Tuesday, November 30, 2010


Well.  Yesterday was a strange ride.  A very strange ride.

P was being mostly good on the ground, but was a little snarky about her girth area and I decided that I was sick of her chest bite/ears pin when I'm grooming her.

Yes she's allowed to be sensitive, but no, she doesn't get to throw a hissy fit.... So I grabbed a whip and just held it.  And you know what? magic of all magic, the mare stood perfectly still, relaxed ears and didn't express any displeasure at her continued grooming.


Mind you, tacking up with a dressage whip tucked under my arm takes some of my usual grace away, but we managed.  P kept a nice look on her face, but the sourpuss came out as soon as I set my whip down to pad her up and whatnot.

Okay... so... whip back up, awkward saddling to commence.. and she stood nicely and quietly and didn't so much as flick an ear backward during the process.

It was a calm day, so I threw her on the lunge (sans side reins), to loosen her up and see what I was working with.  She was a little stiff, and kept popping into the canter instead of opening up her trot, but she was very obedient, and after about eight minutes she started to loosen up and lengthen her stride.  At that point I figured she was calm, loose and ready, so I got on.  Her walk was relaxed, and oddly she moved right up into the trot with no stickiness whatsoever....

But then, she stopped.  Stopped and refused to go forward.  I gave her a kick (nothing). And another kick (nothing). then a boot and smack with the whip - MASSIVE STANDING BUCK. (witchy mare)

So I hopped off, laced her across the butt with the whip and tossed her on the lunge for a VERY stern, VERY angry 5 minute session.  lots of canter/walk/halt/trot/walk/canter/halt.  She stepped up and listened quite nicely at which point I got back on.

And she was good.  I had mentioned to the BO that given Pia's weird objection to the canter recently, maybe we should put down some cavaletti to help pop her into the transition.  So, out came the cavaletti, two to be exact, and the fun began.
 Breyer Brenda shows off her stuff...

First, I stuck one pole on the bottom level, and one at the mid level, then smooshed them as close as possible across the centerline, so that they made a little baby "ramp" of sorts.  P's ears immediately flicked forward, her trot got bouncier and suddenly there was no objection to my outside leg supporting her.

We trotted a couple times over them, then I started asking for the canter transition over the cavaletti, and she bounced happily into it.  She missed her lead a few times (favoring her almost-always-stickier right lead..) but she was forward and happy, plus I was able to maintain her canter afterward without her falling to bits.

Essentially I ended up trotting down the longside, turning up the centerline, popping over the cavaletti, continuing our canter down the centerline and transitioning to the trot for our return trip.  We managed to work both ways, sometimes opting for a canter circle after the cavaletti, sometimes staying straight.

Then we rolled the cavaletti apart, making them a small bounce (both cavaletti at the highest setting) and Pia just about died with pleasure.  Super upbeat, super responsive, no diving and very balanced.  At this point, the BO and I were somewhat mystified and very appreciative of her attitude shift.. so we just went with it.  Both directions, both leads, small circles, straight lines... P played along.

Finally we rolled them closer for some trot poles and after Pia figured out she didn't need to jump them all at once, she settled in nicely.

We finished with a some big stretchy trot figure-eights, which I dare say were our best yet.  Nose on the GROUND, poked out in front of the vertical, and maintaining her own tempo (mostly).  I barely recognized the mare.

We got five solid minutes of stretchy-stretchy work in, and I got off with big pats and a hand walk to cool her out.

Then, just to keep us guessing, once we got back to the barn, Miss Pia pooped three times (THREE, 3, three..) and peed.  In the aisle.

No idea.  Everything else (aside from the ride) was normal.  So I chalked it up to excitement over her cavaletti and called it good.

So... What do we think caused the happy friendly ride after the early antics?
  • Still living outside, and I think it's helping
  • New saddle? (I'd love to think that it makes her as happy as it does me, though if she really wants to be a hunter I wish she'd told me before we bought the fancy dressage saddle..)
  • Cavaletti? Maybe the mare is just somewhat sour with flatwork, in the ring, all the time?

Who knows.  I'm off to the barn again shortly for another quick ride before I get whisked off to the awful world of trade shows for the next 7 days.  We'll see what happens....

Monday, November 29, 2010


As always, the holiday weekend didn't exactly go as planned.  But, true to my form, if something gets canceled I usually end up spending more $$ to "make it up" to myself. 

So, Wednesday, when we finally pulled the plug on the family trip to Sun Valley (waaahhh), I promptly hit the interwebs and found someplace fun for the Boy and I to escape to and still get in a few days of R&R and "escape". 

This meant the mare wasn't really going to get any extra TLC from me over the weekend, but I did get a very exciting call from the local tack shop early Friday morning before we left...

I toyed with the idea of going immediately to the tack shop (do not pass go) and picking up the saddle before we left town for the weekend, but then my mind filled with all sorts of horror stories like, getting in some accident driving through the mountains and having the saddle in the back.  Or getting stuck in the snow and having to abandon my saddle in the car. Or god forbid, some pony crazed tween at the lodge spying the new saddle cover in the back of my car and hacking through reinforced steel to swipe my new prized possession.  (Note that at no time was I concerned about the obvious ill-effects of any of those scenarios on myself, the Boy or the car, all of which would be much pricier/impossible to replace...)

So, in a rare moment, I decided that after FOUR MONTHS of waiting, I could stave off my need to smell the new saddle smell for another 48 hours and so I simply saved the voicemail announcing it's arrival and headed off to the mountains for a nice relaxing weekend.

Relaxing it was.  Essentially we found ourselves in a lovely winter wonderland complete with ice skating, long walks in the snow (with whiskey), an adorable little wooden "spa" on our deck and some great wine, food and general merriment.

There were no horses, but we did see a few reindeer when we were out walking around the small town, so that was exciting.  They looked a little sad tethered to their portable stall thingy, but the squealing excited children were not deterred.
 Sorta sad looking right? 

Anyway we had a great time, clomping around in the snow and sunshine.  And to be perfectly honest, I probably only squealed "omg new saaaaadddle" once every 20 minutes or so, which I thought was pretty damn good given the circumstances

(Visions of new saddles dancing my my head...)

On the way home I went STRAIGHT to the tack shop (Boy still in tow) to collect my prize and was so damn excited, I forgot that I had a Gift Certificate burning a whole in my pocket that I've been patiently waiting to apply toward the balance on the damn saddle.  Oh well, I guess I'll just have to go back..

Remember how I had to wait extra time to allow for the "upgrades"?  Well, when my favorite saddle fitter whipped off the cover I did a massive double take.  The saddle (while gorgeous) is nearly unrecognizable.  Partially because I ordered different blocks, but Prestige changed nearly every cosmetic aspect of the thing.  The padding, the flap, the flap design, the shape, lots.  Even their logo..

They managed to get rid of the weird scroll thing on the flap, so that's a win, but the balance of the seat looked drastically different when it was placed nicely on the fake plastic horse thing.  Regardless, I grabbed the saddle, threw my visa at the cash register and sprinted to the barn.

Pia had almost no appreciation for her new present (is this like when girls buy new lingerie but claim it's a gift for the guy??), but she did stand nicely while I slid it all around on her back and played with pad options. 

It's wide.  It's really, really wide.  I know we ordered it slightly wide so that she can "fill out" into it, but this might be a little more room than we need, or even want unless we develop some massive upper level topline magically... but who knows.

Magic saddle fitter lady is coming out to double check everything so I'm not having an anxiety attack (yet).  Instead, I calmly tacked up (realized I need a new girth for the midget length billets) and got on.

Mind you, I've been a little apprehensive about whether or not I would still love the Optimax.  When I decided on it, I was just starting to ride Miss P regularly again, and my seat was a little looser than it usually is.  Also, I had been riding in close contacts, so my appreciation/awareness for the subtle differences in new dressage saddles was not exactly heightened.  Oh, and then there's the dilemma of riding in and loving the BO's Custom for the last 4 months. 

