Friday, September 30, 2016

How I Stole A Calf

This post was inspired by She Moved To Texas's post about catfishing her teacher. I was not tech savvy ever (still fail at this regularly) so I don't have any good stories like that. But I was responsible for stealing a calf (indirectly).

When I was a kid we ran cows on the national forest during the summer. There were multiple people who ran cows up there so we would ride in groups and spread out and everyone would check everyone's cows. The one day, I was (age 6ish) riding with my sister (college age) and a couple cowboys.

We came across a calf (belonged to a neighbor) that was quite small (days old) and had been abandoned by his mother. Since it didn't belong to any of us and the owner was known for not taking care of situations like that we left the calf. I was bawling because I knew that the calf was going to starve or something would kill it.

Apparently the cowboys felt terrible and went back and picked up the calf. Hauled it down to my parents place (~2 hours one way) and dumped it off. Saying that it was my calf now. It was very obviously not one of my parents calves and they had no idea why it was "mine".

Of course my parents started bottle feeding the calf and because he was so starved he promptly got sick. When my sister and I got back from the mountains a couple days later, I was ecstatic and my sister was shocked (the cowboys were known for being hard asses). And to make things better my mom, other sister, and I were going to the county fair so my dad was left at home by himself doctoring a sick calf. 

My to my parents surprise, the calf survived and I named him Smudge. He had a white face with one black spot. We had him for a couple years before he got sold. But that is how I stole a calf. Next up, all the horses I want to steal (don't worry I don't have a trailer).

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Horse Thief Part 2

I stole Blue again, but it was for a jump lesson.  I really wasn't sure what to expect because I haven't jumped in about six months.  And it wasn't like I was all that great at it anyway.  I typically have nerves associated with jumping and I was doing better with Pongo, but we were jumping regularly and I was quite familiar with him.  I was pleasantly surprised that I had zero nerves with Blue.

Granted the jumps were not high enough to impress Blue.  He has the mind set of if it isn't solid or big it really isn't worth the effort and tends to be a bit lazy behind.  But he is super honest and is a fun ride (despite being the opposite of my little idiot).

So much work!

Things started off a bit sluggish.  He was doing his best to sucks back behind my leg and lose all forward motion.  I was carrying a dressage whip, so I could improve the canter by tapping the inside hind and getting it a bit quicker.  And that helped his canter a lot until we entered the grid.  I am not coordinated enough to use the whip and well do really anything jumping related.

I finally convinced him that forward was much better and then things smoothed out a bit.  I was struggling a bit because the saddle does not fit me at all.  My knees hang off the flap and I wasn't able to shorten my stirrups as much as I like.  Here is our final round through the grid.

Monday, September 26, 2016

One Last Lesson

Sunday, Stinker and I had our final lesson.  Typically, I give him a long warmup because I have found this keeps his brain in better than when I rush into the trot.  D had us walk and move right into the trot and I was expecting more trot work but then she told us to canter fairly early on.

We struggled a bit this time around.  To the right, we kept getting the left lead (happens often) and poor Stinker was getting more and more wound up about cantering and trotting and cantering and trotting.  I could feel things getting uglier and uglier.  His trot was getting more up and down and he was sucking back behind my leg a ton.  I think the issue was two fold.  One my hips were tight after the two lessons the day before and two since the warm up was shorter he wasn't quite as settled into his work.

I was really happy that even though I could tell he was getting a bit fried, he never really lost and he kept trying.  I finally asked D what part I was losing because I couldn't readily tell from the cues she was giving me.  She was actually having a hard time identifying things because his trot was getting funky from all the tension and she thought it was the left shoulder.  Once I had that info instead of worrying about everything I just focused on keep the left shoulder straight and asked for the canter and we got it.

He has me well trained

He did do his scoot/baby bolt into it, but he came right back to me in maybe two strides.  I am totally ok with it considering his frame of mind.  He was a more rigid than the previous day, but again that was to be expected.  I was really happy that he let me move his shoulders around.  I was actually really happy about this minor meltdown, because now I know how to work through things.

