enough

On Sunday I got the bright idea to follow the endurance trail and finally be able to make the loop that I have been wanting to make.  Based on my best guess I figured that it would be around 12 miles and that I had been on everything except about 4 miles or so.  I knew the section of the trail I hadn't done was a road, so I thought everything was going to be awesome.


It was a great ride to start off with.  Stinker was trucking right along, I got up high enough that I could see the downtown area and it was really pretty.  The weather was perfect and the climbs up hadn't been too bad.  There was a long one that I had walked because I was feeling guilty for being chubby.  Then I got to a steep drop with a steep climb on the other side.

Going for a walk

I thought about just turning back, but we were well over half way and I convinced myself that since the 100 milers did it and then still went another 60 miles we could walk down and up the thing.  We walked down the steep side and then were looking back up.  It was even steeper than I thought plus there was a lot of slick rock.  My heart sank a little but I was committed at that point.

Does not do the steepness justice

So we started scrambling up it.  I was wheezing along (apparently asthma doesn't like steep climbs) and Stinker was getting impatient with my pace.  Luckily there were spots that he could stop and I wasn't worried about him slipping on the rocks.  On the steepest and rockiest part he came shooting past me and I tossed the reins over his neck and let him go.  He powered up to a good stopping place then turned around and looked at me like "get your ass moving woman."  We I finally made it up the hill.

Survival

After that it was pretty smooth sailing (I am pretending like I don't have a crap ton of blisters).  I actually came down off the trail in a slightly different place than I thought I was.  I started to go the wrong way, but Stinker quickly corrected me.  Apparently he has learned the trails better than me.  My conclusion is my horse is a rockstar and I am not tough enough to do 100 miles.  Probably not even a 50, but I do think an LD would be fun at some point.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Endurance Watching

My lesson was canceled on Saturday, so we decided to take the horses out and see if we could catch any of the 100 mile endurance ride.  My mom had seen people putting up ribbons earlier in the week, and they said riders would be coming through right about 10 am.  I was a little worried we would run into some riders on the narrow section of the trail, but we made it up to our watching place in plenty of time.

He shook his head right as I took the picture

We stood around for awhile and waited and waited and waited.  Finally, the first two riders rolled through.  They stopped briefly for some water and then rolled on up the hill.  Poor Stinker lost his brain when they went cantering by and tried to bolt.  We were far enough from the trail that neither horse seemed the least bit phased by the idiot horse.  I decided that it would be better if I was on the ground after that.

Teeny tiny front runners right before Stinker lost it

The next rider came through probably 10-15 minutes behind the front two.  Then we waited some more.  Finally we decided that it was getting too late and we needed to head back.  So we headed back down the trail and kept an eye out for horses coming behind us.  Two riders finally caught us once we got to the flat.  Then we started seeing more riders, and got to a total of 11.

Browband photo because it is pretty and I was bored

I was impressed at how friendly and cheerful everyone was.  They were about 35 miles in and were happy to tell us to have a nice day.  One guy even asked about our horses.  It was the first time that someone has asked if Stinker was a Saddlebred.  I have gotten all sorts of weird guesses about his breeding since moving.

He wasn't down with the selfie taking either

I was a little bummed to find out later that there was a short hold just down the road from us.  I would have loved to have watched it.  I find endurance quite fascinating and want to learn more about it.  Maybe next year I will be brave and throw myself to the wolves by volunteering.  I thought about it this year, but didn't because of my lesson which was canceled anyway.  Should have could have would have.  Either way it was still a fun day.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Truck and Trailer Set Up

Since I have been hauling out for lessons, I thought it would be fun to talk about how things are set up.  The truck and trailer are very utilitarian, but the truck is a hauling beast.  The trailer is almost 20 years and is a pretty standard steel stock trailer.  It has definitely seen better days, but it works and Stinker loads so I am happy with it.

Trusty Rusty at the lesson

Because it is a stock trailer and the truck is a flat bed, I am very limited on where to store my stuff.  Sure I could put it in the nose of the trailer, but that is inconvenient to access, so I stick everything in my tack truck (hello Husky toolbox) and work out of that.  It works really great for me, but I am also a giantess so I don't have any problem reaching the bottom even when it is on the flatbed.

#judgingyou

I am loving having the truck and trailer (even if snooty DQs judge me for it).  Now I just need to get to where I can back it up in a straight line.  I can back it around corners and turn around in a tight space, but for the life of me I can't back it up in a straight line.  Luckily it will be awhile before I need that skill and I will keep practicing.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Sneaking Changes

I am quite neurotic about Stinker's health and I am always obsessing over his weight and muscling.  But because I am always staring at him and dissecting things it is easy to forget how far he has come. He rapidly dropped weight and muscle when he had EPM.  It was like I blinked and everything was stripped off.

