Wednesday, June 29, 2016

2016 Quarter 3 Goals

Time has flown by and I really haven't given my goals much thought since I wrote them.  I was pleasantly surprised that I have actually done fairly well with them.  Yay go me for setting reasonable goals for a change.  I tend to have high expectations that don't always align with reality.

The girls made us a sign.  Too bad he pulled it off in less than 30 seconds.

Year Goals
  • Happy healthy Stinker (This is going well despite my many freak outs)
  • Happy healthy human (The healthy part is still a work in progress but I am making steps in the right direction)
  • Continue to get muscle in the right places (Yep this is happening)
  • Continue to build up strength (This is happening also)
  • Consistent walk trot with leg yields (All happening and we have added in the shoulder fore)
Quarter 2 Human Goals
  • Eat more vegetables (Happening with much protesting and not giving myself other options)
  • Exercise outside of riding (I have been running and doing a much better job about walking)
Quarter 2 Stinker Goals
  • Get thrush cleared up and keep a better eye on things (check.  At least I learn from my mistakes?)
  • Start phasing out draw reins (Done.  I basically went cold turkey and while they served their purpose I am happy to have them gone.)
  • Keep building muscle (Apparently extra important because it is a double whammy.  We have been progressing)
  • Transitions and leg yields (The leg yields have been going well, but I need to work more on transitions)
At least he has learned to stand quietly while I fiddle with the SoloShot

Quarter 3 Human Goals
  • Continue to eat more vegetables
  • Run two to three times a week (As it keeps getting hotter this may not happen, because I don't want to die, but if I am not running I need to walk)
  • Yoga to keep hips limber
Quarter 3 Stinker Goals
  • Keep building muscle and strength
  • More trot work (This will be heat dependent.  I would rather hold off on the trot than stress him by increasing his work load mid summer)
  • Transitions, leg yields, and shoulder fore
I have been really pleased with his progress and hopefully we can keep things on the right path.  I would love to have him strong enough to start cantering this winter, but I am hesitant to really put that as a goal.  I feel like if I make it a goal I am more likely to push him harder and right now he needs time and correct work more than anything.

Monday, June 27, 2016

All the Drama=Nada

Well Stinker made a liar out of me and I have never been so happy.  He was absolutely perfect this weekend.  Ok the perfect is a slight exaggeration, but he had his big boy pants on and was amazing.  I had a late lesson on Friday night and it ended up being even later since they were running a little behind.  I don't have media from it because it was getting dark.

Such a handsome face

I started off telling my favorite dressage judge about all of the issues we had been having and I was worried about the saddle fit and possibly EPM.  She said to get on and let her see what was going on. I did and I had my horse back.  He stood like a rock at the mounting block, walked off calmly, was promptly stretching and flexing.  Of course the judge was wondering about my sanity.  We didn't do a lot on Friday, but we had some quality walk work and played with some baby leg yields.

Pongo's girl made him a stall sign and it made me so happy

Saturday, I had an early lesson.  We used the same exercises to get him to stretch and flex and added in the baby leg yields and shoulder fores as necessary.  We then moved onto playing with the trot.  The trot was pretty rough, but he hadn't trotted in a couple weeks.  It took some fiddling but we managed to get some ok work.  I was so pleased with him, because he didn't get super antsy and was trying the whole time.  The trot is hard for him because he is still learning how to carry himself and when things get hard his solution is to go faster.

I guess the golf cart has become a jump...

I am still flying high from the lesson Sunday morning.  I asked to squeeze one in early and we started at 7:15, which I am grateful for because we were both drenched in sweat.  We worked on transitioning from the medium walk to the free walk back to the medium walk.  My biggest thing is I need to remember that I have a horse that I can ride now.  When he starts to tense rather than redirect I get out of his way and let him do his stuff.  I can't do this anymore.  I need to start getting in his way more instead of letting him cruise so much.

Video from Saturday that has the trot work

As a high point, the judge said that she would have given us an 8 on our medium walk.  While, she does tend to be generous, it would probably translate to a 6.5-7 from a tougher judge.  That made me really happy considering how long it has taken to develop the walk.  We did more with the trot and managed to get the adjustable semi-stretchy trot back.