The other side was fine, it was better than the right but not as good as the previous day.  Then D wanted to get back on him.  He was really good for her, but he was also pretty tired.  He was trying and just didn't have the oomph to quite give her what she wanted.  So she let him be done.  The poor guy was totally drenched in sweat (it is still pretty hot) and was actually puffing a bit.  I hosed him off and gave him a liniment bath.

The sad lone picture of the weekend.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Horse Thief Part 1

One of the ladies at the barn very kindly agreed to let me borrow her horse for a few jump lessons this fall while she is traveling.  Since she ended up being gone during the clinic with D (she had been planning on riding in it), I asked if I could steal Blue for a lesson.

Blue in all his glory

Blue is a total doll.  He is a draft quarter horse cross, so he rides totally different from Stinker.  I had ridden him twice before.  Once on the trail ride where I ponied Stinker and once when I was jumping.  We might have gone through some fences instead of over, because if the rider isn't committed Blue decides it isn't worth the effort to jump.

Poor Blue did not know what he was in for.  In the beginning he was super lazy and had the well I don't think I feel like moving off your leg thing going.  I popped him with the whip a couple times and the first time he went "hey my mamma never does that!" and flipped me the bird.  The second time I got more of a yes ma'am (like the good southern boy he is).

He is pretty darn cute even if my pictures are crappy

My respect for his owner grew enormously when we started to canter.  Blue is a little sluggish with his hind and his canter gets a bit four beat.  D had me rhythmically tap his inside hind with the whip to get that snappier.  I was surprised at how much it changed the canter.  But holy crap he takes a lot of leg to keep him jumping and packaged, not to mention testing my coordination by keeping time with the whip.  I was seriously questioning my life choices, but who needs to be able to walk...

Immediately regrets life choices

Overall, it was a really good lesson for me, because I was able to work on my timing on something that is slower than Stinker and doesn't demand quite as precise of a ride.  The next day, my timing was much better with Stinker.  I am very thankful for my awesome barn people that let me steal their horses when they are out of town.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Back To Me

After D kicked poor poor little Stinker's butt I think he was very happy to have me back in the saddle.  I was really pleased how well he came out and went right to work.  Everything went smoothly in the walk and trot for him.  On the other hand, I got my butt kicked a lot.  I have gotten in the habit of having super light contact (good job training me Stinker), but he is ready for a bit more and he stays a lot steadier with heavier contact.

And when I say heavier contact it is normal contact instead of my stupid feather light stuff because I had don't touch the horse's mouth hammered into me for 18 years.  That has been one of my biggest challenges in switching from the western to english riding.  I feel like I am holding too much because I rode with nothing for so long.  So after D kept repeating herself over and over and over with lots of "more" "more" "more" and "don't let it dos" I finally got my shit together and rode my horse.

We then got to move on to canter.  We had a total fail and have zero video and only one picture from the whole weekend (oops) and it wasn't even the canter, but it really did happen.  The first time I went to ask for the canter it surprised him and he spooked at my leg (good job Stinker).  I started laughing and D was concerned that his brain was going to leave the building.  I think she was just looking for an excuse to get back on him.  She loves this horse almost as much as I do (I think she isn't quite right in the head just like me).

He came back really nicely and the second time he picked up a beautiful balanced canter.  When his canter is balanced it is so freaking amazing.  There is so much jump and he is super adjustable (granted the relaxation isn't there yet, but that is the story of his life).  He is also much more willing to give in the neck, instead of being locked up.

After a few circles and once around the ring, I brought him back and let him walk for a minute before we tackled the other side.  It went just as well.  I was in shock and luckily for me he just stays there and I don't have to put in much effort, because I kind of forgot to ride the first part.  I am still in a bit of shock that everything was just there and felt so freaking good.  Now the tricky part is being able to ride like that on my own without D yelling at me.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Handing Over The Reins

D came down for a clinic this past weekend (I didn't say anything because I was terrified I was going to jinx things).  I realize how nutty it sounds, but that is how my totally scientific mind rolls.  The weather didn't want to cooperate, but Friday we managed to sneak in a ride.

