Friday, December 31, 2010

2010 - In Super Fast rewind

2010 started off with a bang, but not with horses.  I was busy riding OTTB's for a lady who rescues/rehomes them and teaching a few students.  I guess that counts, but none of them were my horses which means I couldn't do a darn thing about their bad feet, ridiculous tack, or strange feed...

Anyway, January saw me through lots of therapy with the (now) betrothed boy, so I guess that was a good investment.  It also saw me deliver a keynote speech to 150 of our areas top CEO's and throw a party for 500 of our employees and their spouses (whew).

February was when I was supposed to get a horse of my own (YAY) but I didn't (BOO). So in my total despair over losing a mare that I loved, I bought myself a gorgeous ring under the justification that I "wouldn't be paying board or vet bills anytime soon."  That was a bad decision as my compulsive browsing of Dreamhorse, penny ads and the rest of the Internet soon landed me on a full scale horse hunting mission.  I had my first date with Pia, and it was love.

March saw me criss cross the country twice, get Pia for my very own and the rest of the month was ride, ride, ride, ride, ride, ride ride.  We broke one bridle, one set of reins, and I fell off.

April was a rude month.  We broke no bridles, or reins (yay), but we had our first vet visit, and the beginning of the Wobbler saga.  Pia was labeled a "3."  I called vets, I called vet schools, I googled, and I searched.  I looked at studies on humans, studies on dogs and studies on horses.  I learned as much as I could (not a lot) and Pia got used to her daily dose of vitamin E (by the bucket).

In May Pia got her first x-rays done.  She came home with a bad haircut and some ugly pictures that showed  hint of compression at her C3/4 joint.  We went back to riding a bit, though her "3" status limited us to big loops and no cantering. I went back east again (this time for a wedding) and dragged the boy along for his first visit to NYC.  I showed him my old apartments, my old bars and my old friends.

June was bad.  Pia went for her first sleepover, which would be fun - but it was at the vet.  Her bad haircut got worse, and she had her spinal tap and myelogram.  She did fine and I breathed easier knowing that she didn't have a seizure with the anesthesia.  The fancy specialist surgeon said her myelogram was no good, and that he needed another.  Pia went BACK to the vet, got another spinal tap and another picture and another overnight stay.  This time she reacted badly and beat herself up in recovery.  Seizures, cuts, bruises and scrapes.  She was a sad mare, and I tried to promise that I wouldn't make her do that again.

July saw us prepping for surgery, but right before we went under the knife she redid her neuro test and (ta-da!) she was healed (kinda).  Or at least mostly healed.  Pia's "3" became a "1", presumably due to the vitamin E.  We decided to go back to busy, but to make a change. So we moved, found our new home and ordered a new saddle.  Pia went back to work and bucked off the BO, broke another set of reins and started the machine all over again.

August I actually got to get back on my horse for real (ye-haw!).  We started working on leg yields and lengthenings.  Pia went into heat.  Pia became a monster.  I questioned my ability to ride, and the BO questioned the mare's sanity.  Pia went out of heat, and we had a blast.

September we worked.  Super mom came to visit, and we worked on a medium trot. Pia went into heat, and I questioned my ability to ride.  Pia came out of heat and I loved her.  Pia's left front leg blew up like a balloon, the vet came out (again) and confirmed a tendon injury.  We walked.
We walked and we ultrasounded.
Then we walked some more.
I groomed, and we ultrasoudned.
Then we walked some more.

In October we kept walking, then we started working again.  Pia learned how to buck like a monster, I learned how to be comfortable giving ace on a regular basis.  Pis became a junky and I gained confidence. Pia took some nice naps, had some nice rides and proved that (like most ladies) she doesn't like being woken up before sunrise or asked to work before breakfast.  (I waxed poetic on my love affair with boots)

November we went to war.  Pia went into heat, and I'm pretty sure I got altitude sickness from getting bounced SO HIGH in the air (all the time) during our rides.  She added a bolt to her bucking trick and I lost my nerve.  I "changed everything." so Pia moved outside, I took her food away, we switched tack, bits, everything.  Pia behaved nicely and I appreciated it. I got sick (again) and P swapped her addiction from Ace to sugarcubes. A crazy cowboy got on (and made me cranky).  We helped Miss Denali go to the vet, and tried to keep her mom from becoming a chopped salad.  We played in the snow and we GOT OUR SADDLE!  Pia approved.

December showed improvement in our training/first level movements and hinted at some possible consistency. P played with her Clammer

What a year.  When 2010 started I was horseless and on the rocks with my beau.  While I haven't switched jobs, or moved my physical home, I do feel like I've managed to cover some serious ground this year.  I found a mare and we started our fight with a disease that will be with us forever, but already we are beating the odds.  I learned that The Boy loves hauling my trailer, and loves playing tag with the mare.  Those two things alone could make up for a lot, but the fact that he likes saying "I love you" eats almost as much sushi as I do, opens doors for me and somehow finds joy in shopping for pretty shiny things, all point toward him being a keeper. 

Realistically, the Mare is a keeper too.  We've had our rough patches this year, but her sass, looks, charm and general adorableness all point to another long and (mostly) happy relationship.

Here's to 2011.  I hope that I get the chance to say as many wonderful things about it as I did for 2010.  I hope that it brings just as many lessons, and new perspectives, since I tend to get bored of myself and my old thoughts pretty easily.

Eyes up and leg on!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Old Friends

Yesterday S came out to visit Miss P and I for the first time since we moved barns.  I'm all too familiar with how crazy life can get and ow quickly the days fill up but it felt great to see her, and it really had just been far. too. long.

