Friday, July 20, 2012

Genius or Stupid?

I ran across this in a magazine and thought it was very interesting. At first I thought it was a stupid idea, after all, if you're a competent enough rider you shouldn't need stuff like this. But then I thought about how I've been riding in my dressage saddle so much that when I ride western, it feels just a bit odd to me. I'm used to riding 50/50 english and western.

Just the other day I was riding western and caught myself thinking that I wished my western saddle had knee pads and/or blocks like my dressage saddle.

While I'm not much of a fan of thigh blocks in dressage or western saddles, I think this is a great idea to expand upon. Maybe something that I would one day consider getting. But that's just a thought. What do you think?

Regular Oil 1850
Circle Y Western Dressage Saddle

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Great News

Guess what?! It's not Strangles after all! Turns out Addie just as an actinomyces infection causing that abscess, so while that's not exactly great news, it's a lot better than Strangles since it's not communicable. Yes! Now I don't have to worry about all of the horses getting it :) Addie gets 6 weeks of antibiotics, but I think that this is definitely a good think. A huge weight off my shoulders.

Monday, July 16, 2012


I can't believe I leave tomorrow! I am off to Costa Rica for 5 weeks. I'm kind of worried about leaving the horses behind, but I know they're in good hands. This is the longest I've been out of the country, my longest being 3 weeks. Of course the thing I worry about the most is the horses. You should see my instructions for taking care of the horses :) I think ML may kill me when she sees it!

I'm also nervous about my trip. Don't get me wrong, I think this trip will be amazing. I guess the thing I'm most worried about is the first week I stay with a host family. I get to take Spanish lessons (definitely don't speak Spanish... I've taken 5 years of French so it's going to be interesting trying to keep the two languages separate) and experience the culture. I'm just worried that maybe my host family and I won't get along or that there will be too much of a language barrier. I'm sure it will be fine, but I can't help but worry!

I haven't ridden much since our lesson on Thursday, too bummed about missing out on all the "fun stuff" we had to cancel, busy with trip preparations and stressed about work. ML came out and we took Grady and Colton on a trail ride. It was a lot of fun, we basically complained about work the whole two hours, lol. Most of the time I love where I work, but then there's that small part of it that makes me hate my life. Colton was great on his first trail ride, though he definitely doesn't yet have the musculature or stamina quite yet and was exhausted by the end. Going downhill he'd just stop because it was so hard for him. But he was such a good baby. And I love riding Grady! He still has got it going on at 26 years old!

I *may* have some posts do auto-post so I won't be around to reply to comments, but feel free to comment anyway! I look forward to reading them when I get back :)

Saturday, July 14, 2012

One Thing After Another

Right now, I should be driving to the dressage show with Jetta and Colton in tow, prepared to have a fantastic first and only dressage show of the season. Instead, I'm sitting here in my pajamas writing this.

Addie appears to have strangles. Lovely right? Which means no horse is allowed off the property until her swab comes back negative, but I highly doubt that. ML came running in to tell me yesterday afternoon that Addie had an abscess. I don't know how we missed it beforehand. My first 2 thoughts were pigeon fever or strangles and since the abscess sits squarely on her mandibular lymph node, I figure that's a pretty good indicator of strangles.

Phooey. I was so looking forward to this show today. Colton has been improving in leaps and bounds and I couldn't wait to get him out and about. After our lesson on Thursday, I was feeling pretty good about how Jetta would do. I had memorized all four tests, given Colton 2 out if his 3 prequisite baths (it takes at least that many baths to get a Gypsy really clean!) And had the trailer partially loaded.

Addie's owner is a vet so ML and I talked to her and she came out yesterday. She said she's 99% sure that it is strangles, but took a swab and we'll get the results next week. So far no other horses show signs, fingers crossed they don't. Jazz had a very mild case years ago, so Grady has been exposed and didn't get it, so I'm hopeful he'll be fine, but Colton hasn't had the vaccine or ever been exposed to it, so I'm worried about him. Jetta has had the vaccine, but not recently so I'm also worried about her. Especially since I'm leaving my babies behind next week!