I love his face even if he does have a dinky forelock.

In the trot I tend to lock up my elbow (especially the right one) and it gives him something to brace against.  Once I got that under control and remembered to trust my half halt (I was hanging in it too long) his trot got so much better.  We worked on a 20 meter circle with a 10 or 15 meter circle at E.  The smaller circle forced him to slow down and balance and then he was able to really use his top line.  We actually had a sort of stretchy trot.  It was no where near a show ring one, but it was a major step in the right direction.  Of course since it was a 7:15 lesson there was no media.
Not the best but we aren't sticky anymore

As far as his health goes, I am leaning towards he was hurting and the five days off let him recover, but then he was a bit sticky for the next few rides.  I haven't taken him off the list for the vet (I am superstitious and scared I will jinx it) yet, but I don't think I will need to keep the appointment.  I am going to keep after the saddle fitter to get her to check the saddle because it is getting snug, but I think I still have a bit more time before it is truly a problem.

So much sweat

I am so relieved to have my horse back, because despite my best efforts I was firmly on the crazy train.  As D said it was a "learning experience".  Of course I asked if I could skip the learning part and go straight to the knowledge.  I am just thankful that I have a fantastic support team and that they are still talking to me.  And I also really appreciate all the well wishes from you guys, so thank you.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Houston We *Might* Have a Solution

I have come up with another possibility besides EPM (and I am desperately clinging to it) for why Stinker has had such a dramatic behavioral change under saddle.  It is possible that his saddle has gotten too small and he is reverting back to his OMG can't possibly walk in a saddle that doesn't fit perfectly ways.  Which honestly would be the best answer for my wallet.

Always wanting food.

Wednesday night after work, I decided to try an experiment.  I rode him bareback in the small ring with his bridle.  It has been awhile since I have ridden him bareback and I haven't ever really asked for anything when I have ridden him bareback (it has mostly been on the trails when I can't handle being an adult).

He didn't think much of wearing the hat.

There was obviously quite a bit of tension, because it was something different but he didn't have anxiety sweating.  We got some nice walk work at the end.  And as an added bonus I got one hell of a leg work out.  He is a really weird shape (or my legs no longer conform the way they did as a kid) and after my thighs, my legs don't really touch his sides.  As a side note I did discover I can touch my toes together under his belly (did I mention I have freaking long legs?).

I'm starving!

Anyway, I repeated the experiment with similar results last night.  I have a lesson tonight with my favorite dressage judge, so I will see what she thinks about things.  Overall, I am cautiously optimistic that it is the saddle and not EPM (please please please be the saddle).  If it is the saddle it should be a relatively simple fix (minus the part where I have to get my saddle fitter to do something quickly).  I shouldn't complain too much about her, but it is frustrating when you can't touch base easily.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Not Again

Finally, something besides tack posts.  I have been in Boston for a conference for the last week, which is why I haven't had any riding posts.  It was a very good trip, but now I am exhausted and looking at a full work week.  I was terrible and didn't do any sightseeing, but I did meet up with some friends from grad school.  I also saw Firebird (my one friend was playing) and it was really cool.

The weather was so nice!

So the Stinker front isn't looking so great.  The wheels started to come off before I left.  I wrote about the one ride, but it went downhill from there.  He was a tense anxious mess.  He was trying, but I could tell something wasn't right.  So I decided to give him time off while I was out of town and see if that took care of things.

Proof I actually did something.

I am reserving full judgement, since I have only had one ride back and I already know he is a little funky after having time off.  But my gut is saying something isn't right.  I lunged him and he was not off, but at the same time he wasn't quite right.  He wasn't zippy and he wasn't wanting to bend.  I decided to get on him and walk to see if I could get him stretching and unlocked.  While we did get some nice moments he wasn't normal.  He got spooky in one corner and was tense and anxious (the anxiety sweats are back).

I had to try a lobster roll.

Right now my plan is to do my best to keep my sanity.  The last time something wasn't quite right was last summer when he had EPM.  I am wondering if he is having a relapse, which isn't uncommon.  Besides that the vet is going to look at him when he comes (fingers crossed that I will be able to get that day off), but it won't be for another nine days.  I am going to keep trying to walk him and see if it is the general stickiness that will work out in a few days.  My favorite dressage judge is in town and I am going to see what she thinks.