P seemed to appreciate the extra attention, and the (carefully picked through) handfuls of Moose Munch so that she could share in our indulgent snack.  (P only gets to munch on the caramel popcorns, not the chocolate ones or the bits with nuts in them).

I tacked P up for a quick ride, and we dragged the cavaletti out to play with for a bit.  P warmed up well.  She was a doll while I free lunged her and kept coming back to me until I chased her away again.  Pretty darn sweet if you ask me.. but not very effective for "getting her bucks out."

There was about 4" of snow on the ground at the barn, so P was snorting at every tree and bush as we trotted by them.  She appeared to be supremely offended by the snow, and refused to give up on said offense for the first 15 minutes of our ride. 

Mostly I was too busy chatting away with S to get much "work" done on P, but maybe that's what we needed.  P was forward, and although she was a little tense, she was quiet and didn't so much as threaten a cow kick when I was shoving her around all over the place with my legs.

We lengthened and collected, we did lots of transitions, we cantered, we played with our cavaletti and we did lots of stretchy trot.

I'm sure that to an extent, S was just flattering us, but she was really impressed with how far Pia has come in the last 6 months.  Specifically she noted that she's using her butt much more than she used to, and that she's actually lifting her back and lifting through turns instead of just wheelbarrowing around with her front legs. 

Some of that I'm sure is the Wobbler's, but some of it is the result of hard work and muscling...

By the end of it, P had barely broken a sweat, S had almost frozen to death, and I don't think I ever stopped talking, but it was a good ride. :)

Today I'm supposed to have another lesson, but I seem to have contracted a fever (BOO HISS) and I'm desperately trying to save myself for the impending cabin trip and all our projects this weekend.  I think I might ask the BO to ride, and maybe I'll snag some video of my pretty girl. 

Then again, maybe I'll just put myself on her back and squeeze one more ride in this year...

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

On the 9th Day of Christmas??

my trainer gave to me....

Twooooo Brand New Reins!

Apparently the BO felt a little bad about all the rein snapping that's happened this year, so she stuffed two pairs of web reins in P's stocking.  How nice is that!? 

She's very thoughtful. :)

Anyway, apologies for the delayed post.. yesterday I got to scoot around town looking at wedding venues with my m-o-m, which was a blast.  Though apparently there's some family confusion on how you throw a wedding, and there's some latent stress.  I think that's the name of the game, but I've had the pleasure of planning our company's 500+ holiday party for several years now, and I'm not really too sure why a wedding half that size needs to cause more drama.. BUT anyway.  I swore to myself that I would limit the number of wedding references in this blog since P is not in fact, part of the wedding.


Monday we had a lesson.  It started great, and ended crappy. 

P was in a mood.  She was cranky in the cross ties, cranky on the lunge and a witch under saddle.  Lots of diving, lots of biting and general snottiness.  We got a nice forward trot, but that was about it.  Lots of tension, lots of stiffness, and some real crankiness about 10m circles and leg yields. 

The fact that I was PMSing myself did not help the matter and certainly only made things more tragic and more painful.

We got a few good canter transitions, no bucks (win!) and lots more bad transitions (but still no bucks!)

It was one of those rides where I felt like I was just in a battle from start to finish and got off feeling a bit defeated.  But we haven't had one of those in a while, so I felt ok about it and just tried to have a nice grooming session, even though the mare was snorting and pinning her ears at me (also not a great combo item with the PMS...)

Yesterday the BO rode the mare, apparently with an improved attitude.  She wanted to work and cooperated with canter figure 8's and simple changes and was polite about lateral work.

It was a bit of a relief to hear that, I get nervous every once in a while that P hates her job and would rather I just leave her alone.  So our friendly rides help dispel that idea on the down days..

I'm planning on hacking the mare today, with another lesson tomorrow before I take off for the long weekend (back to the cabin for final dock repairs and hopefully some NYE festivities).

Hope everyone is having a good week!!

Monday, December 27, 2010

On the 8th Day of Christmas...

My True Love gave to me....

(nothing for my horse)

But he did manage a gorgeous necklace from my favorite jewelry designer (Jamie Joseph) who makes stunning pieces usually with large, gorgeous stones.  Fortunately for me, he also loves her stuff, so I've been the lucky recipient of a few of her items (including my favorite ring that used to occupy the space on my left ring finger... it's since happily migrated over to the right hand..). 

So, I'm not whining (at ALL - I got way more than I deserved...), but I am still giddy over the fact that my cute brother keyed into the horsey thing and managed a few packages under the tree (labeled for both Pia and myself) with the telltale ribbon from my favorite tack store.

Something about that box/ribbon combo triggered a deeply seeded adolescent teen girl response that sent me flying around the house attempting to assemble everyone as quickly as possible so that the festivities could commence. 

Clothing, wine, gift certificates, and the traditional stocking presents are all things that I can wait patiently for like a well behaved adult type person.

But Tack Store boxes.  Tack Store boxes are items of beauty that should be opened IMMEDIATELY.

(which they were)

Pia and I have been spoiled this year.  We've been spoiled by good vet luck (well bad luck but then good luck) in avoiding our surgery, and bad luck then good luck in avoiding a serious tendon issue.  Spoiled by great, low drama barn mates and trainers... Spoiled by ourselves (self indulgent behavior and presents)...
But most recently spoiled by my brother and his constant drive to come up with the most creative, most coveted gift he can for his family members.

So.  What did we get!???

We got what the Tack Store lady told him to get (god bless her) and only managed to double his hypothetical budget in the process (and god bless him for understanding the quantum-physics-time-bending-money-obliterating principles of Tack Store Physics).