All factors that were adding up so a slightly anxious feeling about having dropped tons of cash on a saddle I hadn't even looked at in 4 months.  Oh, yeah... on a saddle I hadn't seen in 4 months AND that Prestige modified after my fitting.   On paper I was pretty convinced there was no way I would feel good about this decision.

Until I got on. And just sank into it.  And just felt my leg drop right into line.  And felt my shoulders draw back more easily than they have been, and P moved forward, nicely, and with more shoulder freedom.

The rest of our lesson was really sticky and irritating.  But whenever we dropped back to basic trot work, P was moving better than she has in a while.  Probably partially because of her body work, and partially because of the saddle, and probably more than a little bit because my balance was more centered and anchored than I've felt in a while.

I'm calling it a win. And so far I love my weird moder-sculpture-looking new saddle. 

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Snacking on Snowballs

In theory I had a lesson scheduled for Monday and Tuesday, but the snow and ice means that The Boy and have been carpooling (his little Smart Car not so much in the weather), and while he doesn't mind stopping for loving pat at the barn, making him sit/stand in the cold for 3 hours while I grooooooomm, and warm uuuuuuup and riiiiiiide then groooooooooom again, seems sorta like taking advantage of his otherwise very tolerant willingness to stop by the barn on occasion...

Monday, we decided to brave the roads to the barn for a simple pat, blankie change and to let P stretch her legs a bit.  The BO assured me that she had been snoozing under cover in her shed, but when I showed up the mare was fully in the snow, gathering accumulations on her back and making her neck all soggy.
Uhhhh... World's largest snowflake conveniently blocking my entire face.

I pulled her blankets, picked some snowballs out of her feet and took her to the ring for a game of tag.  The Boy helpfully offered her a snowball treat, which Pia was significantly more interested in than would have imagined.  I mean, she doesn't like plain sugar, doesn't like horse cookies, prefers mints and weird candy like twizzlers... but snow? apparently THAT is delicious.
Crunch, crunch crunch...

After her snack, she willingly popped around the ring and played for a bit.  Her trot looks A-MA-ZING.  Seriously, might be in love with the weird Rolf voodoo... It's easy to tell that she's using her right hind a lot more than she was... interesting stuff.

In true non-girl-scout preparedness, I was in my not-so-insulated rain boots, and left the running and chasing to The Boy, while I stood by the gate and watched fairly amusedly .
Chasing... More exercise than I was interested in at the time...

After some antics, we pulled the mare back in, groomed her up, shoved her full of peppermints and left her bundled up for the night.  She was not all that thrilled with the snow (aside from eating it), but I think that she's enjoying her winter wonderland.

A big storm over in Sun Valley meant that we canceled our plans to fly out today... Instead, we'll hunker down at home, see the grandma and attempt to go cut down a Christmas Tree.

P continues to get some time off.. but hopefully the beast will be back to work this weekend!

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone.. Stay warm and stay Thankful.


G & P

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Winter Storms

I am getting desperately behind schedule in my posts and there's a distinct possibility that I've already forgotten the "helpful" details of late last week, but there's a good reason for that.

Namely, a 50mph good reason for it, and a semi-disasterous trip to my ever peaceful, "happy-place," cabin.

Usually I adore the cabin in the winter.  We just hunker down with a big fire in the wood stove and play cards or cook or read the days away. Adventuring across the harbor to town for some beers or a last minute grocery shop feels like a full on expedition, and every day is capped off with a nice toasty hot tub before bed.  It's sublime.

Instead of "wintery" we arrived to a full fledged winter storm.  Complete with small craft advisories (which our boat fully qualifies for) and some intense rip tides courtesy of a full-ish moon.  It was bitterly cold and the cold was joined by driving slushy snow and destructive winds....  I woke up Saturday to crashing waves, which (more specifically) had ripped the boat OFF the dock and were sending said boat crashing into the pier/ramp/rocks. 

Me being the brilliant morning person that I am, I decided to desperately rouse The Boy and scramble down to the dock, scamper across the (half sunken) ramp that was shoved off the dock itself, and hop INTO the crazy crashing boat that was swamped with multiple feet of water. 

It was sorta my own private Titanic moment, minus the exquisite evening gown, but hey, I do what I do.

What followed was a panicked (and in retrospect, exceptionally dangerous), boat rescue which involved some falls, slips in the water, screaming, and frenzied engine repair.  Attempting to start a finicky outboard motor in sub-freezing temps in 6 foot waves without proper outwear (or a bra, dammit), was... in fact, a poor choice.

We did manage to get the boat away from the crazy dock, to a safe harbor and home before extreme hypothermia set in, but dear god.  what a morning.

After that we battened down the hatches and just sorta settled in for some serious fires in the stove, viscous hands of cards and of course, homemade brownies..
The storm continued to rage, and I'm sorta mad at myself for not taking some great photos of the waves and current, but here's a shot after we (sorta) got the ramp out of the water and the waves (sorta) died down... 

Also, since the wind was snapping and cracking the big trees.  Miss Maisy decided that she was no longer interested in vacation and was very eager to return home, which she displayed by packing herself back into her carrying bag.... what a princess...

Pia had the weekend off.  We had a great ride Thursday (pretty loose), and Friday she got her first "rolf" session at the barn.  That warrants it's own post, but I really enjoyed watching the bodywork session, and her movement responding wonderfully.  The practitioner had lots of interesting observations and even some thoughts on P's funny right hind. 

Now we sit and stare at the 1" of snow that is currently paralyzing the city.  Seattle is notorious for shutting down on minimal snow, but mostly that's because everything melts/freezes so crazily, that we end up with a perfect sheet of ice on everything instead of crunchy snow..  In fact, I never made it home from the barn last night (another poor judgment call) and instead crashed my my folks place just outside the city...

Hope everyone is staying warm!!

Monday, November 22, 2010

For the Love of Mares (and Denali)

As I watch the snow fall (and pile) outside my office window, it's easy to think about the calm, restful quiet of the season and the muffled sounds of the barn when winter takes hold.

I haven't seen my mare since Friday, and I'm itching to race to the barn and warm my hands under her blanket which makes me stop, pause and think about why I've been so stressed out about our difficulties under saddle.

Of course I would love to have a ragingly loyal competition horse, one that allowed me to trailer her all over the place and show people just how amazing she is.  But on a frosty day like this one, it's a little easier to remember that showing isn't why I got Miss Pia, and it isn't what drives my early morning rides, late night grooming, or religious daily check-in on tackoftheday.com.

What drives me, and my time and my energy (and let's be honest - my hard earned $$$) is the simple, joyful love of feeling the mare's breath in my ear or her muzzle on my shoulder.

It's that thought that makes me pause, and consider the blessing and happiness that our animals bring us, and it reminds me to cherish every moment of it.  If you don't already follow her, Denali's Mom is working through the ebb and flow of our commitment to our animals.

We all know what's coming when we welcome them into our lives, but rarely means that we are prepared to face it head on.  DM's struggle hits particularly close to home since I got a taste of the "end game" options for P when we were attempting to diagnose and understand her own neurological issues.  The thought of Pia losing her ability to be a horse was a heartbreaking one, and possibly the most difficult scenario for me to deal with.

I know that I could ramble about the "couldda beens" and "maybes" all day.  Instead, I simple hang my humble head thankfully that P is there for my kisses, and send my love and support to DM.

Hug your horses, and remember why we share our lives with them.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Hormones? Back to the drawing board...

Okie Dokie.  I am officially, and without a doubt absolutely baffled by my mare.

Miss Pia was a lover last night.  She was sleepy and soft and super quiet. I think I skipped it in my (abbreviated) update yesterday, but the last couple days, she's been exceptionally accepting of nearly everything, particularly currying her girth area and increased leg pressure during our rides.

Both Tuesday and Wednesday I was able to curry/rub/bother her girth area as MUCH as I wanted to without so much as a pinned ear.  Add to that the fact that I have been able to wrap my legs around the mare with no objection and I've been pretty pleased.