I don't know if he missed me, but I missed him.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Saddle Update

I first talked about my saddle (a WOW saddle) way back in January after I had first gotten it and it was basically an OMG I love this saddle post.  Which I am still totally in love with it.  It is my magical unicorn.  But I thought I would be able to go into a little more detail, because I have actually used it for awhile not and also because the company has also updated their website.  It has tons of information if you are curious.  I am mainly doing this because I really like this brand and it isn't very popular in the US, plus the concept is pretty magical.

His second favorite thing (Timothy is number one!)

My favorite part about this saddle is that it is totally modular.  If I got a few screw drivers I could take my saddle totally apart (I am not ever going to do this because I would end up with that one extra bolt...).  The company has been using the exact same layout since they started.  That doesn't mean that they haven't made changes, it just means that you can still have parts swapped on the old saddles with new parts.  For example, I think that Stinker has put on enough weight/muscle that he needs to go up a size in the head plate.  I don't need to have the saddle put on a tree press or order a new saddle while trying sell my old one.  I contact the rep, she is sending me an equiform, I will make a model of his back, and send it back to her.  She will look at the model of his back and say yes you are right here is the piece you need to change or not you aren't right you need to do X.  This makes me supremely happy.

Love this thing!

The next thing I like about this saddle are the flaps.  I have long legs, like should have been a super model long legs (too bad I like food).  They have a special flap that is cut for long legs and it is perfect.  My knee finally has a place to go that isn't over the block.  This is the first saddle that I have been in that I haven't had to fight and it is an amazing thing.  I am pretty sure they have short people flaps too for those of you that aren't giant, but I am a giant and love my flaps.

My third favorite thing (who am I kidding this is probably my true favorite because it is Stinker's favorite and he controls my life) are the panels.  I have the flair panels and I was initially nervous about this because they aren't wool.  I know the ones that love French saddles are laughing at me and the ones that love English made saddle are probably having the same thoughts as I did.  I actually made the vet check his back multiple times after I got this saddle because I was so paranoid (he was already seeing Stinker so if I was paying a bill I was getting his back checked).  Stinker loves these panels.  He seriously hates any wool flocked saddle and all half pads now.  That made me a believer.

They are so soft and squishy!

Finally, the change in Stinker's behavior under saddle was astounding.  Pre EPM, his Albion fit him fairly well and he still didn't like to walk.  Post EPM it was a hot mess, so I will ignore that for now.  He was so so in the various County saddles that I tried, but as soon as we started with the WOWs he was more than happy to walk.  Sure he would still get tense and jig, but we at least had a walk.

If you are looking for a saddle (mine was $4000 but with some swapping I should be able to continue for my lifetime and you can find them used in the UK if you know what you are looking for) and want adjustability I highly recommend looking into these saddles.

Friday, June 17, 2016

To Show or Not

It is not a secret that I want to show.  My original plan was to start showing dressage when we were ready for first level and 18" for the eventing side of things.  Unfortunately,  neither of these are going to happen any time soon.  If I am lucky I hope to be cantering by the beginning of next year.  But that will still put us at training level.  I also want to make sure our basics are really solid before we start trying to jump, assuming the vet doesn't think it is a terrible idea.  I haven't gotten brave enough to ask him his opinion on that.

Adorable but show ring ready?

I also want to start getting him off property and schooling him.  If I can get him comfortable with traveling and being chill in new places that will help us no be a hot mess (who am I kidding we will still be a hot mess) when we start showing.  This leads me to start thinking about doing some intro dressage tests.  We can easily do Intro A and B.  Well easily is relative...but we could muddle our way through.  There is a dressage schooling show in July that S wants to hit up.  I am trying to decide if I want to A) go and just school B) go and do intro A and/or B or C) stay home and keep putting the money towards more lessons because you need it.  What are your thoughts?

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

WOW Soft H-Girth

I finally got the girth that came with my saddle.  It is designed to provide stability for the saddle and rider.  In addition the center pad provides pressure relief for the the pectoral muscles and helps to elevate the fore limbs and shoulders.  Also, it helps with horses that have a forward girth groove.  (This is all paraphrased from WOW's website).