So here's our New Horsey Toys:

1) A stuffed Corgi for Pia - The tag reads "To: Pia, From: Elf"  (My brother signs everything "from elf").  He said he remembered me talking about how stressed she gets if her friends leave and that she needed a goat....  But he couldn't find a goat, so Pia got a Corgi (cuter). However, said corgi is a bit slobbered on as Miss Maisy thought the stuffed animal under the tree MUST HAVE BEEN for her, so it got a little dragged around the house on Christmas morning... oops
2) Nice new dressage pad.  Pretty enough for clinics and shows.  I'm going to try (try) to keep it clean for such things.
3) GORGEOUS new clothes for me!  I was stunned and thrilled to open a great (and super comfy) Pikeur Show shirt, complete with rhinestone buttons (sparkle!).  My dad saw it fitting to make a snarky comment about whether or not I would ever be in a show ring, ever, again... ever.... but I ignored him and happily imagined the pretty professional photos that will SURELY be taken... Also, the brother totally splurged on a stunning pair of Pikeur's Candella breeches. 
 I'm not sure that my grandmother was impressed when I immediately shed my textured tights and shimmied into these bad boys in the middle of the mayhem, but I didn't care, and I think my brother was happy to see the excitement on my face.

Finally, he rounded out the outfit with a lovely big thick belt that looks great, even though I have the sort of hips that render belts obsolete and reduce their function to an aesthetically pleasing accessory.

Fun right!? In a fit of restraint, the breeches are the only item currently shoved into my car for my ride tonight (shirt, belt and pad all sit at home waiting for the right occasion to be brought out for), But I'm excited to try them out.  I've never owned a pair of Pikeurs before.  I've borrowed a friend's pair of whites for a few shows, but I've never had my own, and certainly never had anything like them in my regular rotation of schooling breeches.

Maybe P will be so impressed with my new stylings that she'll chill out and keep her hooves on the ground.... but probably not...

Did Santa bring any fantastic horsey finds to anyone else??

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Back To Work

P got two actual rides this week. One lovely hack and one fast paced lesson.

After our playdate on Wednesday, I resolved to actually hack the mare on Thursday and get to busy. So, after a nice (calm) lunge, I hopped on and went for broke.

Pia was predictably "forward" but mostly gracious about getting back to work. Or rather, she was as gracious as a mare in heat being worked for the first time in a week is on a crisp clear day. So that is to say that she was spirited, but agreeable.

I attempted to start 'long and low' but accepted 'forward and stiff' until we were able to work into a nice, round medium trot. It wasn't what I was going for, but I've yet to feel Pia that over her back, and that balanced in a bigger trot over a sustained period.

So, I ended up being the gracious one and decided to sit up, stick my leg on and support her into it.

We popped into the canter a few times, worked some transitions and baby leg yields before I called it quits for our first day back.

On the relative 'pia scale' it was a great ride. She never totally relaxed, and maintained that powder-keg between your legs feel for all 45 minutes, but I could hardly blame her.

Friday we REALLY went back to work in our lesson and focused on stringing movements together. Partially to start to move forward in our fluidity and partially to keep the mare's mind busy.

For the most part we had some great moments...

But then there was the canter.

Pia's canter remains elusive for me. Either it's unbalanced and strung out, it's missing entirely, or it's perfectly collected and lovely.... That is, its perfectly lovely right before she has a bucking fit.

Lucky for me, on Friday it wasn't missing... And it was unfortunately balanced. I say that because we managed great, quick transitions, then several strides of lovely, balanced canter RIGHT before she launched on her well rehearsed bucking bronco routine. (bitch).

Literally, BO's comments sounded something like this:

BO: half halt, think shoulder fore, aaaaand canter

(we canter)

BO: great, hold her with your outside leg, soften with the inside rein... Balance.. Good, GOOD

(pia sits back and pushes)

BO: perfect! That's your canter

(pia braces)

BO: and start your shallow loop.. HXK..


BO: sit baaaaaCk!!!!!

Yeah, yeah. Great. Good. I tried my canter loops five (5, five) times. Every time, just as we got an excellent canter, she exploded.

Basically P has conditioned me that a strung-out, crappy canter is safe and good, while a lovely, balanced canter equals death and destruction.

I'm talking big time bucks. Like, caught my reflection in the mirror and her rear hooves were waay higher than my head sort of bucks. (I'm pretty sure that the only reason I stayed on was because I summoned my inner eventer and slipped my reins, threw one arm behind my head and leaned back like we were taking the big drop into the Head of the Lake with a throng of spectators watching. For reals, if I had a good still of that buck, we could Photoshop the crap out of it and look like we were some serious contenders...)

Naughty mare. but anyway...

But we ended well and basically rode the second test in first level, which I'm considering progress.

I'll post tomorrow on how Pia made out this Christmas... I hope she likes her gifts more than the frenchie did... Maisy was thoroughly unimpressed with her haul:

Her new sock monkey was just as boring...

She's so high maintenance....

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Play Date

Well, I have to be honest, after the drain of holiday shopping, and dinners and engagement announcements (whee!), I was about two steps from bailing on the barn and just going to my good friend's house to plop on the couch and get in some quality veg time before she moves to NYC without me on Sunday.  (wah)

But, I stumbled onto Sarah's post and realized that when feeling stressed, always, ALWAYS go to the barn and groom your pony.  ALWAYS. 

So I did.  And I'm so glad I did, because P needed some play time, and apparently so did I.

I still didn't quite feel like riding.  A bad ride would have sent me over the edge, but I did feel like nuzzling, and grooming and playing. So I groomed the mare up and took her to the ring to get her kicks out and we played tag.