EPM Stinker

His conformation did not do him any favors either.  Especially, once all the muscle was stripped off his hind and his back was very weak.  It has taken him a very long time (over two years), but he is finally starting to look like a horse again.  I snapped some conformation pictures the other day and matched them up with some that I took in March of 2015, so about a year and half ago.  I was shocked at the changes.


March 2015 was 9 months after he had been diagnosed and he had put on quite a bit of weight.  Plus we had been walking for 2+ months with a well fitting saddle at that point, so he had already started to show some pretty significant changes.  But the biggest changes are seen in his back.  If someone showed me the pictures I wouldn't believe it was the same horse.



He was standing square in both of the pictures, but you can see how his whole spine was curved to the right from compensating for his weaker hind leg.  Plus he really didn't have and top line or butt muscle.  I still want him to get lots more, but it is slowly getting there.  Hopefully in another 18 months, he will have even more muscle and actually look like a dressage horse.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Trit Trot And Lean On Back

This week in my lesson we really worked on the trot and my position.  I have develop a terrible perch.  Dressage trainer kept telling me to lean back, lean back, lean back more.  I felt like I was half way to his haunches and I was finally upright.  Oops.  The good thing is Stinker has a strong preference for me to ride correctly (shocking) so he quickly tattles.  But even without the help of mirrors if I pay attention he will let me know when I start perching.

Socks would happily stalk and bark at me

We really started making progress with the trot transitions.  He tends to pop up and hollow for all transitions and for a long time I was unable to do more than a couple, because he would get frazzled and I would lose his brain.  Now, he still gets nervous but as long as I keep telling him good boy he keeps trying.  I really loves how much this horse tries for me.  He is so expressive you can feel him go "this is really hard" or "I am not sure what you want from me."  But he keeps trucking along and trying for me.


The ride-ability is also really improving.  I am able to get him to step up under with his hind, maneuver his shoulders, and really access all sections of his body.  I can't really believe he has come as far as he has considering his physical issues and my lack of experience with dressage.  Not to mention dressage trainer actually expressed interest in getting on him one day.  With the exception of D, she is the first person that has actually asked if she can ride him.  Hopefully it will happen soon because I think it will be very enlightening for all three of us.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Slower and Lower

I was not confident going into the lesson, but I was determined to set us up for success as best I could.  That included Stinker getting a full on bath and having a fabulous outfit so at least we looked good if things crashed and burned (ok we are past the crash and burn stage, but having a good outfit makes me feel better about things).  I got there extra early so I had plenty of time to fiddle around when tacking up.  He does better when I don't rush things.  And then I still had plenty of time to pop him on the lunge.

Not trouble at all

Luckily for me new trainer was riding another horse and she actually watched him go on the lunge.  His gaits are much better without a rider so it was nice she got to see him go and get a better idea of what we are working towards.  Plus she got to see him canter.  Then while she untacked I hopped on and started warming him up.  It was really hot so I was walking and halting in the shade a lot.  And yes by really hot I mean it was in the 90s and I have become a baby about the heat since I moved.

He was so grumpy about getting his face washed

Once trainer came back out, she promptly put us to work on the theme of the lesson.  Lower the neck and slow the feet down.  One really bad habit I have is letting my reins get too long and losing the connection.  Then he pops his head up and I immediately start riding backwards which makes him invert more.  But when I keep a nice steady consistent contact and maintain a balance connection he lowers and stretches.  This gives him room to actually step up behind and start lifting his back.

Itching and lifting

The slowing of the feet make him use his hind end more, instead of the quick choppy with minimal push I typically get from behind.  We really worked on using small circles (10 m) to get him stepping up and under while I slowed the rhythm and gave him time to lift and push.  She also had me continually repeat the exact same patten over and over again, so he could recognize the repetitiveness and start to anticipate.  I was a little skeptical of this at first, but he responded well so I am going to implement it in my rides at home.


She also had me use some shoulder fore to break up the tension and guide him to step under himself more.  Once she saw it, she realized I was already using it frequently and really liked my timing with it.  It was nice to not feel like a total chump when it came to my riding (not that she makes me feel like that, I do that on my own which is why I need a nice instructor).

Judging my attempts at backing the trailer

I was the most excited about the trot.  We did the exact same exercises in the same places and at one point he actually got a few strides of a real trot.  Most of what we have been working on is a vastly under powered baby trot, because that is the only way to slow his feet down enough to get him working correctly.  But for a few strides he really pushed from behind and lifted and had an actual trot.  It felt amazing, and I was really bummed that I had forgotten my camera.

Grass for the good boy

Overall, I was really pleased with the lesson.  Despite our less than stellar rides at home he came out and played.  Whatever was going on wasn't present at the lesson and we were able to make forward progress.  The little glimmer of the future trot made me so happy.  I am finally getting to where he has enough strength to really start digging into the dressage and building more.  Hopefully, he continues to get stronger and build more muscle and we can get more consistent.