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.


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.


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.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Round and Round It Goes

Stinker has been doing his best to make me crazy of late.  Sadly it doesn't take much to make me full on neurotic, so he has been being quite successful.  It all started two weeks ago, when he started jigging a lot.  At first I thought he was just anticipating the trot because we had been working on it a lot, so I thought no big deal I will just do a few walk rides with him and that will fix it and he will settle again.

Hats are the best toys

That did not fix it.  In fact things got worse.  I started panicking about him being sore from the trail rides and his hind being all wonky again.  Then I got sick and didn't ride for a few days.  I tried to tell myself that it would be fine.  And once I got better he would be back to normal.

Last week I was still dragging, because my lungs think breathing is optional, but I managed to get a couple rides in.  They were not great.  He didn't want to walk, I was struggling getting him over his back and things generally sucked.  I decided to pop him on the lunge line to see if I could see anything.  I could not.  He walked trotted and cantered just fine on the lunge.  If I stared hard enough I thought I could maybe sort of see something occasionally, but nothing with any regularity or frequency.

Hi Human

I decided to keep trying to settle him and wait for my lesson to see if new trainer could see anything.  Then Stinker being Stinker decided to do I don't know what but he had scrapes on the inside of his left hind and a bump on his right front.  I really wanted to sit down and cry at this point because I felt like shit and I really didn't want to deal with an injury.  But he was still bouncing around (literally) so I decided that it clearly wasn't hurting him.  There was no heat or swelling in his legs so I decided to keep on as planned.

So itchy

I continued to spend more time on the lunge with him because at least there he would relax and work over his back vs me getting frustrated with him.  I would hop on him for short periods and walk him until he would start tensing up then I would get a good stretch and stop.  I was not feeling very confident for my lesson, but I decided that I clearly needed some help.