She's really good at tag.  She runs away from you, then turns around and runs back when you run the other way... It's fairly entertaining.  The only problem is that since I have a "limited" (zero, none, nada) cardio-capacity, and she has lots - she gets cranky when I get tired and stop chasing after her.  And by cranky I mean, she tries to chase me and if I don't run away and play then she turns around, gives a buck and runs off, only to try to entice me again. 

This, is what happens when I stop playing:

After we ran and chased, and I got tired, and the mare got her bucks out, we just walked around the ring to cool her out and I tried to document how good she is with her ground work even without a halter. 

You'll have to forgive my iPhone cameraman skills. They are poor at best.  Maybe better described as a drunk toddler running around on uneven ground...

But still, you get the idea...

Basically it was a nice day.  I finally organized my tack locker and re-wrapped all my polos and standing wraps... so things are at least a semblance of tidy.  As predicted, I left the barn feeling happier, calmer, and a little more loved.  If there's one thing this mare does well, its give hugs and wrap her big giant head around you.

It's a great feature. :)

Oh, she also tried to EAT my ring.  Not for you mare....  NOT, for you.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Put it on ice..

Break out the champagne, we be toasting!

Please excuse any slight delay on mare updates. :) she's getting the weekend off while I get used to the extra weight on my hand.

Pia will just have to wait till Monday to learn all about the parties and fanfare to come. (and I can say with confidence that The Boy is fully aware that I come with an opinionated mare and a lazy bulldog)


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Thursday, December 16, 2010

A Day in the Life

On my way home from the cold/wet/miserable day-o-projects that I was lucky enough to partake in yesterday, I had my usual "Gee, I wonder what the mare did today" thought. 

And then I got cranky.

Because I started comparing my day, to the mare's day... and I didn't like it.

Here's what was on the docket for Wednesday, December 15th:

Pia got fed.
She had her "bed" made.
She played with some friends.
She had a massage.
Then she got fed again.
Then she took a nap.
Then she got fed again.
and she went back to sleep.

I got woken up early
Drove through the traffic and rain to catch an ungodly ferry
(I did not get fed)
fought with an outboard motor (I lost)
Paddled to the closest dock from the middle of the harbor
Kicked a door in (our lock broke)
peed in the woods (no water = no toilets)
commandeered another watercraft
towed our sad, sad sinking dock to the shipyard
scraped barnacles off said dock
attached new flotation (aka, got COVERED in styrofoam shreds)
got fed. (bad grocery store sandwich).
towed the dock BACK to our house.
hoisted a 500lb steel ramp out of the water.
got back on a ferry
drove home through the rain
finally went to sleep in my *still* unmade bed.

So, to sum up -

Pia did this:

And I did this:

Confirmed that yes indeed, the dock is missing.  Oh, and how does one lift a huge ramp out of 30ft deep water???

Found the missing dock, on another island... or rather found what was left of the missing dock...

The almost fixed dock.  This is what we walked away from after much lifting/fixing/hammering/slipping/sinking/heaving/and freezing

After the dock was at least floating and secured to its normal home, I started my "planes, trains, and automobiles" (really more like "ferries, trucks and buses") trek home and got to thinking about Pia, and her day

Which, just to rub it in one more time, looked something like this:

You know those days when you think to yourself "Wow, I spend way more money on my horse's comfort, than my own??"  This was one of those days.

That mare is s-p-o-i-l-e-d.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Secret Santa-Mare

Tis the season, right?

Miss P and I have been so happy at our new home this fall that we decided to be sneaky little elves and surprise the other ponies with a holiday treat.

After our lesson last night, I darted back to the house and enlisted my poor mother in a massive horsey treat baking effort that resulted in her kitchen being COVERED in a schmear of peppermint/apple/molasses goop. (as you can imagine, she was thrilled).

Basically our strategy was to combine the theory of several (hardly scientific) recipes into one massive uber-treat. I started out with ideas of grandeur that I would "make notes" so that I could alter the "dough" as necessary once a few batches came out of the oven.

What happened was more of a cavalier fly-by-night approach of pouring boxes/scoops/jars of things into a big bowl and stirrin' till it looked right.

To my (baking impaired self) surprise, here's what came out of the oven:

Cute treat balls! We made about 200 of the little things before stuffing them into baggies and the most adorable mini stockings I've ever seen.

I think the ponies are going to be pleased. Assuming that the treats are even remotely edible... Which remains to be seen.

For those interested, here's what I think I mixed together in a bowl (I made this concoction twice)

- 6 apples and 20 mints pulverized in a food processor
- 1/2 a big canister of oats
- 2ish cups of flour
- 1/2 a box of rice krispies
- 1 jar of molasses

I balled the "dough" and plopped them on a greased cookie sheet and stuck it into an oven set to 400 for 10 minutes. That seemed about the right amount of time to brown them slightly and toast the bottoms...

In non treat related news, we had a pretty good ride. I was pushing her hard, but she was the crankiest she's been all week. She threw a few bucks when I really pushed her for leg yields in the canter, but I got more lateral give when we were working them. Also for some reason, her right lead was shockingly more balanced and forward than her usually stronger left lead...

Her medium trot work was great, stretchy trot was less relaxed and our attempts to school some rein back was met with varying levels of attitude, but all in all a we had a nice ride.

The princess gets today off for some body work.. And I am on a ferry to the islands for a more organized effort to repair some of the storm damage at the cabin. Something tells me she's going to have a more relaxing day than I am...