D wanted to get on him since it has been so long since she had seen him (she last came down when we were dealing with EPM and all that fun stuff).  I am not going to lie it made me super nervous.  I really wanted him to do well, but the wheels had been falling off and I knew that she was going to pressure him.  Plus she rode him for two and half months before I ever got him and basically all she knew was pre EPM Stinker.

Brand new baby Stinker (all D knew)

He handled things quite well.  He did flip her the bird a few times and got pretty wound up, but he settled and worked.  She cantered him both ways and he looked fantastic.  Super balanced and got both leads (oops that is a rider problem then).  Poor guy was sweating a lot, but he wasn't breathing hard despite the fact that he was worked way harder than normal.  Good thing he runs laps during turn out.

Don't worry I work out!

At the very end, she wanted me to hop on for a few minutes so I could get the feel of where she wanted him to work.  I absolutely love his work ethic.  He was totally fine with working hard and then switching riders and going right back to work.  I didn't do a whole lot with  him, but I did start to get a feeling of how deep she wanted him to be.  I tend to be ok with mediocre, which does not get him unlocked.

Friday, September 16, 2016


Why is it so hard to appreciate what we have when it comes to training our horses?  I have been feeling a bit frustrated by the slight regression with Stinker.  In reality it hasn't been bad or really much of a step back.  He has just needed some lighter days with less drilling, which is totally normal. I am not ok with working for days on end and not having a mental break.

Last year this time, he wouldn't walk under saddle.  Period, not at all.  I could get very reluctant halts with lots of inverted piaffe.  I thought I would be happy when he would just freaking walk.  In January, he started walking consistently.  I was happy with that for all of five minutes (slight exaggeration, it probably was closer to two weeks) and then I moved on to wishing he would stretch.

We figured out the stretching, then I moved on to another thing and so on and so forth.  I need to remember to take a moment and enjoy what we can do and stop worrying about what we aren't doing.  All of that will come with time (and its own set of problems).

I should appreciate the fact that I rarely cry because I am so frustrated with my horse now.  Can't say that about last fall.  Side note:  Crying is my default emotion it really isn't hard for that to happen.  Watch a sappy commercial=cry; read a happy article=cry; get really hungry/ get the point.

I appreciate the fact that when I am feeling lazy I can hop on my horse bareback and not even loop the lead rope around for reins.  He even seems to love me...ok that is only when I have his bucket of timothy but I am the only one that feeds it to him, so he loves me damn it.  Oh and he loves me when I have honey crisp apples.  He is so spoiled that he won't eat red apples any more.

We really have come a long way together and I do appreciate the journey even when I get muddled down with all the details.  I thought about posting a direct comparison from last year to this year, but last year was to cringe inducing.  It is all there for the world wide web to see if you really want to look.  I am just not making it that easy :)

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Walkin' On Sunshine

The weather has finally cooled down slightly.  We are in the 70s at night and upper 80s durning the day (with humidity it feels more like low 90s).  While it is still warm I at least don't feel like I am going to die of heat stroke.  Come on fall get here already!

In other news, there isn't too much going on.  Stinker and I are just walking and working on straightness.  In exciting news he will back under saddle without freaking out now.  And he has mares that chase him when I am riding him.  I am so sick of them following us and peeing every where.  Thankfully, he doesn't get distracted unless they start sniffing his butt (and I really can't blame him for that).  I will leave you with this little gem...

Monday, September 12, 2016


In light of the issues that have been popping up and Stinker's inability to think through things, I have decided to take a few steps back.  This week we are just going to be walking.  He still has to move off my legs and be soft, but I am not even going to think about trotting.

I am hoping that I have just been pushing a little too much and this is him telling me that he isn't ready for it.  That is totally ok, I am not on a timeline.  What I don't want is to keep pushing him if he is feeling fried and ruin his work ethic.  He still seems to enjoy getting out and working and I really want to keep it that way.