H-girth in all its glory.

So far, I have really liked it.  I started to say that I hadn't seen any changes, but then I realized as I was typing that my balance issue at the trot resolved right around the time I got the girth.  This may or may not be related to the girth I don't know.  But I do know another person that got this girth and it helped to stabilize her saddle so it wasn't sliding up her horse's shoulders.

All apart for that easy cleaning I was talking about

Well padded center piece

I think the quality is excellent (it is made in England) and I haven't had it long enough to know how it will hold up.  So far it has not shown any signs of wearing or stretching.  The center piece is well padded and my pretty pretty princess has not had any rubbing issues.  The two leather straps are completely removable (easy cleaning).  The biggest drawback is the price.  It is 185 pounds (~$260 US).  I will say if you have a common girth size you might be able to find one used on eBay (UK not US).  I almost bought one when I got impatient trying to wait for my free one, but the lady found a UK buyer and decided to go that route.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Stinker: 1 Me: 1

Yesterday, I was at my wits end with Stinker.  My plan was to do a forty minute ride on the hills at the walk.  We have been really hot lately and not just heat hot, but also high humidity.  I am worried about stressing his system and causing an EPM relapse (I am totally going over kill on this, but I am terrified that I will lose all of our progress with a relapse).  I am probably going too easy on him, but I would rather be too careful than push too hard.

I have awesome fashion sense (I got weird looks going into work like this)

My plan went to heck quite quickly.  He was tense and anxious and didn't want to stretch and give.  I thought I could wait it out because it isn't that uncommon for him to be excited at first and then settle down.  He kind of settled and I thought ok this is working and then the wheels came off.  We were headed back towards the barn, so I thought he was getting impatient and thought he was going to be done.  Normally, when this happens as soon as we get to the barn and then turn away he goes back to work.  That didn't happen.

It kept getting worse and worse and I was getting frustrated and was about to lose my chill.  I know it doesn't go any good, but I wanted to get something half way decent so I could end on a good note.  I finally said fine damn it we will go to the dressage ring.  He typically settles in the ring and by this point the forty minutes had come and gone.  Did that help?  Nope.  Not even a little bit.  Then I got annoyed.  I decided that we were going to trot if he wanted to trot and we would trot until he decided walking sounded like a better idea.

This is actually from Saturday, but it has been really hot

He giraffed into the trot, and I asked him to stretch down (exactly like I had been doing in the walk).  My to my surprise he did.  And then proceeded to give his absolute best trot work ever.  He was reaching and stretching and supple.  Changes of directions yes ma'am.  Shoulder fore and reach deeper yes ma'am.  Slow it down and rebalance with out popping your head up yes ma'am.  We didn't trot long and then I brought him back to the walk.  Asked him to stretch and he gave me nice stretches both ways.

Tired sweaty pony.

I told him he was a good boy (I decided to ignore the previous 50+ minutes and focus on the last 5-10 minutes) and got off.  He was quite proud of himself.  I was in a bit of shock.  I got my revenge by giving him a bath.  He is the weirdest horse, because he hates getting wet.  The scrubbing part of the bath is totally fine.  The getting sprayed equals OMG I am going to die.  He will drink out of the sprayer and try to chew on it, but the water touching him causes some very humorous twitching.

Pretty clean white socks (not worth dying over tho).

I did almost have a very bad moment when I was cleaning his hind socks.  I was crouched down scrubbing the insides when the golf cart backfired.  It scared him and he jumped.  Luckily, I have a strong startle reflex and managed to scoot back, but it could have been very bad.  So my PSA for the weekend is don't be stupid like me when bathing your horse.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Polka Dot Periodical Blog Hop: Riding Resume

Nicku started this fun blog hop over on the Polka Dot Periodical.  Since I can't resist the chance to write yet another resume, I figured I would join in on the fun.

Started riding while in utero.  Seriously, my mom was still riding the week I was born.  She is a very tough lady.  Continued riding with either my mom or dad (sitting in front of them) until I was old enough to hang on to my own horse.

I am the smaller one on the right.