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

November Wrap-Up &... December "Goals"

Right, right.  I get that it's somewhat ridiculous to be reviewing November halfway through December, let alone setting our goals.. but better late than never (which might be something I say on EVERY SINGLE goals post).  Meh, it is what it is..

So, November, let's review:

November Goals:

  1. Clean, smooth, regular transitions for WTC.  Okay, this has been on our hit list for a while now, but I think we're actually there.  I'm going to count our recent December successes in this "goal" period, so that it's easier for me to remember... but especially with the last couple weeks thrown in, Pia is "executing" her transitions.  We've even had some awesome ones, but I can say that 97% of the time I ask for a transition, it happens.  Not always perfectly, not always immediately, but we get it.  Which is, in fact, a GINOURMOUS accomplishment.
  2. Pencil Out a Horsey Budget for 2011. Oops.  No.  I think that I've been ignoring this so that I can continue to spend-spend-spend.  If I don't have a budget, I can't overspend... right???? or something.... This is something that NEEDS to happen for the new year, especially if we are actually planning on some schooling shows (gasp)
  3. Get 4 good rides in a row. YES! CHECK. DONE.
  4. Get my SADDLE. YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (check. done.) love it.  so happy.
  5. Consult with a farrier. Yes!, check. Done.  Consulted, but ignoring (for the moment).  I didn't love the offered solution of "take a chunk of hoof out and put a shoe on it."  Maybe we'll need to explore shoeing her right hind in the future, but I wasn't comfortable with the theory of how they wanted to balance her out... so I'm staying the barefoot course for now.. maybe adding boots. who knows.
This might be our most "successful" month to date.  I'm gonna go ahead and ignore the fact that it was really more like a month and a half... because I'm more excited about our progress than I am about our time frame.  (spoken like a true procrastinator, no?)

That being said... here's what's on our docket for the remainder of the 2010:

  1. Pencil Out a Horsey Budget for 2011. Yeah.  Still important.  Now that the massive acquisition of our saddle (and other major purchases) are mostly behind us, it seems necessary and reasonable to expect some controlled spending in the new year.
  2. Ride the 2011 First Level Tests.  We've schooled all the movements, including the canter loops, zig-zagging leg yields and stretchy circles.  We can do it, we just need to start putting the pieces together.  It's a good exercise for us while the BO is on vacation.
  3. Ride Off the Property. Two options here.  Either hit the power line trails (which I did not know we had immediate access to.. smack), OR trailer to one of BO's Friend's farm which is only 7 miles down the road to school in a new place and new arena.  I'm fine with either.
I'm stopping with 3, since I only have... ohhhh 16 days left, and a chunk of those are already claimed in the name of family time and holidays.  

In the meantime, the mare continues to be on the up and up, proving that she might turn into a real horse just yet.  She's regained ALL her weight and looks fantastic, her sweat patterns are back to something that resembles normal (even after hard workouts) and she's still a gleaming copper color. 

I'm enjoying the fact that we seem to be on a roll (however brief it may be) and that she's injury free. I suppose if I was being greedy I'd add "stay happy and sound" to my goal list, but far be it from me to tempt fate.

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Hippocratic Oath

While scrubbing away at tack this weekend, I managed to pull out some of my extra bits and pieces to just tidy up the tack locker and at least have things moderately clean while they aren't in use..

I stumbled across my pretty stubben golden wings double jointed snaffle, that I took off P's bridle last week and decided to polish it up before retiring it.   As I was fiddling around with it, I had one of those jaw dropping, WTF-What-Have-I- Done moments where all of the sudden things snapped into focus. 

As animal owners, I feel that we take our own version of the Hippocratic Oath that so many medical professionals swear to prior to taking blade to flesh. Maybe it's still the hippocratic oath, but it's the HIPPO(greek horse)cratic oath, not the hippo(greek philosopher)cratic oath.

First, Do No Harm.

It's a simple concept, but one that I ascribe to with my creatures.  My first goal is to never, ever, under and circumstance cause them pain or damage through any of my actions.  If Pia wants to be the next greatest eventer, fantastic.  But I'll never ever gallop her XC until I know that her compromised wobbler-balance isn't going to put her at risk for strains and sprains.

I'm never going to use any devices or methods that rely on pain and fear when there are other paths.  I'd rather have a fat pasture marshmallow than knowingly make the life of any animal of mine worse.

I would imagine that this is a sentiment that nearly all of us have in common.  It's also what drives deep painful guilt when I discover that anything I've done in my attempts to be helpful or kind have backfired or had unintended consequences. 

I had one of those stomach churning moments this weekend as I turned my old bit over in my hands... and I don't know how I didn't realize it sooner. 

Basically, the nice "wings" on my snaffle which I admired for their very effective ability to totally prevent any pinching from the bit rings, are constructed in a totally crap-tastic way that essentially forces the weight of the bit and all rein pressure onto a horse's tongue AND when really using your brakes, it basically crushes their entire jaw and cheeks. 

Smashing, that's just what I was going for when I purchased a chunky, double jointed loose ring snaffle for a relatively green horse.

Let me show you what I mean:

notice that when the bit ring is "flat" (imagine it against your pony's face), the regular loose ring falls straight down and allows for the mouthpiece to float and move at almost any angle.  When you apply rein pressure, the joint bends, and the resulting "nut cracker" effect occurs, but is released when you soften your hand.  Make sense?

Look at the "golden wings" bit.  When the bit ring is flat (as it is when P is fully bridled), the solid "wing" forces the mouthpiece forward at a pretty huge angle and "locks" the mouthpiece in that position.  That extra distance forward means that P is basically having her tongue choked down and that any additional rein pressure forces the bit HARD onto her bars and into the side of her face. 