I guess the only vaccine that Addie doesn't have is the strangles one because Dr. P doesn't like the vaccine. It all depends on what vet you talk to. TS said not to vaccinate for strangles, but Dr. H, a vet I work with, said to use the vaccine. It sounds like a friend of our neighbor, LC, brought a horse in to ride that had strangles so that's where we figure this all started... Luckily, LC's horse is vaccinated. I hope it turns out just to be a random abscess, although it has already ruined my plans. I've had to cancel a beach ride and a trail ride already :(

I personally think this place I was going to show at is cursed. The first time, I had to drive home in tears in the middle of the show because the practice manager at my work had bullied me into coming to work, when the girl who was supposed to cover my shift "decided she didn't want to". It was pretty awful and I had made up my mind not to come back to that barn. And now when I try, a horse gets strangles! At least this time I'll get a refund, they were really nice about it and even said that I didn't need a vet note. But I'm still super sad that now I can't do anything/go anywhere with the horses. Like I said, its just been one thing after another with Addie!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Lesson, lesson, lesson!

I was so excited for our lesson today. I don't think I've ever been so excited for a lesson before, but we haven't had one in forever and I've been pretty frustrated with Jetta. I absolutely love TS and as always, I had a great ride and learned a lot.

First I watched my neighbor LC go. She has an adorable gray gelding named Wes. His problem is that he gets really tight and short in his neck (similar to what Jetta does), a result of being constantly schooled on the collected gaits by a previous owner at third level. I love watching lessons because I like giving lessons too, so it helps me see how a "real" trainer would address certain problems. For LC, she's a good rider but I don't think she's as effective as she could be. She's always a little stiff but I couldn't really pinpoint how to fix the problem. TS narrowed in on it almost immediately. For one, she's trying too hard to drive with her seat, almost making Wes brace in his back a little, and her hands are too stiff. She needs to bend her elbows more and keep them at her side, keep her hands down a little lower and have a constant "conversation with the horse's mouth" as TS put it. Instantly Wes responded by rounding a little more and stretching his neck.

It is always awesome to watch the change that happens throughout a lesson. A good instructor will almost always make that change. By the end, Wes was round and stretching down. He looked awesome. LC worked on flexing him both to the inside and outside, testing his flexibility and by flexing him, got that stretch she was looking for. They also used leg yields to ask him to bring that inside hind forward, helping to get him rounder over the back.

One topic of discussion was LC's regular trainer. I don't really like her because I see her clients all the time with poor habits and easily fixable problems that never seem to get corrected. I've ridden with this trainer once a long time ago (I was probably 13) and even at that age I thought I could do a much better job on my own. So while LC was gone she had this trainer ride Wes and when LC got home, she was disappointed to find that her horse was lame and the trainer had nothing to report other than "he was crazy". LC was understandably a little ticked. TS does not like this trainer either obviously and mentioned that LC would be better off if I rode Wes while his owner was gone, which I took as quite the nice compliment! I would love to ride Wes. Throughout the ride LC would mention "but my trainer tells me to do this" and TS would counter with the fact that either he's not ready for that, he doesn't need that, or if you do this first, then the second part will easily follow, always explaining the why behind it. That made a lot of sense to me and I hope LC continues to ride more with TS and less with this other trainer...

I really love the fact that TS is a vet (well, retired vet). Her and LC discussed vaccines and musculature of the horse among other things, so I definitely learned some new stuff! She poked and prods the horses making sure they're not out of whack any where, and if so she will adjust them.

Next up was Jetta's turn. I felt like we had a bit of a breakthrough last night. It was so, so hot out yesterday, even after the sun set that I couldn't bring myself to ride. So I lunged Jetta with the side reins and finally something clicked in my brain. Here I've been driving Jetta forward whenever she drops her head (like she's supposed to) because she slows whenever she stretches down. But wait a second, isn't that what I want her to do when I ride? She gets so fast when I ride her. So I spent the session driving her forward whenever she raised her head and letting her go as slow as she wanted when her head was down. It was awesome. By the end she was finally taking long sweeping strides with her neck stretched and no rushing, both cantering and trotting. After a hose off (we were both dripping sweat despite the fact that we were doing this in the dark) she got dinner and went back in the pasture.