Once I graduated to my own horse I was ponied around until I could steer.  I am not sure how old I was, but I think it was 3ish.

I am the wee one on the back.

The next big move up was when I started riding Jethro.  He was a big (might not have been all that big but the little me thought he was) bay and is probably the reason I managed to survive my own stupidity.  He was a fabulous baby sitter.  I could get on him bareback no halter or bridle and if I got off balance he would just stop.  We were holding bunch (aka people on horses sitting around 500+ head of cows) and I got tired and crawled under him and went to sleep.  My mom found me and he was just standing and not even stomping at flies.  I could go on and on about him, but he was my first love.  Sadly he died of a heart attack when I was in late elementary/early middle school (have you noticed I am terrible with dates yet?).

Jethro is on the right (my sister is on him)

The next major horse was Mandy.  She was a little bay mare that was hot hot hot.  My oldest sister pitched a fit when my mom said I was going to start riding Mandy.  My sister was sure the mare was going to kill me.  Mandy had a nasty rearing habit when she was younger.  Luckily we got along fabulously.  We both had the same amount of crazy and it worked.  I had my worst fall off her, but also got my need for speed fix from her.  She was quick and catty and loved to work cows.  I actually showed her in 4-H.  Some how even with our speed demon ways we managed to win some things.

I have no idea who is in the middle.
I may or may not be related to them, but I don't recognize the horse.

I am pretty sure we won all around horse one year and I know we won reining and probably some other classes.  Obviously the reining was the only important one to me, because it is the only thing I remember for sure.  By the time I was in high school, she was starting to get arthritic and my last year in 4-H I showed my sister's horse.  She was much more the typical western show horse and we killed it.  I don't remember what all we won or didn't win.  Sadly I do not have any pictures from this period, because I was excellent at ducking the camera.

Nippers who was the first horse I started.

I was not really into showing western.  I loved reining but that was it.  I liked working cows, but I knew that I didn't want to ranch long term.  When I was in high school riding took a backseat to basketball.  When I went off to college I was on an academic and basketball scholarship, so I didn't ride unless I was home on vacation which was rare.  I should mention that the summer between high school and college I worked on a dude ranch in Wyoming.  That in itself is a story for another time.

Moving cows with my dad in the awkward years.

When I was in grad school I was feeling a bit lost and picked a place off the internet (it was the only one I could find a price list for) and started dressage lessons.  The original plan was to get the basics then jump, but I got hooked once I got tangled up with D.  D matched me up with a mare Nikki, who I loved dearly.  Unfortunately, that story does not have a happy ending.  But she taught me so much in the time I knew her.

First starting back pre D.  I can't remember this mare's name I only rode her once.

Once I moved, I struggled to find a place to take lessons.  I knew enough to recognize bad instructors but I was limited to places that had lesson horses.  I had to beg S to take me on because her schedule was already full.  Luckily she has trouble saying no and I landed at an amazing barn.  I rode a few different horses before I started looking for my own.

My own!!!

The final horse that has played an important role is my favorite little Pongo.  He taught me so much and gave me so much confidence.  He was the first horse I ever did cross country with.  He was the first horse I rode in a jumping clinic.  He gave me confidence that I can put the basics on a green horse and have them be a solid citizen.

Such a fun little guy!

So the bottom line is I have a ton of hours in the saddle and have ridden tons of different horses but haven't done much showing.  And I am fumbling my way through learning a new sport and teaching my horse.  PS this is a terrible resume because I couldn't shut up and keep things brief.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Shoulder Fore

I am so proud of Stinker.  Not too long ago any leg pressure caused a meltdown.  Now we have this.
I am just going to leave it at that.  :)

Monday, June 6, 2016

June Conformation

Since blogger decided to spare you my whining weekend update post by eating it.  Here is a hastily written conformation picture update post.  They aren't the greatest since he was extra wiggly.

The shoulders are starting to even out.

January is on the bottom.

His weight and his top line are looking much better.

His shoulders are improving (Jan on the bottom).

I still don't like how upside down his neck is but when he drops his head you can see where the muscles are starting to fill in.

I still need to get more lift to fill in the gap in front of the withers, but I don't think he has enough strength behind to really do that yet.