The trend continued last night, but with one distinct addition.  *winking*

Lots of drippy, gross, mare-love winking.

I checked my calendar.  Our last "difficult" rides were November 1st through the 4th.  She was EXCELLENT the last week of October, and that was when we had some of our best rides...

So, it makes sense that she's winking and being a total hussy.  It's been 15 days since her last difficult ride, which makes sense, that would account for a 15 day Diestrus period.  What doesn't make a crap ton of sense to me is why she would be in flaming winking heat, AND being an absolute lover.

I have heard tell of mares who are ok in Estrus until the actual follicle passes, which is what makes them mare-wolves, but most random experiences/articles/info that I can find say that typically, as soon as mares start the squat-pee and winking moves, you see them act uncomfortable in the cross ties, get cranky about grooming, and become she-devils under saddle..

I guess the magnifying glass is on.  The mare is clearly in heat.  (apparently NO ONE TOLD HER ITS WINTER).  The mare is clearly being good.  And the mare is behaving calmly and acting more comfy about my general fussing over her than normal.

So.  Which will it be? Will Pia throw my primary hypothesis (hormones make her crazy-crazy) for a loop?  Or will her behavior switch like a flip for the last few days of Estrus when the follicle actually passes?

I suppose only time will tell, but I do feel like there should be a betting pool on this one.

For those of the scientific inclination, here's where we stand with our variables:

Pia is back to her normal feed amount (after dropping 2 inches in a week) with increased hay.
She is still living outside full time.
She is being ridden in all the same tack and on the same 6 days a week schedule.

So, right now her "housing" is the only variable that has really changed, well that and (presumably) her hormone levels... but this week might help determine their factor in all of this.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Monday = decent. Tuesday = better

Well, it's officially November here in the blustery northwest.  Yes I realize it's been November for going on two weeks now, but given the weird shot of warmth and sunshine and our pretty decent weather patterns, the raging wind storm that fianlly blew into town finally caught my brain up to the calendar.

Monday was a rager.  By the time I was driving to the barn, the leaves/pine needles/debris that was being shaken loose form the trees literally looked like snow, and I ended up dodging fallen branches for a majority of my ride out to the barn.  Couple the crisp, blowing air with P's two days off and I showed up to find a bug-eyed puffing monster mare.  I let her trot around the ring on her own for a bit, and she wasn't too amped up, but she was snorting at every wind gust as though she was taking extreme offense.

I wasn't counting on a lesson, but P was being pretty good and the BO was there so we went for it.  Just to take the edge off we ended up giving her the world's tiniest dose of Ace, which probably did more for my piece of mind than P's.

I could tell she really hadn't had much of a cocktail since she stayed light in the bridle and wasn't steam rolling into the ground like she has before when moderately medicated... Ultimately it was a decent ride.  We stayed pretty relaxed, only a couple moments of stickiness and our lateral work was decent.  We made a first attempt at some half passes (via the shoulder-in, add haunches, float sideways method), but it wasn't super productive.  P was great with the leg yields, and accepting of shoulder in, but add in the haunches was downright mindblowing.  She did ok, but I was definitely confusing her so we didn't stay on that move for long.

(Ok, I just escaped from a 7 hour Manager Meeting, and really want to get to the barn, which is going to make the rest of this update somewhat... er... abbreviated)

Monday = decent. 
slight cocktail, good work, no big fights.  Pia got new mints.  She likes them

Tuesday = better.
less wind.  I popped her into the ring right before her big handsome boyfriend/cousin (another Wishes and Dreams) came in the ring.  She swooned.  He swooned. 
We did nice stretchy trot... he did half passes and canter extensions.  I'm pretty sure we actually had our face in FRONT of the vertical the entire ride. (YAY)
We had our nose on the ground (yessssss)
BUT we also were very cranky about every single walk/trot transition (fail) 

That's it.  Off to the barn. 

Hopefully Wednesday = more better.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

How to Ride a Pony!

This is from a fun online comic The Oatmeal.  He has a few horsey comics.. but I do enjoy this:  Also, when P is being downright difficult, I think that sometimes I should take a step back and make sure that she is in fact, a pony.  And not some lion/monster.  :)

Monday, November 15, 2010

Weekend Adventures..

Holy Wow.  The weekend was oddly productive, traumatic, interesting, and finally... somewhat relaxing.

I guess I should start with Friday, since it was our first ride post-Cowboy-Man (PCBM).

Friday, I sorta played hooky and went with my dad (/boss) up to our cabin in the San Juans.  The cabin (as I usually recount) is my happy place, partially because its so isolated, but that isolation makes repairs and projects significantly more difficult to execute.  Which is why we were going up... We had recently replaced our septic tank (another fine product offered by our family biz..) and it still needed some love, so up we went, on a gorgeous sunny Friday for some "hands on experience."

We had a very successful trip, accomplished our tasks, rewired the pump, back filled the tank and I even measured for some new curtains for the master bedroom and the bad-kids-room.  We were back in town, with fresh clam chowder in hand in time to catch an afternoon ferry home so that I could still make it to the barn for a lesson. 

Our lesson was good.  P came out nicely PCBM, and aside from being a little hyper seemed to be in a good head space.  She was softer in the poll than she usually is, but was in racehorse mode and just wanted to ZIP around the ring.  I spent most of the time attempting a western jog and settling for a speedy working trot, but we got some decent transitions, ok bending, and managed to avoid any big fights in the process.  Good ride.  It was also the sixth day in a row the mare had been worked, so it was nice to see that her mental space was staying mostly positive!

Saturday started off with a fit of productivity as it saw me and The Boy out of bed by 6:30 in order to get fed, caffeinated and to the truck/trailer in time to hitch up, warm up and haul up to Denali's Mom's barn to fetch Miss D for her ride to the Spaaaaa(/vet). 

I've said it before, but somehow the fun excitement/rush of trailering early in the morning for shows has stayed with me, so even if I'm not going to a show (or even hauling my horse...) checking over the trailer, double checking brakes, lights and everything else still elicits the same general happiness as it did when I was 12 and my pony was groomed within an inch of her life. 

It was great to see D's Mom, and Miss D herself, all snazzed up and ready for her adventure.  Miss mare was excellent and loaded like a dream.  In fact, some frantic whinneying was the only sign that she wasn't totally thrilled with life away from the barn, but she hauled smoothly and got the the vet'sin one piece. 

There was some significant drama at that point, but it's not my story so share, so I'll leave the details of our dropoff to D's Mom when she's ready. :)

After The Boy and I outlived our usefulness at the vet's we ambled back into the trailer and took off in search of brunch.  After a couple of fails (long waits, difficult parking with the big rig and trailer..) we stumbled into a pancake house, stuffed our faces and warmed up a bit.  Since we were out by the barn already, I graciously asked The Boy to accompany me to visit the mare for some pats and love time, which he graciously agreed to.

We had a great time.  Miss P was all sorts of entertaining and playful so we threw her in the ring and played tag for about 20 minutes.  2 on 1 wasn't totally fair (The Boy was on my team), but I figure realistically it was 4 legs against 4 legs... so that's almost even...

P was adorable.  She got all huffy and sweaty.  The Boy got his exercise for the day, and I was THOROUGHLY entertained by all the antics.  After P got plenty of brushings (note to self, teach Boy how to properly use a curry comb), treats, and pats, we snuggled her back up in her blankets and set off to put the trailer away. 

Somewhere on our ride home I got motivated to SCRUB the trailer clean, so I got all suited up in the Boy's raingear, outfitted with the pressure washer and Went. To. Town.

We pulled the mats out, cleaned the floor, cleaned the mats, sprayed the inside, the outside, the bottom and the top.  I know that my mom's derives  intense joy from vaccuming, but apparently I derive intense joy from a supremely clean trailer.  Wow.  Just the thought of all my mats perfectly black and clean makes me smile.  I'm certain that it isn't a normal response, but oh well...
 Going to town... and attempting to NOT blast manure water in my face...
The final product... LOVE
It's the simple pleasures... I mean, it looks NEW

Afterward, we stayed at the shop and I helped The Boy with his hobby (really cool furniture).  Specifically we worked on a dining room table he's making out of some salvaged doors for a really impressive women's shelter that's being built.  He's a star.