Not exactly what I would call an "innovative" design, nor does it produce the desired effect of a double jointed loose ring snaffle.

I don't know how I never saw that reduced range of motion on my bit.  I don't know why I didn't think of INTENSE MOUTH PAIN having anything to do with why P didn't want to take the contact or why she was constantly diving, curling and objecting to any leg that pushed her into the bridle.  I should have realized it when the vet-wrapping of the mouthpiece temporarily alleviated some of her behavior issues.. but I didn't.

I don't think this is the only issue at hand.  I do think that there are other factors (like her hormones) that could be part of this.  Lord knows if I was in screaming, bitchy pain from cramps and you shoved a death bit in my mouth it might just be enough to send me over the edge to loony-town.

Oh, and to top that off, when saddle fitter lady was out to check P's new toy, she checked the BO's saddle just to offer an expert opinion, and noticed a crease in the leather on the underside of the right panel.  BO had been told by her saddle maker that the crease was her fault and formed as a result of improper saddle storage, but that it was no big deal and wouldn't affect the use of the saddle.

Saddle Fitter lady said that it wasn't from storage, but rather the cording (that runs at the bottom of almost every saddle's cantle to assist in the seaming), had come undone and SLIPPED into the flocking, basically causing a 1/4" bead of sorts that created an incredibly uncomfortable pressure point.

AAAAHH.  So my horse who's been ouchy and stiff on the right side and avoiding the bit, has been telling me (though hardly politely), that her bit was scissoring her mouth and the saddle essentially had a ROCK sticking out on one side. 

Oversimplification? yes (she's been wearing that right hind oddly forever and prefers to sit behind the vertical even in pasture..) but still.  Bad owner. Bad, bad, owner

First, Do No Harm. Then proceed with training and go for improvement...

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Coffee, Croissants, & Catching Up

Today I had a lazy morning. Today I didn't set an alarm and it was fantastic.

Last night I wiled the hours away with wine and and friends as I slowly (sorta) decorated my
Loft for the holidays.

Adding to the glee of an under-scheduled weekend was the fact that P was a gem last night during our ride.

She was shockingly loose and calm allowing us to really work on stretching her over her back and maintain a rhythm.

In 45 minutes we managed to get more good transitions and suppling done than we have in the last few months (ta-da!)

I haven't wanted to jinx it, but since we switched up her bit last weekend, the mare has had consistently normal and productive rides... Basically, good mare + no alarm + freshly decorated house = excellent morning. So I grabbed the puppy and darted out the door in search hot coffee and some sort of pastry. Fortunately for me, I was actually up early enough to snag a coveted ham and cheese croissant (massive massive weakness/addiction).

After my ideal wake up and breakfast I loaded up the car and headed out to see the princess When I got to the barn, the mare looked as calm and happy as she did yesterday and continued her content as a clam attitude as we tacked up and tried out our fancy new girth (love).

Since mostly I'm in love with the mare at the moment, I'll spill the bad news first:

She broke another (third, 3,tres) set of reins.

Yup. Donezo.

I managed to get all the way to the ring without realizing that I still didn't have my boots on, so I threw Pia at the BO and ran back to the barn to finish getting ready.... When I ran back, I could see P galavanting around the arena with snapped reins streaming out behind her like some sort of tragic flag.

I stifled my brief desire to scream, reminded myself that this is why I school her in cheap reins, switched out to a fourth set and hopped on.

Pia was stickier than she's been all week, but we warmed up long and low and managed to get the most relaxed, even start to a ride we've ever had (yay!).

We worked lots of transitions and focused on me keeping her on my outside rein and disconnecting my inside rein from my half halts entirely.

The fact that we were able to school so many transitions and focus on the details without worrying about bucking or biting or general snottiness was a compete joy.

It's almost like maybe, just maybe we worked on some dressage. :)

All in all, we made it through some good leg yields in the trot and canter, shoulder in and lots of stretchy trot. The quality of her gaits got a little worse toward the end and she started falling to her forehand, but given her willingness and good work early on, I'm giving P the benefit of the doubt that maybe, just maybe, she was tired and fatiguing.

Afterward I loitered around the barn grooming and cleaning tack before the rains started (we're slated for 3"). The puppy was not exactly thrilled about the change in weather or that she had to sit around the barn for so long. She's more of a couch dog than a barn dog...

That is the face of an animal begging to be returned to her fireside bed...

Happy weekends!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Friday, December 10, 2010

Presents! (sorta)

Last night between late meetings and a holiday function I dragged The Boy to the tack store's holiday shindig.  It was a veritable zoo scene as you can imagine is the only logical outcome when horsey people get all hopped up on (cheap) champagne, snacks, the promise of a newly acquired one-night-only coupon and the smell of fresh leather filling the air.

Braaagh! Shopping Zombie Monster wants cheap things...
It was like some sort of deranged feeding frenzy, except instead of scary looking sharks or lions, it was impeccably dressed ladies, dripping in diamonds, Pikeur and the inevitable horse hair/snot/mud paste that comes from spending any time at a barn in the winter. 

Everyone was greeted at the door with their swag bag of goodies, which included new winter boot socks for me, and lots of treat samplers for Pia...
I took one look at the swarm of women by the food and drinks (one must be fortified to shop amid a throng of crazed horsey people) and diverted my path to the back of the store where a bounty of new dressage girths were dangling just waiting for me to blow my gift certificate and handy-dandy one-night-only coupon on. 

My favorite saddle fitter lady was there, so we chatted for a bit, and she pointed me at her favorite girth (Prestige... shocker) and favorite fuzzy cover.