We have super classy things like this...

So far things seem to be working fairly well.  Saturday we walked in the ring.  For some unknown reason the ring is his security blanket and he actually relaxes better in there when we are struggling.  We still had some of the same issues (OMG legs!!!), but overall it felt productive.

I really don't know how people get cute selfies

Sunday, we walked on the hills.  I was actually pushing my luck because they were turning horses out right as I started riding.  The horses aren't led in and out, they are just turned out in groups and they run up to their pastures.  It just so happened that the pasture with the hills is the one that all the groups run through.  Stinker loves his turn out, seriously he had to have a mat put in the front of his stall because he dug a hole pawing waiting for his group to be let out.

My most majestic beast

I was quite pleased with him.  He looked and got a little tense, but didn't get rude or jig.  Even when his buddies were let out.  It was a very low key ride, but it was the first one in quite awhile that there was not any sort of meltdown.  He went to work, did his work, and was very polite when we were done.  I am cautiously optimistic that this rewind will  put us back on track.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Where O Where...

Has my left bend gone?  I have stumbled on an old problem recently.  When I first started riding Stinker he had a love for bracing through the left shoulder and letting his haunches trail to the right.  I spent several months at the beginning of this year working on straightening him.  You know when we had panic moments like this....because LEGS CAN NOT TOUCH!!!!

My mamma said that legs are the devil

Then something started to click in his brain and he realized he could do that and we started progressing nicely.  It started small with just a bit more resistance, but then the vet did chiro and I assumed that the resistance was going to be fixed.  Then a certain idiot (*ahem* Stinker) stuck his leg in the fence and was lame/sore for awhile.  And I attributed the resistance to that.  Last week I finally had to face the fact that I had a problem.

He can move like this...he just doesn't

Unfortunately, S was at the AECs all of last week (S and her student totally kicked butt) so I didn't have a lesson.  I readily admit that I am very dependent on lessons.  When I get left to my own devices for too long I start thinking to much which leads to a lot of self doubt.  I think it had been almost three weeks since I had a lesson, but I finally got a lesson on Thursday.

I love his mismatched white on his lips

At the beginning Stinker felt great, he was bending both ways and warmed up quickly.  He was adjustable at the walk and felt really soft.  The trot felt really good too, especially to the right.  The left wasn't quite as good, but it wasn't bad.  Then we came back to the walk and the wheels fell off.  All of a sudden my horse that was ok with moving off my leg didn't want to be touched with it.  He actually spooked when I moved one of my legs...

Giraffe mode engaged...

WTF horse what am I supposed to do with you?  In warm up we had done leg yields and shoulder fore in both directions.  Ten minutes later it was OMG CAN'T HORSE!!!!  I tried walking him on a long rein to settle him (failed), I tried figure eights to settle him (failed), I tried every suppling trick S and I know (failed).  He just kept getting more and more worked up.

Not the crazy eyes I was getting

Finally, I said fuck it and took him across the diagonal(ish).  Every couple of steps I changed the direction (aka the drunken sailor exercise).  Then I made him do some really shity (like really really really shity turn on the haunches) and we did the drunken sailor act again.  I didn't ask for anything except he had to move off my seat and legs.  I didn't care if he shoved his head up like a giraffe and jigged, as long as he was moving forward and turned I was ok with it.

Someday we will get this under saddle

He finally started sneezing and actually giving as we turned.  I asked for some walk and he was back to being loose.  I am sure that there is a better way to break up the tension and get things flowing, but for now we will be drunken sailors.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

September Conformation

I realized three weeks into August that I forgot to take pictures for the monthly conformation progress. Oops. I guess 8/9 is pretty darn good.

Lately I've been feeling a bit discourage.  We've forgotten how to bend left, he looks like he is losing a bit of weight, and I'm frustrated with my riding.  That being said I was pleasantly surprised by one set of comparison pictures.  So without further ado here are the shots in comparison to February (bottom).