Overall, I am really happy with how he is looking and we have made some large strides in the right directions.  Hopefully he can keep it up and look like a real sport horse by the end of the year.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Half and Half

Poor Stinker has been getting tormented lately.  I have been splitting my lessons with S, so I ride the first half then she rides the second half.  I want him to be well schooled enough that other people besides me can ride him without him deciding the world is going to end.

Someone had his bitch face on

I was actually surprised the first lesson, because he was really relaxed and going really well.  But when S got on him he got really anxious.  He has been so much more relaxed with me I thought it was going to carry over more than it did.  Especially since S is a better rider than me and she is also very soft and balanced.  He wasn't bad, just a little bouncier and carried more tension.

Maybe because I do things like laugh and take pictures
instead of saving him from the bonnet.

The second time, I was pleasantly surprised.  We had gotten a bunch of rain, so the dressage ring was sloppy and I decided to go to the stadium field instead (Stinker doesn't like wet footing.  I think it is harder for his hind end).  I haven't ridden him up there a ton because I tend to stick to the hills when I have him out of the ring and that pasture is flatter.  I was expecting him to be more nervous, but he settled nicely and we even did some trot work.

It has gotten freaking hot.  This is from 20 min of mostly walking.

That may sound a little silly but it was our first trot work out of the ring since the start of the new program in January.  I was really pleased with him because it was basically the same as it has been in the ring.  Yay for progress!!  I played with him over poles a bit and damn he gets a big lofty trot over the poles.  He doesn't have the strength to maintain it yet, but I need to get my act together so I can ride me horse.

He is getting to be so much better on trail rides!

He was really good for S when she got on him.  He was anxious, but very willing and was trying despite having, "OMG this is different" written all over his face.  Hopefully, I can get him used to S and get him started on understanding that other people can ride him and the world isn't going to come crashing down.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

My Latest Victim

Well this was supposed to be published on Monday, but someone forgot that they hadn't actually scheduled the post.  By the time I realized it, I was so swamped in work that I didn't have a chance to get it fixed.  I also *might* have had a temper tantrum tonight about how I was going to go work at Starbucks because I would get an employee discount and not be working 14 hour days...but such is life.

Meet Percy my latest naughty lesson pony victim.  I call him Mr. Apple Bottoms because he has a very solid badonkadonk and feathers that can pass for boots with the fur.  Ok I am done with the bad jokes for at least two sentences (including this one).

Tired pony.

He was actually quite good for being on the naughty list.  He was very willing even when he was tired.  He was on the naughty list because he got a bit sassy when a couple of people were trying to ride him behind the barn.  It might have been because they were smaller or because it was feeding time, either way he wasn't bad with me.

The most humorous part of the lesson was when I used the mounting block to get on him.  We have an extra high block and I am pretty sure my stirrup was below the top step.  #tallpeopleproblems  It took me awhile to get used to his gait.  He has a lot more wiggle behind than Stinker does.  Overall Percy is a fun little ride (my hips regretted it later tho).

Dat Booty!!! I might be obsessed.

I didn't even try to canter him because he has been a pasture puff and we are working on getting him in shape.  I think he was wondering what he had done to deserve being stuck with me by the end.  We walked and trotted to get him moving off my leg (he took a lot of leg).  I am not convinced anyone had ever tried to maneuver his haunches and shoulders separately before, but he picked up fairly quickly.  He wasn't stretching down quite as much as I wanted but I was giving him a lot to process all at once.

We did some trot poles and dang that pony can get some suspension.  If he gets in shape and will work like that consistently he will kill it with the lesson kids at the show.  I was giggling the whole time we were doing trot poles.

What did I do to deserve this?

Then we moved on to some small jumps.  It has been over a month since I jumped and I think it has been closer to two months.  The first thing we did was a small grid so I could work on keeping him straight.  And work I did.  He ummm has a bit of a left drift, but is quite honest.  So we looked quite drunk but made it through.  We did the grid a few times until he was getting the hang of it then moved onto a small course.

The small course actually rode much better than I anticipated.  He was quite responsive and even when he was getting tired he was still game.  I was really impressed with him and secretly hoped he keeps being naughty so I can play with him some more.

Just stop already