Sunday was a recovery day.  Lots of walking around our city and sampling variations of french onion soup, which apparently is a staple of my fall/winter diet. 

For now, back to the grind.  But at least I know I have a rested Mare, a sparkling clean trailer and a new episode of Glee coming up tomorrow...

Cowboy Up (then down)

It's really too bad that I waited three days to post an update, because all of the super entertaining, mildly hysterical details have blurred in my brain and they were certainly worth repeating.

Basically, after my semi-frustrating-solo-ride on Wednesday, I was really looking forward to a lesson on Thursday to at least keep my own issues in check and give Pia a fighting chance at being a good girl.  I checked my email between meetings and one popped up from the BO saying that another girl at the barn was having a "Cowboy" out to take a look at her boy and wanted to know if I wanted him to take a gander at miss P as well..

Realistically, I'm all for additional opinions/perspectives so I agreed and said I'd be out there whenever this dude was supposed to show up.  Since we never heard back I just headed out to the barn for my regular lesson and sorta put the cowboy shenanigans on the back burner.  Of course, as luck would have it I was just tacking the mare up when cowboy-man walked in and sorta threw a wrench in the works.  I have been trying to think how to effectively communicate what this guy was like, and so far as my boyfriend, my dad, my friends can attest... I've failed.

Essentially what I met was this:
A large, LOUD gentleman in sandblasted jeans form the 90's, airwalk sneakers and some beachy/blond hair.

He knew his shit, and was certainly comfortable voicing his opinion, but he put me off when he started speaking in absolutes.  (for me, horses are one of those areas where the old saying "the more you know, the less you think you know" is very, very true.  Almost every trainer/owner/breeder/rider who I respect, will share their opinions with you but is usually reticent to offer a final answer sort of verdict.).  This dude was certain that he had Pia sized up from the first 30 seconds.  Add to that the fact that my creep-factor radar was off the charts and I was leeeeerrrrry to say the least.

Regardless his instant-whisperer judgment was that Pia is "in extreme pain."  This because she was in one of her weird cross-tie poses, and because she pinned her ears when he touched her back.

Note:  a) Pia doesn't like most boys.  b) she pins her ears if she doesn't like you. c) he was loud and offensive, and if I had ears when he tried to touch me, I would have pinned them.

I tried to explain that she doesn't always do that, and demonstrated by touching her in the exact same spot with no ear pinning effect, but he was already on to how crippled she is by her feet.  He essentially gasped in pain and exclaimed that she "has no heel," is "standing unbalanced" and "good god what have I done to her."

This is where my experience in a very bombastic, male-dominated industry came in handy as I was able to bite my tongue (and quite literally my cheek) to ask what exactly he was referencing.  I can't even remember, but he obviously doesn't enjoy a barefoot trim, with cute little rounded hooves.  I do think there are some issues to be addressed, but I don't think they are crippling her, causing pain or otherwise damaging her ability to live a normal life.

After some awkward interactions, we decided that I would proceed with my normal lesson and he would observe, then if he had any comments or saw anything that he wanted to address, we could discuss it and possibly schedule a future session.

So I tacked up, got Miss P all ready and headed to the ring.  She was a gem.  Loose on the lunge line, calm under saddle for our walking, and showed her typical refusal to go forward in the trot.  After about 15 minutes of spectating, Cowboy-Man just couldn't sit on his hands any longer and moved to hover around the BO in the middle of the ring.  Their side conversation finally got in the way of my lesson and I just halted and waited for their stilted discussion to come to an end.

Finally, Cowboy-Man walked up to me and asked if I would mind if he got on.

uhhhhhh. kinda. but whatever.

So I dismounted, handed her over (got a lecture on my running martingale and how its "ruining my communication with P.."  Thanks dude, but as long as the bucks are around, the martingale is staying) and stepped back to watch.

Credit Where Credit is Due:

The guy had a lovely seat.  He was soft, assertive but not aggressive, and really did get P working nicely and moving out more than I usually do

The Annoyances:

He. Wouldn't. Shut. Up.  Ever.
Seriously, the guy was rambling non stop about how fantastic he is, how P needed to use her ass (come on girl, with a backside like yours...) and blah blah blah.

The Entertainment:

Yes he got P moving, but yes she pulled the same crap.  She stopped, refused to trot and bit his foot (lol). She also kicked out at his leg quite a bit, and he got one good buck in the canter (yee-haw!)

The Sketch-Factor:

First of all, he was basically doing tight roll backs to get her bending, and had her nose pulled around to his knee during a chunk of it.  for one thing it made me uncomfortable, but mostly I worry about tight maneuvers like that with the Wobblers.  It might be unfounded, but still

Secondly, as soon as P pulled her "stop-no-trot" move on him, he decided that her issues was "100% attitude" and not at all her painful back or crippled feet.  While I respect his ability to modify his opinion, it didn't engender any confidence in his theories or opinions.

Also, he said he just wanted to feel her move for a few laps, but 30 minutes later he handed me a lathered, panting mare.

All in all, I appreciated the day.  He didn't come up with any magic theories that we didn't already know, although he did work through them in a slightly different fashion.  One thing I did take away was that he said Pis seems to blame me for her discomfort (when she's all curled and jammed up) but really, she's the one who puts herself there, so the focus needs to be on getting her long and low so that she breaks that association.. I think there's some merit in that.

Cowboy-Man made a return trip the following day to look at some of the other horses, but ended up being asked to leave the property for intense sketchiness and bizarre behavior.

Oh well.  I guess he isn't our long term solution, but I suppose I already knew that. :)

Friday, November 12, 2010

Dressage Bully

I want this thing.  This is adorable. 

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Duck, Duck, Goose! (kick)

Last night was a quiet ride.  P was pretty much the same as Tuesday.  She stayed pretty quiet, still quite a bit of tension, but nothing tragic, and certainly nothing that interferred with our ability to school our regular stuff.  We walked, we trotted, we cantered.  Only one buck, this time at the trot when I got after her for ducking (extra bad) behind the vertical.

My biggest struggle with the ride was keeping her up and in front of my leg.  She was really curling behind the bit, but was still forward so I was playing the balancing act of more leg/slow down and balance.  She was really rushed and on her forehand BUT, we were moving forward, and we were (mostly) not bucking which is a nice step and I need to be better about acknowledging that.

I had the barn to myself last night, which happens just enough that I enjoy it, and not so often that I get bored.  So I threw the video camera up, and (of course) didn't get nearly as nice footage as I wanted, but in the spirit of sharing our shortcomings, I'll throw another clip up.

I let P run around the ring again.  She didn't have much steam to burn off so we played a nice game of tag.  I'd chase her, then stop, turn and run and she'd come skittering after me.  Then I'd stop, turn and waggle my arms at her chasing her away again.  I think she enjoyed it.  Lots of snorting and head tossing.  She is pretty damn cute when she wants to be....

We had a quick lunge, and she was above average, so I was pretty hopefully about our ride.  In fairness, she was pretty good.  She didn't balk in her trot transitions at all (good mare!! SUGAR), and she was immediately willing to trot forward.  Still tight, still holding her back, but better than two weeks ago. 

I think last night, I was the one to blame.  I felt myself get frustrated and I really wanted to "go-to" some sharp kicks and rein jabs when she was totally tuning me out.  I was sorta disappointed with myself for that.  I was being a chicken about supporting her with my left leg (regardless of the direction) and I was enabling her "curl" with my hand.  Last night reinforced the fact that my patience is still a little damaged.  I don't trust that Pia will meet me halfway, so I'm preemptively being a snot to her.  I can't imagine that is a good long term solution, and it's something I know I need to get over.