Today she was calm and from the first moment I started riding her she was so much better. TS had me work on much the same that I had been doing, with a few tweaks that made it much more effective and we had a great ride. The theme for our ride was submission, submission. Jetta is a hot, opinionated mare so it is vital for every single step of her training that I have her submission. This meant that we started out at the walk with her bent to the inside. She kept wanting to change the bend or drop her shoulder to the inside so we really worked on getting her off my inside leg. If she didn't move off it with a light squeeze, she got a kick until she moved off my leg. For some reason she was just really dead to my left leg. When I got a nice inside bend she would reach down and stretch perfectly so we moved to the trot and worked on the same thing. She was much better at the trot so we just worked on slowing her down, using half halts and then releasing her to let her learn to carry herself and she offered a lovely trot. From there we worked on leg yields and she was awesome. I haven't done a lot of lateral work since I've just been concentrating on getting Jetta to listen and not gallop away with me, but she had some awesome leg yields, which were all about slowing her down, getting her to lower her head a bit and submit to my inside leg.

The canter was our hardest gait. She tends to get tight and go fast so she had us really get a nice inside bend, then release with our outer rein so she had to hold herself up for the most part. If she got quick, I would give her a strong half halt and then release, really asking her to slow down. It was helped along by TS making me really sit up and lean back so that Jetta could lift her shoulders better.

We did everything both directions and then went back to work on the canter. We had been working on a 20m circle so TS had us use the whole arena, using the short ends to collect the canter, really bending her and half halting through the corners and using the inside bend to keep her slower and stretching over her back. It was awesome! I love getting lessons :)

Homework includes continuing to work on that inside bend and submission. Slowing her trot and canter. Transitions today both up and down were perfect, I just need to make sure she is listening to my inside leg. I realized during this lesson that I had gotten so fed up I was no longer analyzing why and how Jetta was misbehaving. Even though I was keeping my cool and doing a million and one stretchy trot circles and using the inside bend, where I went wrong was not recognizing that she was blowing off my inside leg and that I wasn't using my half halts and bending to get her to keep from pulling on the reins. She's allowed to stretch but not pull. So overall, it was very worth it and I can't wait till the next one!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

I Win

I thought that this was an awesome article. I thought it was pretty aptly organized in a comedic kind of way (aside - ever since Eventing Nation talked about pentathlons I've wanted to do one! How cool would that be?)

Equestrian sports ranked as the #1 hardest Olympic sport to achieve/complete. Since siblings are always a rivalry, I checked to see where this person ranked shooting (my brother's sport, sporting clays to be more specific). Out of 32 Olympic sports (some which didn't even rank on this list), shooting placed 24th, bahahaha. I win!

He is the one who my parents pay for all his entry fees, his travel (he's currently in Illinois at a national shoot, was recently in Texas for a shooting camp and will later be traveling to Wyoming and Colorado), his many guns and ammunition. His competitions are the ones that both my parents always go to and he is the one encouraged to pursue shooting more and more. I think my parents always hoped I would grow out of horses but I never did... I have bought all but one horse myself (Jazz was originally bought to be a family horse then I turned her into a show horse), I pay for shows, for the vet, for tack, for the farrier, for the feed, my parents only pay board for Jetta when I'm at school. They constantly complain about my horses. And they rarely make it to my shows, and then usually it's only my mom who comes if anyone at all. At least I beat him at something right? Not that I'm complaining or anything...

I must say that I do think shooting placed well being low on the list (I was arguing with my parents about this). It's not that physically taxing (I mean you do have to stand there and you get a pretty nice bruise on your shoulder) but really, the first time I shot a gun, at a clay bird no less, I hit it! How hard could it be, right? ;)

Hmm, which would you think is harder?

Okay, so I'm a tad very jealous and a bit snarky, but just to be clear, I'm not really saying that shooting is a worthless sport or that it's super easy (because then people would just get bored with it). Just poking a bit of fun :)

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Hunter Princess

Warming up in the 2' class

Focused. My number flapping in the wind...

Our one refusal of the day. Mostly my fault though, I was getting tired!

Take two: awkwardly getting over it.

Flat class

So pretty!

For some reason I really like this picture :)

I may have to print this one out and frame it :)
Well, we may not actually be hunter princesses, but Jetta looks pretty darn good! I am still very proud of how she handled the show. I felt pretty comfortable with my position, though I know we still have a lot to work on - my leg is still slipping back a bit and I need to work on an automatic release instead of a long crest release. And of course stamina. I did get caught jumping ahead a few times, but for the most part I was happy with how it went - I didn't get jumped out of the tack or get caught behind the motion, I didn't catch Jetta in the mouth or have too many awkward moments. So it was a success!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Summer Laziness

Summer has finally arrived in my neck of the woods. After I got out of school I was looking forward to warm, sunny days, but it was not to be. It rained for about two weeks straight. But the sunshine is officially back! As of 4th of July summer has arrived.