So, I am proud to say that in a matter of 8 minutes I was in, out and on my way with swag bag, girth and fuzzy in hand.

The boy commented that he was impressed with my speed... at which point I felt compelled to reveal that the only thing shoving me out of that store so quickly was the crazy zombie throng of horsey people salivating over their one-night-only coupons and cheap champagne.  2pm on a Tuesday and I would have been through combing through the racks and shelves for hours....

Anyway, here's our booty.  One lovely contoured girth, and a fuzzy that actually accommodates the contour.  I'm hoping that with a padded girth and a sheepskin, I can ditch the foam girth channel that I love, but really makes P super sweaty and I can't imagine feels awesome on her skin...

First our pretty girth (on top of the new sheepskin)
  and Second, the fuzzy on the girth, with two velcro portions which allows for the curve of the girth... (sneaky!)

I'll try it out on Miss P this evening and cross my fingers she loves it.  I can always take it back, but with the one time only discount AND my gift cert... it was a great deal and I hardly felt the pain of shelling out more dollars to Prestige, though I'm fairly certain they can now claim a significant portion of my former net worth...

Also on the docket for today is another trim.  I'm hoping to gain some insight on P's funny feet and maybe brainstorm on how to further aid her barefooted-ness.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Love & Shelter

There are few things I adore as much as snuggling Miss P into her blankies and tucking her in for the night.  There's something about her expression after a nice workout and big long grooming session that just radiates l-o-v-e and adorableness. 

I've had the "blessing" of enough down time from riding to constantly remind myself of all the other joys that Pia brings into my life aside from a simple ride - and while I still enjoy the riding part, it's always good to have "help" maintaining perspective...

That final snuggley-pat, complete with a beneath-the-blanket-scratch is one of those moments when I get to beathe deeply and leave the barn knowing that P is happy, safe, and warm.

(Warning... total TANGENT on its way..)

Recently, I've had the absolute joy of serving on the board for a remarkable women's shelter that provides an incredibly supportive community for Seattle's Homeless women and their children.  I can assure you that it is the most unique place I have ever had the pleasure of spending time.  Most of the women who utilize our services are homeless, and most of them have kids.  We offer one of the only shelters that allows mothers to stay with their kids and for both of them to cook their own meals (imagine how empowering that can be when you've gone years without a kitchen of your own), create resumes, gain job skills, see a nurse, let kids be kids in a gorgeously appointed play room and most importantly, take the steps they need to end the cycle of homelessness and leave feeling more empowered and loved than when they entered.

Mary's Place has come an extremely long way in the last couple of years.  Initially it began as a jail ministry started by a group of women who attended church together.  Since then we've grown into a secular day center that serves as a hub of resources and inspiration for all who walk through our doors.  We have grown an effective and exuberant board that has been charged with finding us three new homes (yes, our shelter was nearly homeless itself..) over the last 2 years, raising insane $$ and finding a way to grow as fast as our community has demanded.  In just the last 6 months, the number of ladies walking through our doors has TRIPLED.  TRIPLED.  Thankfully, many women who first use our services return to act as volunteers and mentors, so our energy remains strong, but our funds do not. 

Why am I wasting Pia's precious blog space on this? Because we are finalists in Pepsi's "good idea" competition which is awarding a $50,000 grant to the top 10 ideas (right now we are 148th).  All I need from anyone who believes that no mother or child should spend a night on the street is for you to click and vote for Mary's Place everyday in December.  See? mostly easy.

Why do I do it? because that warm snuggley, feeling I get everytime I leave P quietly munching her hay and grain pales in comparison to the feeling I get when I know I have helped offer that feeling to a mother who knows that both she and her child are safe, warm and secure.

Please help us with your clicks.  And please hug your pony too.

(tangent over)

P was great yesterday.  Saddle fitter came out to check the Optimaxxxxxx, and all was well.  I'm shimming it up a little more than I would like to shim up a "custom" saddle that cost me most than a couple months of mortgage.. but hey.  We ordered it when she didn't have a topline and I didn't want to play around with it ever getting too tight..  Plus, tonight is the tack shop's "VIP shopping party" I think it should probably be called "a glass of cheap champagne for suckers who have spent their life savings in this store" party.  Or even "thanks for putting our kids through college" party. or EVEN "you spend so much money in here, even if we invite you to a "party" you'll probably spend more money" party.

All of them are true in my case. (oops).  I am planning to go, I am planning on drinking my well deserved glass of cheap champagne and I am planning on spending more money.  The thought of a "complimentary" 25% coupoun for the evening has had my mind spinning with thoughts of what we "need". 

A new girth
more back on track products
new polos
and whatever else I can't think of but will need DESPERATELY once I see it.

buwahahaha.  Can't wait

Stay Warm, and please consider helping Mary's Place!!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Quite the Clammer

In attempting to learn more about the use of a "clammer" or even its historic training application I've been doing lots of google searches, and have had a really hard time finding much of anything (or anything at all really).  Makes me think that there must be another term out there for this particular little bit thing that I just have never heard of.

The back story on it for Pia is that it came from the BO and in turn was something she picked up while training with her super-fancy-national-champion-olympic rider.  SFNCOR suggested it as a method to keep smart/energetic horses distracted and playing, and also a method to lighten a horse in the hand without adding leverage or any severity to the bit currently in use.

I also know that BO was only able to obtain one up in Canada, which makes it slightly less than accessible, but I would think that unless the cannucks have gone completely crazy and disconnected themselves and the great white north from the interweb, that I'd theoretically be able to find one of these things online.

Anyway, I have no documented history, instructions, advertisements, suggestions, opinions or merchants for one of these, but I do have the BO and SFNCOR saying that they have "tried it" and it's "worked."