He did not want to cooperate with the pictures, so he looks a little wonky, but you can see how his neck is starting to fill in at the top.  He still has way too much under neck, but at least there is some upper to go with the lower now?

He is slowly gaining in the top line department and I think his loin/back area is looking stronger.  I like the progress, but I also get a bit over whelmed at the amount of progress we still need.  Can I just fast forward through the building stage and have a hunky horse?  Oh yeah the hunks weren't in the budget...

This is the one I was surprised about.  Stinker has a long history of bracing through his left shoulder and letting his haunches trail right.  This has been a problem for him as long as I have known him (even pre EPM).  In the February picture you can see how his spine actually curves to the right.  It isn't the way he was standing, that is just how it looked.  In the top part, you can see it is much straighter.  This didn't require any extra maneuvering on my part.  This is why I love dressage!

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Bunches Of Nada

Sometimes you just need to hop on your horse bareback with a halter and meander around.

I've been having some problems lately with my hips. It's nothing new but my old stretches just aren't cutting it. My latest problem is my knees have started hurting. They don't hurt when I rest but on the other hand if I don't move enough my hips hurt. I've been playing what joint hurts the most lately.

I haven't been pushing for much when I have been riding because Stinker dislikes tight hips and my knees don't appreciate stirrups. Mostly we have been playing on the hills. We went for a short trail ride with some of the girls (he was mostly well behaved). I gave him a bath and fixed (actually screwed up) his mane. I still haven't figured out how to trim his mane evenly.

He has been protesting against the alfalfa/timothy mix I have been trying to use up. Seriously, there were a couple pellets of safe choice in that bucket that he just had to eat instead of his pan full of alfalfa/timothy. Keep in mind I tried to feed him safe choice for awhile but he stopped eating it. As in refused to touch it even if I tried to hand feed it to him.

Overall, I have been enjoying our light week. And I'm hoping to get myself lined out so we can get back to the real work this week. 

Friday, September 2, 2016

Why I Don't Trail Ride In The Summer

If you recall last summer I wrote about the trail ride from hell.  I attempted to pony Stinker off of another boarders horse durning his rehab and well we ran into a bit of a spider problem.  Big ugly spiders everywhere.

This little guy was in the bathroom at work (not scary like the spiders)

Friday evening I was feeling lazy and it was getting close to being dark, and I got the bright idea of taking Stinker for a trail ride.  I figured we could wander the paths and it would be a good change of pace.  It was a good change of pace, except I forgot about the #$#@* spiders.  And since it was getting dark, I couldn't see the webs at all.

Of course rather than change the plan, I just ducked and clung to his neck like a monkey and prayed.  He was really good and was happy to truck along on a loose rein.  There was even someone shooting somewhere and he was chill enough to grab a couple bites of grass.  Typically I would discourage that behavior, but since he wasn't a hot tense anxious mess I let it slide.

No spiders here

On the way back from the fields we caught a spider.  The web was stuck between Stinker's ears (at least it wasn't me?) and I could see the spider crawling on his ears.  Of course I start freaking out, because how the hell am I supposed to get the spider off?  Who the hell wants a giant spider crawling on their not so steady horse?  The last thing I needed was to get dumped because of a freaking spider.

I was trying to come up with a plan of how to get the spider off when I noticed it was hanging off Stinker's nose.  I was hoping it would drop onto the ground, but Stinker started tossing his head.  The spider decided that his face was a better place to be, so it started crawling back up.  I will admit I started squealing at this point.  Stinker then starts biting at the spider as it is swinging from his nose.  WTF horse!  You don't want that damn thing in your mouth.

From a much more peaceful ride

I honestly don't know what happened to the spider, because it disappeared from my view and didn't reappear.  I am going with it got smart and dropped off onto the trail.  All I know is I am not going for any more trail rides in the summer, I was convinced I had a spider on me for the rest of time, and my horse was actually really good.  He didn't freak out when I was ducking, he didn't freak out when I was freaking out, and he walked the whole time with minimal fussing.  I see more trail riding in the WINTER when there aren't the freaking spiders.