Essentially, I indulged in my bad habits (long reins, took my leg off, pumped my shoulders, over corrected...).  This is why I still need lessons on a (very) regular basis.  That, or some sort of mental reset button so that my frustrations don't leak out into Pia's brain. 

For all of those retrospective faults of mine, P put in a good show.  She didn't kick ONCE in a canter transition (YAY!), and the crappy ones were my fault.  I really need to set her up better to the right...

Our leg yields were pretty good.  She kept me honest, when I wasn't supporting her, she just fell out to the side, when I did support her she lifted an crossed over nicely.  Same with our lengthenings:

Support = nice push and stretch.
No Support = diving on forehand and rushing

A pretty good push in her lengthening when I ask right...
(Sorry for the blur.  zooming in on this video is sorta tragic)

She never really softened to the right, something which I started picking on a little too late in the ride to get any good results.  But all in all.  We rode on our own, barely spooked at three scarrrrrry cars as they came down the driveway, and we deserved lots of sugar.

Clearly I am the one who needs to step up their game a little.  :)

Here's a clip of a couple leg yields and one lengthening I think.  It's not our best one, but it was the first one I found to make a clip of.  You can definitely see when I'm riding correctly and when I'm not.  P is not subtle about her intolerance of sub-par horsemanship.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Gimme Some Suga'

I'm typing this with my tea (still) firmly affixed to my left hand, but I am happy to report that I did in fact ride last night, which (between some minor coughing fits) probably helped my overall health, as ponies usually do.

While I tacked up the queen bee, the BO was giving me a rundown on her weekend one on one with the mare.  Mostly good, a few sticky spots (Friday bad, Saturday ok, Monday pretty good!) as well as recapping what her farrier had said about P's funny right hind hoof.  My barefoot trimmer suggested getting a good farrier's opinion since she wears it so unevenly, just to hear another perspective.

Farrier thinks he can help her out with a shoe (they always do), but that she doesn't have much to nail to (maybe glue-ons?).  P did just get trimmed, but her feet are looking FANTASTIC.  Rock hard, self trimming her rolled edges and generally gorgeous, with the one exception of her funny right hind that is squishing itself off to one side...   Anyway, the big question is whether or not it's wearing weird because something is funny "up the line," which would mean that a shoe would stop the wear pattern, but shove the imbalance up into a joint...   OR if the unevenness is exacerbating a slightly off weight distribution, and when it wears funny it could be increasing stress on a joint.

I don't have the training or the eye to determine which is cause and which is effect, but I'm starting to pursue options and just think about different ways to approach it in the future.  No rash decisions being made, but I'm keeping my eye on that foot...

Back to the ride - When I grabbed P's bridle I noticed that her flash had a shiny residue on it, and upon further inspection that the shiny residue was...sticky.... and also... sweet.

"huh." says I.  "what the heck is this from."

"ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh." says the BO "that's probably from the sugar."

Right, right... that makes sense.  Wait.... no it doesn't.  From the sugar??

Apparently, this weekend the BO went back to the basics of operant conditioning and started reinforcing P's good decisions and behavior with sugar cubes.  On the ground.... on the lunge.... under saddle.  Sugar Cubes.  And lots of them.

This, as you can imagine, turned P's normal slobber into a sugary, frosted glaze. Which has in turn, candied my bridle. (charming).

At first I was a little taken aback.  For one thing, I've never successfully seen the mare eat a sugar cube.  Normally she just spits them out in favor of things like mints, twizzlers or skittles, so I was surprised that she was actually accepting plain 'ol sugar cubes.  (though maybe she's just hungry after I axed her yummy grain ration).  The other surprise was the fact that the BO is generally a very low-treat person.  She doesn't feed her horses treats, and typically encourages a "limited treat environment" so as to minimize the obnoxious begging, mouthiness and naughtiness that comes with too many ponies who expect too many treats.

Put these together and you get one very confused girl watching a veritable Treat-Scrooge shoving sugar cubes into a Treat-Foodie's mouth.  But you know what? If it works, it works! Who am I to judge.  I did however de-glaze the flash noseband before we headed out to the ring.. just on principle...

P was a little hyper/unfocused when we got to the ring.  Her ears were everywhere but on me, so I ripped off the side reins and let her buck around the arena for a few minutes.  When she approached me in the center, I patted her (gave her a sugar) and started back with the lunging.  She was much softer, much quieter, and much more focused on the line.  After about ten minutes, I felt like I had a good control and (most) of her attention so we pulled up and I hopped on. 

BO informed me that every time she was good, or made a good choice in a sticky situation, she got a sugar.  So she did.  Our walk was good, a touch anxious, but more relaxed than it has been recently so that was a win.  When I asked for the trot and she moved forward without any objection, she got a TON of praise and then, you guessed it, a sugar.  We worked our canter right away and I only got one buck in one transition.  Otherwise, she was very pleasant with her upward transitions, and mostly balanced (though a few dumpster dives) on her downward transitions.  She got more sugar for light uphill transitions and also for bending as opposed to bracing against my leg and skittering around the circle like a rickety shopping cart.

We popped a few leg yields out, which were decent.  I'm still being a chicken about WRAPPING my legs around her (for fear of a bucking fit), but we made some nice strides.  Thankfully my legs are long, so they are easy to "wrap", and we finally had some awesome, pretty huge half-halts that hinted at some halfsteps.  We zig-zagged our leg yields, with no sign of bucking.  She did grab the bit and dive a few times, but that I can handle.  Finally we did some lengthenings across the diagonal with a brief collection over the center line. 


I know that my standard for "good" has decreased a (metric) ton, but these were pretty nice.  She was up in front of my leg, pushing when I asked, and I even caught a glimpse of her toes snapping out in front in one of the mirrors.  (yay!).  More impressive to me was that on one of our passes when I half-halted hard and squeezed her little guts out with my legs, I felt her lift her back and really sit down on her butt.  It only lasted for two strides, but after she pushed forward again I halted her, praised the crap out of her and then offered up... you guessed it, a sugar.

We ended on that after only about 20 minutes under saddle.  But I was OK with it.  P stayed pretty relaxed (on the relative Pia scale) and really offered no major objections that constitute marewolf status.  So that's a win.  I'm still riding a bit timidly, but all in all, this is a massive improvement from the meltdown we had.

Things that have changed:

Her food (less of her rice bran and envision, more hay)
Her "house" (she's outside 24/7 with a shelter instead of in her cozy stall and run)
Her reward (Sugar. Lots of sugar.)

So, who knows.  I'm a little nervous about her weight with both the outside (colder) and food (less) variables.  I'm not worrying about it yet, but if she drops weight suddenly, it's going to be hard to pack on the pounds in the dead of winter.... Ugh.  Oh well.  I think if she stays sane for a few weeks I'm going to slowly up her feed a bit again and see what happens.

Pia has figured out that sugar cubes come from hands.  And that all hands require inspection...

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

What The Cuss.

Typically, I pride myself on having an incredibly in tact immune system.   I get a bad cold once a year and maybe, maybe  some sniffles at some other season change - But I don't get the flu (this is a FACT), and I don't ever get sick otherwise (my stomach is lined with steel, another fact that I test on a regular basis..).

Which leads to the exceptionally confusing situation of me being sick.


What the cuss.

I already had a bad cold.  I already carried my cup of tea around like it was affixed to my hand permanently.  I already took days off from riding to "watch" P get worked by the BO while I inhaled cough drops like they were skittles.

Which makes this current scratchy throat, achy-crap totally unacceptable. (oh, and it also makes me sorta cranky)

So, yet again I will be heading to the barn (finally! it's been 4 days) with my tea affixed to my hand in an attempt to ride.  I already gave the BO a heads up that my brain might explode (along with my back) if P needs a hard ride, but if a soft easy session is in order, I'm up for it.

Waaaah, I'm tired, and cranky, and might have consumed an unhealthy amount of Constant Comment Tea...  But, I get to see the mareface today! Which makes it a pretty good day in my book...