The ponies have been keeping me on my toes for the most part. It is in the 90s and I am so not a hot weather person. Meaning that I either have to wake up early to ride in the relative coolness (also really not a morning person!) or wait until the sun sets to ride. Waiting till the sun sets means I have only 30 minutes till it gets pitch black out though.

On 4th of July I put the horses inside, thinking it'd be better than having them (aka Addie, the only one with shoes) careening around the pasture. I could just see her slipping and getting hurt. Unfortunately, that was not a much better idea. I guess Addie decided she needed OUT of her stall and apparently tried to jump out. Luckily she's fine, no scrapes, no bruises, no lameness. I personally think she was pleased with herself... This was the result:

Yeah... that would be talent.

I came down in the morning to find her and Grady (he stays out at night) happily munching in the pasture while Jetta and Colton patiently waited for me to let them out. I thought if anyone was going to be stupid, it would be Jetta, but I guess she had done enough of her "remodeling" in the past that she decided to let this opportunity slide:

Obviously she needed to socialize with Colton next door, so she just decided to make some adjustments on her own...
Colton has been such a good boy lately. I'm so proud of him. We're heading to a show this Saturday (him and Jetta) and I previously thought we'd be farther along in our training than we are - a result of the rain/heat induced laziness. But he is still improving in leaps and bounds every time I ride him. We have now ridden twice in the outdoor arena and he is awesome. Learning to go in straight lines both on and off the wall, learning to halt from the walk and trot, steering at the walk and trot, 20 meter circles, etc. He is doing so well. The first ride he thought the arena was absolutely terrifying but he was fine on our ride this morning, which hopefully bodes well for the show this weekend. We'll be doing intro A and B.

Jetta has just been chilling. Our last ride in the "horse eating" outdoor arena was much better. We went for a ride down the road the other day and it was a nice change of pace. Jetta loves to go on trail rides. I have so many plans for the next two weeks:
  • Go ride at the big horse park with friends
  • School cross country at Inavale
  • Ride at the beach at least once
  • Dressage lesson with TS this Thursday
  • Jumping lessons (1 or 2) with RC
  • And, obviously, the dressage show with Colton and Jetta
The biggest thing coming up though, isn't horse-y at all. On July 20th I leave for Costa Rica! I'm beyond excited (and a little nervous as well). I will be gone for 5 weeks on a volunteer trip where I'll be working with a conservation program that tracks dolphins and whales as well as poison dart frogs. It's going to be awesome, but I've never been out of the country that long! So I'll try to post lots until then, but there's going to be a pretty long silence here on the blog. We'll be able to have sporadic access to a computer and internet and if it's fast enough I'll try to give quick updates so at least it won't be too boring here :)

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Some People

Some people just crack me up. We all have our quirks, but some more than others. Here are a couple gems from the past week:

Example A: One of my parents' friends has 2 pet cows. Now, I have nothing against keeping cows as pets, though I must admit I prefer them as steaks. She rescued them when they were calves from going to slaughter. Today, she borrowed our horse trailer to take them to the state university vet hospital because it has an abscess on its foot (I didn't figure out if it was a hoof abscess or an abscess actually on its foot). So obviously these cows are spoiled. The thing that gets me though? Although these cows are her babies - they get the best feed and vet care... They are not handle-able. They are not halter broke and they won't trust strangers to get near them. So we spent about an hour herding the dang cow onto the trailer, where the vet sedated it so that it could make the hour trip up to the big vet hospital. People, if you are going to keep a 1200# cow as a pet, it should at least be halterbroke. There's no excuse since it has been with this woman since it was a calf! Really this goes for any animal though...