Frankly I don't much care what it is or where it came from if it makes the mare happy and it doesn't cause any pain. 

As I said before, It's basically a little baby snaffle that you just rest behind your current bit.  So, when it's on it's own and hanging from a tack hook it looks like this:

Those little open hooks slip around your bit ring, so that when its "attached" it looks something like this:
Essentially, it gives P something to clank around on, but it receives no action from the rein and applies no additional pressure.  Admittedly, she's gotten then thing unhooked and out of her mouth twice, but it doesn't seem to freak her out (or even bug her) when that happens, so I'm letting it ride.   Although yesterday, when she unhooked then unceremoniously spat the thing out, I just kept riding and she seemed to continue on as happily as she had with it in. 

Long story short, it seems to have really helped prevent her diving onto her forehand, and is helping Pia accept a little more contact without curling behind the vertical - but I'm not sure we "need" it.  If we're accomplishing half our ride (including the dreaded right lead canter) without the clammer, maybe it doesn't need to become a staple in our ever increasing tack assortment.

Yesterday, I tacked up with the clammer, and lunged the beast briefly before getting on.  She was slow to the point of pokey, which got my "oh crap, is she lame" thoughts spinning.  The answer is no.  I don't think so, since after about 10 minutes she opened up and relaxed a bit more.  But still, when the mare comes out with her head up and her stride about 8" long, it makes me think something is up... 

Our ride was lovely.  I had to have a few little conversations about how to NOT blow through my outside leg, but I didn't have to dismount and smack her, and I didn't get a big buck ever.  The real successes of the ride were that P held a nice tempo and frame for 90% of the time. She only got speedy and on her forehand when we were doing prolonged canter work.

BUT, the beauty of that statement is that we were doing prolonged canter work.  Something about either her cavaletti days, or the bit change or something, has reversed the mysterious refusal to canter and P was happily popping into her canter both directions, lightly and immediately.  Clean upward transitions, and decently balanced downward ones.  I even snuck in a bit of counter canter (well.. figure 8's) and did some nice, "shoulder-in, 10m circle, haunches it, straight, canter depart" series down the long sides.  I did minimal leg yields, but there were as soft, even and balanced as they have been in a while.  Her balance and tempo meant that we achieved some even, consistent movement with the always coveted "every step the same." from rail to rail.

Today, our saddle fitter comes back out to double check the fit of our new Italian crush, so Pia will get a nice light hack, and extra treats for being such a good lady.  Also, I got all inspired last night to make all the ponies at the barn some yummy cookies this weekend and hang little stockings on their stalls.  Anyone have a favorite made-from-scratch recipe?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Headed Home.

Settled back into my favorite exit row seat finally headed toward the mare (and home) for more than a one day laundry stop. I'm seriously looking forward to justifying a fridge full of groceries and an evening on the couch out of anything resembling a suit and heels...
P and I squeezed in a great ride on Saturday after changing the mare's bit to a single jointed loose ring with a 'clammer' attached behind it.

I've never ridden with a 'clammer' before, so for the rest of you who haven't heard or seen one of these things. It almost looks like a bridoon, but I stead of normal bit rings and an extra set of cheek pieces, it has open hooks so you simply hook it on behind your normal bit using the snaffle's own rings.

Essentially the idea is to give a dumpster-diving horse something to play with, freeing up your normal bit for normal bit things like maintaining contact, light steering and emergency breaking..

P adored it. She was foamy and frothy within minutes and although I had to have one major discussion about going forward, once we got moving she stayed more balanced and more forward with less blood sweat and tears from my end.

We got some great stretchy work in which is always my indicator that Miss Pia is happy and relaxed which finalized my stamp of approval on the bit change.

Apparently she continued the trend this weekend with the BO and managed to get herself into such good graces that she earned a much needed bath, complete with some sock whitening.

BO passed along this snapshot of a very tired, very clean mare and I just can't wait to get the wheels back down on the ground so I can go cover her little nose in kisses

I mean, if that's not a smooch worthy muzzle, I don't know what is..... Smooch smooch smooch smooch

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Consistently Inconsistent

Reporting in from a sparsely attended super fascinating waterworks trade show. Nothing quite like driving through snow and sleet storms to set up a booth showing pictures of our products which have had minimal technological advances since ohhhhh, the Romans.


So while I should be shaking hands, smiling profusely and chuckling heartedly as people realize that yes, my last name IS on the door and yes I AM the great great granddaughter of our founder.

(smile and wave. Smile and wave. Ignore the misogynistic old boys and continue to spout product info).

Instead I'm reflecting on miss pia (as always)

The upshot is that we are stationed in a Stunning old hotel that makes the winter weather particularly festive. Also that there are extensive breaks in which I get to sit down, eat more cookies and contemplate the continuing enigma that is Miss P.

Tuesday we had an ok ride. I planned on repeating our cavaletti fun and experimenting with a few more exercises. Ye mare was significantly more energetic than she was on Monday to the point that I was fairly certain I was actually sitting on a powder keg waiting for a sparked fuse.

We separated the cavaletti and used them as a way to break up otherwise basic circles around the ring. An attempt to keep moving forward and springy and relaxed. It worked ok, but apparently they weren't quite exciting enough as she started back to her diving and plunging through my hand and onto her forehand.

We did get some decent transitions, mediocre leg yields and some actual canter. So that's progress I suppose.

The BO ha had her for the last couple of days and reported pretty decent rides (hooray). Looking forward to returning tonight and squeezing a ride in.

But for now- more smiling and waving....

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone
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