Monday, November 8, 2010

October Wrap-Up & November Goals!

(Note: When I wrote the subject I accidentally wrote "October Wrap-Up & December Goals".  Then I thought to myself "wow, this year is FLYING" which is when I realized that I totally ignored November and that while things are flying by... they aren't flying quite as insanely fast as that...)

So, here's a quick look back at the month of October, which is not particularly inspiring... ugh.

  1. Clean, smooth, regular transitions for WTC. HA.  This. Did. Not. Happen.  While we had some excellent rides with some excellent transitions, we also had some tragic ones that resulted in a semi-permanent kink in my back.  When we nail our transitions, we nail them, but by no means are they 98% consistent.
  2. Ride Bareback. Absolutely not.  Once Marewolf hit full force, I lost my confidence in my trust with the mare and have stayed securely in the saddle since.  But I still like this idea.
  3. Continue with Body Work. Check! we did this! (yay).  P got poked and prodded, though I'm considering having a fully certified chiro out or possibly having a Rolf practitioner come out..
  4. Trailer Off Property. Nope.  I knew I was too busy for this, but I didn't even ride off property down the road. P's Marewolf episode had me fearing for the lack of some arena walls to contain the fits.  Though I think that it's possible that we are getting closer to me being comfortable in an unconstrained setting again.
  5. Pencil Out a Horsey Budget for 2011.  Uhhhh, nope.  I got a binder, and I even gathered up all my receipts, but I have yet to organize them beyond that or set a firm budget for 2011.  I think I should still do this though.
For November, I'm dialing back the expectations.  Though the BO said that miss P behaved herself (mostly) this weekend, so maybe we're on an upswing again. :)

November Goals:
  1. Clean, smooth, regular transitions for WTC. HA.  This. Did. Not. Happen.  While we had some excellent rides with some excellent transitions, we also had some tragic ones that resulted in a semi-permanent kink in my back.  When we nail our transitions, we nail them, but by no means are they 98% consistent.
  2.  Pencil Out a Horsey Budget for 2011.  Uhhhh, nope.  I got a binder, and I even gathered up all my receipts, but I have yet to organize them beyond that or set a firm budget for 2011.  I think I should still do this though.
  3. Get 4 good rides in a row. I don't want to set expectations SUPER high, but building our consistency back up is someting to start with.  by "good ride" I mean, no massive bucking, screaming or general freaking out.  Shoot for the stars, right?
  4. Get my SADDLE.  I don't really have any control over this, but I'm REALLLLLLY hoping we have a saddle in our hands before the month end.  I'm writing it down just in case somehow putting this thought in the ether will impact the outcome.
  5. Consult with a farrier. My trimmer suggested that I ask a farrier about her funny hind foot and get their opinion as to whether or not shoes might help the uneven wear pattern.  It's possible she's jut "crushing" her foot, which means a shoe wouldn't necessarily solve it, but maybe not.  I really, really, want to keep her barefoot, but if I must, I must.  Just need more info... 
That's all I can think of... maybe I'll add more later!

Friday, November 5, 2010

38,000 feet

38,000 feet offers a good perspective. Perspective on my thoughts/frustrations. Perspective on how damn lucky I am (great horse, great guy, great family, great friends to travel with..) and the obvious perspective on the landscape waaaaaay below me.

I definitely have the privilege (and sometime curse) of traveling more than the average bear, but I find that often I have the most clarifying internal conversations when I'm settled into my favorite seat (15F if I'm flying commercial, right seat of the cockpit if I'm with dad..). Maybe it's the hum of the engines, or the fact that I'm often flipping through a crappy tabloid (an indulgence when I fly) or the fact that I'm oddly paranoid about draining my phone battery so I deprive myself of my usual music and games as distractions... Whatever the reason, my brain always settles into a happy thoughtful mulling session. So today's flight finds me continuing my analysis of miss p.

Last night we had another lesson which was what the BO calls. 'love ride' - where the only goal is to get the mare on our side and happy.

We got off to a good start, p was quiet in the crossties and calm on the lunge. Unlike Wednesday, her ears were soft and she kept one on me about 70% of the time which is pretty much as good as it gets. Pia even respected the circle and stayed wide the whole time, happily maintaining a round circle and happily listening to my verbal half halts. We worked for about 15 minutes, without any tension start to finish. All of her transitions were calm and prompt, no fussing, no bucking, no yelling or yanking required.

Needless to say, I got on feeling fairly optimistic about our ride. P walked off nicely and worked well between my aids during our walking. Her soft ears stayed with us and her tempo was much slower and more relaxed than the last few days.

But all those good signs stopped there and failed to follow us into the trot. As soon as i asked for the trot we got the same stinky resistance that was in the video. Same chest-biting-sideways-flying evasion...

Which is when we tried a new trick - instead of me whacking her with the whip and continuing my kicks, after two nice asks for the trot, I popped off, hit the ground and smacked her across the butt. Then I hopped back on, got our walk and would ask for the trot.

Pia being a clever girl, moved right up into the trot without a fuss. (good mare). We kept working our walk/trot transitions to solidify the moral of the story and I only had to pop off twice more to reinforce my 'requests' before p stopped the crap all together and stayed forward.

It's not a long term solution (I don't want her fearful of me dismounting), but it was exceptionally effective yesterday.

The rest of our ride was easy.. canter, leg yields, shoulder in and some centerline halts. P was pretty good, not great, but much more relaxed than Wednesday and she was willing to engage her hind end a bit. (that tight shuffley trot is what she used to alllllways look like before the wobblers diagnosis and vitamin e..).

I have to take some of the blame as I was riding really timidly and stiffly somewhat from a place of reduced confidence. It's an unusual feeling for me, and one that I hope goes away soon :)

All in all a decent ride. We forgot to bute her, so I'm eliminating a low grade pain or soreness as a primary factor in her disobedience for now. I'm thinking its more mental stress, which was probably helped by her hard workout Wednesday, spending the night outside, and hopefully an increased effect once she's on a lowered food schedule for a bit.

We shall see. As my own hormones chill out for the month I'm feeling less pressured and anxious about solving this current puzzle.

And as our wheels touch down in the desert, I'm feeling pretty damn good about the next two days of relaxing, reading and dancing my butt off with good old friends from far and wide.

Forgive the choppiness... I'm attempting a post from the phone again.. Happy Fridays!!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Experiment Begins... (again)

It was a STUNNER of a day up in Seattle yesterday.  My car claimed it was 77 degrees, but I think that it was just excited, since everyone else seemed to agree it was 70, maybe 71... Regardless, it was lovely.  There was a warm breeze, some of the leaves are still clinging to the trees and all the mountains were crystal clear.  Not a bad day for a ride..

Between the weather and my newly written down battle plan (writing things down makes this girl feel so much more organized..) I arrived to the barn in a much better state of mind than I've been in the last couple of days. 
Of course then, in a move that would make every single one of my professors cringe/cry/punch me, I (the ever effective scientist) decided to ignore good procedure, indulge emotion and instead of focusing on just one item at a time, I decided to change just about everything all at once. (yaaaaay)

What do I mean? Wellll, instead of isolating variables so that I could possibly know what changes brought about what changes, now I made a mess of things, so should something positive happen, I might have to attirubte Pia's behavior change to my socks, or the radio station that was on, or something else absurd like the fact that I forgot my barn boots, so in order to save my still-blistered-feet from extra time in the Konigs, I got to wear these while tacking up... classy, I know..

(Breeches and heels... Thank god the barn was empty... I don't think I would have heard the end of it otherwise...)

Anyway, since the barn was empty, I picked P's feet and tossed her into the ring to bounce around.  I only chased her for about 15 minutes, but it was enough to get two bucks, a light sweat, and some energy out. The BO had left a note that Pia got bute at 3pm... and as far as I could tell, she was moving exactly the same.  No big changes anyway (so that's good?)