Example B: The stick cowboy. My family calls him that because he's always seen in full cowboy regalia (chaps, giant spurs, long sleeve button down shirt, vest and hat) roping a stick calf in his driveway. I have never actually seen him on any one of his eight horses, much less roping from a horse. He was a total city slicker who moved to the country. After about a year with 3 horses, I guess he one day just up and decided he was a real trainer now and has fliers offering his cowboying services to the public. Besides the fact that that is in itself pretty funny, he offered to buy Colton the other day. Or as he put it, "that paint hoss". Needless to say, "that paint hoss" wasn't in his price range and certainly isn't a paint. He may be spotted, but he's a far cry from a stock type horse. Sorry, but he's a Gypsy Drum Horse, they're not really made to run fast and stop hard. I guess he wanted a paint horse specifically for roping. I'm not saying Colton couldn't do it with a lot of training, but he's definitely not much of a roping horse prospect... At all. And I don't know what's wrong with the other 8 horses in his pasture.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Such Troopers!

I am so proud of my two horses - Colton and Jetta are just improving every time we ride.

Unfortunately I haven't been too good about riding both horses every day, I usually have enough time and energy for only one. And add in the fact that it has been pouring down rain the past two weeks! I don't appreciate riding in the rain. I try to avoid it, lol. This is ridiculous, it is not summer - some other strange season where it is warm and the sun shows up occasionally, but mostly it rains buckets. Ugh.

More about Colton later, but this post is going to be about Jetta. She is such an awesome pony!! For the most part. Here at home there is no indoor arena, just my pasture or the neighbor's outdoor arena. Jetta is not an outdoor arena kind of horse. She gets so excited and unfocused, she has developed the world's worst canter. Short choppy steps and a tight back in response to the fact that I won't let her go fast and it takes a million and one stretchy circles to get her to relax a bit. Of course she's always better when I bring out the jumps and since we had a show over the weekend I decided we needed to practice jumping... the night before. I am the queen of procrastination. We schooled over a 2' combination (I only have so many jumping blocks so it's impossible to make up an actual course) since that is Jetta's weakness, she always wants to duck out at the second jump, but she had no problem this time! Then since I was planning on doing a 3' jumper course I figured we'd better practice that too. But the jump block combinations can't get to 3' (at least I couldn't figure it out!) and I could only get 2'9" or 3'3". So we went with the 3'3", I was just crossing my fingers that she jumped it and didn't decided to dump me.

She was amazing! She jumped it once in both directions, albeit in one direction she trotted before the jump and didn't have enough impulsion to make it over cleanly, pulling the rail down. But I was quite pleased - first time jumping that high! And it looked HUGE to me.

Despite the lack of jumping practice, Jetta did pretty darn good at the show! Now if I can just get my lazy butt up in the saddle and practice, we'd be pretty awesome.

We did 8 classes. It was a lot, but I had fun and it was a great experience. We started out with a 2' jumper class just to get in the ring. Jetta was good, no refusals but we had a touch or two so we ended up with one fault. She hesitated quite strongly at a lot of the jumps with all of their bright flowers and gates and such, but was ultimately good. We got 2nd out of 3.

Next was all of the 2'6" classes. They had a deal to enter the low, intermediate or high classes as a package, so I entered all of the intermediate classes, which included a lot of hunter classes that I wasn't really planning on doing. Jetta's more of a jumper than a hunter. But we still did pretty well. I wasn't expecting that we'd be able to go in the show ring and warm up over all of the fences! So that was an unexpected bonus.

We ended up getting four fourth place ribbons out of 7 to 8 competitors. Jetta was very, very good. I was quite amazed, she felt like she was growing up! Our main downfall was that we didn't have flying changes and everyone else did. For the most part she'd land on the correct lead, even without me asking since I was just concentrating on getting over the fences, but a few times she'd land on the incorrect lead. I didn't feel too bad about it though, since all of the other riders were talking about their next A level competition and had much older, more well-trained horses. Jetta's only six so while we should be working on changes, it's not so bad that she doesn't have them down yet.

Other problems were she kept rubbing one fence, almost every single time. It was a gray fence with red flowers on a diagonal. Then she was also leaning on the bit. It's always been something that we have to work on in jumping - getting her head up, but in the two flat classes we did, it was a pain. When her head was up, she felt awesome - balanced, light on the forehand and ready to jump.

We did enter a 3' jumper class, just for fun, but I ended up scratching since I was exhausted and I'm sure Jetta was too. It was getting a little toasty out too! So we'll save that for next time...

Hopefully we'll get some lessons and keep on improving. It was a great show, I had never been out to this barn before and it was super organized and easy going. A great schooling experience, Jetta even earned some compliments on her cuteness and that she was a good jumper!

I will upload some pictures soon, once the internet quits being a pain :(