After our grooming/tacking session (in our heels), I wasn't going to lunge her prior to getting on, as the mare was fairly sleepy in the crossties and had her fun in the ring already, but right as I was adjusting my stirrups, P cause a glimpse of the BO's husband dutifully spraying for weeds in the driveway and she flipped out.  We were in the corner of the ring where the mounting block, stools, manure bucket and radio are... so her scrambling around trying to get out ended up tossing everyone over, scraping the walls and generally creating a much larger scene than necessary. 

End result? one very hyped up, very excited Pia horse.  Overfed and spooky? Maybe...

Since Pia was still snorting fire, I decided to throw her on the lunge and at least get her a bit focused.  This was laughable, and after about 5 minutes of her ZOOOOOMING around me in a 5 meter circle (idiot), I handed her off to the BO who was significantly less irritated or emotional about it all to calmly address her energy/focus issues. 

Ultimately this was a good decision, though I felt like I was in timeout as I was sitting on a stool in the corner (after I picked it back up) while Pia continued to zoom in circles and do about a ga-zillion transitions in order to focus. 

30 minutes later, the mare was showing some semblance of focus, and the BO asked if I wanted to get on, or call it a day at that. 

Duh, I wanted to get on.  But I did not want to get bucked around. 

We both agreed that getting a few minutes of non-bucky walk and trot would be a good thing, so we went for it. 

After wiggling around at the walk for about 5 minutes, we went for the trot, and got a series of objections (not weird). The standard, refuse to go forward, bite chest, be a brat objections... but this time, I caught it on videooooooo

Please know that this is horrifically embarrassing.  a) I look like crap, b) I'm posting a video of my horse blatently being a brat, and c) I don't have anything to follow it up with that redeems either of us.

My only hope is that someday, when we're breezing around the dressage ring, I will look back at this video and smile at how far we've come. 

Also know that in this "objection" I'm doing everything I can to keep her straight.  When she starts blowing through my leg I attempt to move her off the leg she's ignoring, but most of the sideways is all Pia... Weird.  and frustrating.

We worked for about 15minutes under saddle.  Not much, but the mare had already worked a LOT on the lunge and just running around the ring.  While I was happy that we didn't have a bucking fit, we definitely never got to a loose trot, or even a forward one. 

Here's one more clip of our leg yields.  Realistically, they weren't awful.  She moved off my leg without objecting, but she's still not in front of my leg and not wonderfully balanced.  Still, they were a small bright spot on the day..

Afterward, we did lots of trot/walk transitions to get rid of the stickiness, and called it a day when she had a nice upward transition by the gate (her stickiest spot). Still really frustrating to see her so bottled up after some really nice rides last week.

So, based on our current theories from yesterday here's where I stand:
  • Pain.  Buted her up for the ride.  No real difference.  So hopefully this isn't a kissing spine situation.
  • Overfed.  Cut her fatty foods in half as of yesterday.  We'll see what happens
  • Saddle Fit.  Double checked it, and I still don't see a potential problem, but our Prestige isn't here yet... it SHOULD be here soon.  gosh darn it.
  • Hormones. Easy Mare Gold is on it's way with our next smartpak.  We've tried mare magic, and I didn't see any effect (even on the loading dose), but this seems a little stronger?  Also, I'm upping her Quiessence dosage back to the loading dose to see if that helps take an edge off.
  • Outside. This is new, but the BO and I moved the mare back outside full time.  As long as she's not dropping huge weight from standing in the cold rain, I'll leave her there.  I think this might help.
Today we have another ride before I skidattle for the weekend... Depending on her behavior I'll either have the BO put some rides on her while Iim gone, or give her a few days off to just chill out and be a horse.  

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Battle Plan

OK.  Yet again..

Nothing new yet, but I do have an actual plan of attack for the Piasaurous.

Things I'm currently considering as factors for "The Tantrums"
  • Pain.  Not sure where, there's no obvious soreness, but maybe something is kicking in under saddle that I can't find on the ground.  Solution? Bute-ing her up for a couple days and seeing if anything is masked.
  • Overfed.  I've been slowing amping up her rice bran and envision, both of which have LOTS of cals.  Maybe I'm making her insane. Cutting that back as of tonight and seeing what happens. 
  • Saddle Fit.  Maybe its the saddle? We don't have our built for P saddle yet... (it's coming, I swear!) but we've been using the BO's Custom, which fits really well.  But I'll check again. sigh.
  • Hormones.  I could swear on a stack of bibles that the mare was JUST IN HEAT. but maybe its hormones.  Solution? As soon as the new smart pack gets here, its all Easy-Mare-Gold, all the time. (this should be next week...).  Oh, also, her gelding neighbor just moved across the aisle... so any and all temptation that Ruby presented, is gone now.
I think that's it.  Those are my top priorities.  Today will be the first bute, and hopefully it won't be a magic bullet.  I can only take so many spine problems in one horsey... :)

If she's still a crazy-town mare today and tomorrow, (per SuperMom's suggestion) I'm giving her a few days off, letting her crazy work out (hopefully its food related) and we'll start back up next week. 

Speaking of SuperMom, I had a good chat with her today on brainstorming about Miss P's apparent issues.  It's always helpful to hear her input and always helpful to get some perspective on P's history and where she's been before... All in all good.

But, I did agree (and I will be threatening P) with a visit from her if Pia does get her act together this week.... It's always good to have at least one ace in your pocket, right??

Long story short, I'm headed out tonight for a lesson, it's flipping GORGEOUS out, so I can't wait to be at the barn.  And I'm feeling like I have (at least a short term plan) regarding some possible explanations for this crazy behavior.

Cross you fingers...!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

In *running martingales* we trust v2.0

Well, if nothing else this mare is showing some consistency in my posting threads anyway...

Monday I went out to face the beast and attempt to get back to where we were last week.  I discounted the fact that she had two days off and opted out of lunging again.  Mentally I decided that we'd walk for at least 20 minutes, and not move forward until we were happy and accepting at our "working" walk

I almost didn't even get on, because when I got there, the mare had a HUGE left hind leg. Apparently she cast herself on Saturday, and no one bothered to tell me.  All in all, that's fine, no heat, no lameness, but still - HEART ATTACK when I first saw it.

It reinforced that I didn't want her to go crazytown on the lunge, so I hoped on and crossed my fingers.

Things were good.  We got our walk going GREAT.  she was being mostly good, stayed between my legs, and after about 10 minutes, she was supple and bending nicely.  baby leg yields were a go, 10 meter figure-8's were great.  Splendid.  I started testing her "go" factor by collecting and extending her at the walk, and she wasn't stinky at all.

Then we tried to trot.  TOTAL STINK BOMB. sticking, grumpy, chest bitey.  But as soon as we rounded toward the barn, she perked right up, scooted forward into a happy decent trot.  Ater 5 min she was loose, swinging and working nicely.  Dare I say she even reached for the bit! Her lengthenings were a-w-e-s-o-m-e.  Really nice push, and really nice collection back.  She was light, responsive and had almost no breaks or dumpster diving. 

Then we worked a few leg yields (not awful) and some shoulder in (pretty great!).  We walked, she chilled out, then we picked up our trot again (less stinky than before).  I got her forward and in front of my leg again and was working on getting that soft fluid feeling when she FLIPPED OUT AGAIN.

This was a new move.  This time, we turned the corner (Pia took over), and started a bucking gallop rampage across the diagonal.  (Usually our tantrums at most travel a few strides).  I must say at this point, I damn near fell off.  The mare had her head shoved between her legs (BYE REINS!) and was full on inverted bucking in very gallop stride.  I had visions of my going off over her front, and was just trying to figure out how to "dismount" to the side when I snagged a rein, snagged her head and really got my balance back.  Then my attention turned to how I planned on slowing this steamrolling runaway train enough to not totally-eat-shit-and-die at the rapidly approaching end of the arena. 

Thankfully she tossed her head, I took advantge to get some decent contact and we whirled in a circle just about the time I was preparing to go head first into the mirrors. 


I got some nice kudos from the only other lady in the ring.. Which always feels nice, but I am getting less enthusiastic about "feeling great" about how well I'm riding a bucking monster and having that be the best thing about a ride...

After the fit, we walked (on a loose rein no less) for a few minutes before I attempted the trot.  Mostly I had to locate my phone somewhere in the arena (it LAUNCHED from my pocket during our "diagonal") but I found it, grabbed it (I'm convinced that some day I will end up head first in the mirrors and be desperately calling for help from it..) and got back on for some trotwork.  She was a twit and by no means relaxed.  The other mare left the ring and I felt P starting to really wind up.  I'll freely admit that my neck and back were killing me from getting whipped around and I was shaken up enough to not want try that again.  I barely eeked out some okay circles and promptly called it a day.

I'm frustrated. 

I'm really, really frustrated.  I don't scare easily, but this is starting to unsettle me.  I wasn't phased by her fits that I saw coming.  With those I knew I was picking a fight and I understand her very alpha responses.  These are different.  These are unpredictable, mean, and HUGE.  I don't like them one bit.

Today I went out to meet our barefoot trimmer for a pedicure, and P was all over the place.  Sweet and droopy one second, but even grazing my hand over her sent her into a squealing, kicking seizure.

I had visions of Denali's massage experience and kindly warned my trimmer "uhhh, careful, she's a little kicky today" and crossed my fingers that no one would be decapitated. 

I was supposed to have a lesson after, but P was so uncomfortable in the crossties I just booted her up and turned her loose in the arena to blow some steam off.  She only ran for about 10 mintues before she joined back up with me and we had a great halter-less groundwork session.  There's something super rewarding about a horse following you around the ring, stepping towards and away from you as you move.  I'm glad she was an angel on the ground... made me feel like it isn't all totally useless.  I needed it.

I don't know what to do.  I can't sell her (even if I wanted to), I wouldn't trust very many people on her at this point, I can't tell if she likes her job or not, and I can't figure out what I want out of the deal. Mostly I feel ineffective, cowardly and a little at a loss.  Do I start invesetigating things like Kissing Spine? Rip her ovaries out? beat her senseless? drug the crap out of her?? Send her to a cowboy?

It's been nine months, we're right where we started, and have nothing to show for it aside from $6k in vet bills, two trainers, and a small scar from the one time she did actually get me off.

Did I bite off more than I can chew with this one??

Monday, November 1, 2010

In *running martingales* we trust

Well, as they say, all good thigns must come to an end... and so Friday brought our nice string of relaxed rides to bucking, crashing halt.  Yet again, I owe my intact spinal cord to that lovely forked piece of tack we all know and love - the running martingale.  (mind you I am the only girl at an otherwise dressage only barn, who throws on a brown, raised, martingale for our flat rides.. :) )

Friday was frustrating.  It felt like 18 steps back, and it left me in a bad mood.  I intended to give the mare Saturday off regardless, but I ended up giving her the whole weekend and just keeping my mental space away from the barn.  I didn't really mean to, in fact I spent all day Sunday "planning" on heading to the barn after "one more thing." but I realized about at about 4pm (after a tragic Seahawks loss..) that I was just fooling myself and I really had no intention of riding the mare at all.

All in all it was fine.  Yesterday was as gorgeous as fall gets around here, so The Boy and I headed off for a big walk, found some salad and beer, stumbled into a movie (holy god Secretariat was disappointing..) and walked slowly home.  It was an ideal Sunday, so I really don't feel too guilty about ignoring the pretty Miss Pia.

So.. back to Friday.  Friday was a lesson, one that I had high hopes for after our Wednesday and Thursday rides and their increasing relaxation.  Such was not the case.

I tried to replicate my "good vibes." I mentally committed to a calm session, I opted to walk on a long rein for a long warm up instead of lunge, and I worked hard during our warm up to get her between my aides and reaching for the bit. 

Our work started well.  Good increases/lengthenings.  Decent bend, and some good transitions.  Baby lateral work was ok (shoulder in/haunches in.. both off the rail).  Then we worked our half halts a bit, and reaaallly making them obvious.  Pia was not a huge fan of that exercise, but she got it and was only fussy a couple of times before doing pretty well at it.  P did start hre old tricks.  Diving, refusing to go forward, blowing through my leg, the usual...

But, the wheels really came off the wagon when we started back up after a walk break for some counter canter.  Once again, we never even GOT to the counter canter, because mare-face decided to tie one on about her transitions.  We abandoned the counter canter and just worked a ga-zillion canter departs.  Multiple departs on a circle, simple change on a figure-8, from the walk (!?!) you name it.  She was snotty to the right when we were on the open side of the circle, but in reality we got some decent transitions, both up and down.

Thankfully the weekend of football, beer, and fundraising has clouded my memory, but essentially, Pia threw two MASSIVE fits.  The first, I think was while we were in the canter, but I wasn't asking for much.  Like nothing.  I wasn't getting after her, wasn't asking for a transition, or for her to sit back.. nothing.  She just went bonkers.  Bronc-bucking-hopping-bonkers.  BO made a dart to get out of the way (since we were popping all over the place), and honestly Pia almost got me off.  She didn't, but she tried (again), which pissed me off.  Also infuriating? when I wrestled her to a standstill she was so amped up I couldn't even whap her or kick hard for fear of getting murdered. 

So. I took a deep breath, requested we return to the trot and let it go.  45 seconds later? BLAM-O, same thing.  Buck-twist-kick-rear-buck-kick-twist-twist-bitch.  That was it.  I stopped her, flew off and prepared to lace her across the ass, when she beat me to it and flew backward knowing full well what my intentions were.  So I let it go.  Stopped, patted her, and proceeded to attempt some half steps on the ground.  She was fussy and all freaked out, but she got it.  We managed a full lap at the walk, with half steps every 10 meters or so, before I patted her, and got back on. 

We finished with some decently nice trot work (getting to be a theme), but we didn't push the canter again.  If she hadn't pulled those two massive fits, I would have felt pretty good about the ride.  Aside from them, she was a twit about a few things, but ultimately put in some great work, and tried pretty hard.  The bum out really was that I couldn't even think on the decent work, because I was so upset about the two fits.  I sorta get why the mare explodes when I'm asking her hard questions, but the fact that she pulled two of her largest fits when we were just trotting merrily along? It's disheartening and makes me feel like I don't understand her nearly as well as I've led myself to believe. 

Current Thoughts:
  • We've had some good rides in the last 10 days (That's Good!)
  • There have been some totally mysterious mare-attacks (That's Bad)
  • Pia is sound and strong and slobbering (That's Good!)
  • My lessons seem to be less productive than my rides on my own (that's good/bad)
  • I had a massive breakthrough in my effectiveness, as I learned (and can feel!) my left hip is ALWAYS pushed forward, regardless of direction, and my half-halts twist the same clockwise fashion (That's GOOD to know, BAD to do..) 
I just want some happy loose rides.  IF there's one thing that's super telling, it's Pia's sweat level.  We maybe work her canter more in lessons, but even at the trot, she gets way more hyped up (and sweaty) in lessons, than on our own.  I think it's an indicator of her stress factor but I don't know for sure.  Regardless, look what a sweat monster she was on Friday, hardly the picture of cool, calm and collected...

PS- Has anyone else seen Secretariat?? I saw nothing but decent fan reviews... but boooooooo, even I was bored.  I thought the horse footage was done well, and I love John Malkovitch as yet another eccentric character, but oof.  I guess I was hoping to see a bit more of the grit of the story.  I mean, really, the "financial strain" was represented by one passing conversation where by Miss Diane Lane stoically turned down $8 million for her big red colt. 
Yeah, I get it, that takes balls.  But I think it took more balls than we got to see.  And also, literally all we see of Secretariat was him as a baby, him as a yearling, then winning the triple crown.  Woo.  What a struggle.  For a two hour movie, I felt like they could have shown us more of the fairly incredible story.  But whatever.  No one ever likes a feature film that touches on their hobby.. I get that.  Rant over.
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