Monday, January 31, 2011

Field Trip!!!!

Yesterday was P's first real field trip.  Or at least, her first field trip that involved a ride and not a "spa treatment" at the vet clinic...

I wasn't too sure what to expect.  She hauls well, (though gets a little excited in new places) and I've certainly never attempted to "work" her any place new.  The closest I've gotten to "seeing P off property" is when we've switched barns... but she's always had a night to settle in and a chance to gallop around a new place before I've asked her to focus, or god forbid, work.

This made yesterday an experiment to the extreme.  The Boy and I got up early, hitched up and got to the barn.  I had mentally resolved to ace the princess just to take the edge off and give us a "positive experience."  I liked the logic, and frankly it seemed like a good way to dip our toe in the pool of off property experiences.

The mare was NOT interested in needles that early in the morning and managed a little mini rear (kudos to The Boy for hanging on to her) when I tried to stick her.  That was enough for me.  As someone who's shot giving skills rate somewhere between tentative and totally crappy, I decided that P seemed quiet enough to at least haul down easily and I'd bring the ace if we needed it for our ride... but that we'd risk it and start out without.

P seemed to agree with my decision to put the pokey-stick-thing away and was a quiet, lovely gem about walking slowly and calmly into the trailer.  I made her stand for a few minutes while I'll gathered the last few items I needed, all the while she quietly munched on hay, even with a few frantic whinnies coming from the barn (good mare).

We hauled great, unloaded quietly, walked around the property a bit and stayed very calm.  I was super impressed and dare I say surprised at the calm soft expression that P maintained the entire time.  She raised her head once at the tractor dragging the arena.  Though frankly, it looked like a monster even to me.  Roaring around the indoor, with it's bucket in the air clanking into walls and rocks and such on a sporadic basis... I would have given it the hairy eyeball too.

Long story short, we moved into the cross ties, tacked up and got right to work.  No ace needed.

No Ace Needed

Ta-Da!! Magic mare! She was distracted and very concerned about all the things lurking in the corners (balls, poles, cones...) but she kept all her toes on the ground where they belonged.    I hopped on and we had some issues working out to the rail, but Pia was calm and manageable.  Not once did she feel like she was going to explode and not once did she feel out of control.  She was stuck behind my leg, but not in a cranky "sticky" way.  More in a "uhhhhh, mom, I'm pretty sure you didn't mean to ask me to go into that corner... so I'm just gonna ignore that cue, thx." way.

Frankly, I'll accept that.  I'd much rather have her slow and cautious than crazed and bolty.  Our lesson went well... (I'll post some video later) and we actually got some decent work done.  For some reason the ring was significantly scarier when we tracked to the right (less scary to the left), but since P is about as flexible as a motorcycle to the right, we focused on that side in sprite of the increased spook factor.

Supermom was happy with how she behaved and also happy to see that P was moving a little freer (when not avoiding scary corners, or irregular grooves in the sand..) and helped us come up with a slightly longer-term-plan. (SLTP).

So far it looks like this:

Use February to solidify our longer/lower frame and build muscle.
Ride 70% on the right side to help increase strength and flexibility in that direction.
Limit lateral work, but focus on suppling. 
Educate the mare on the fact that her face can bend to the right...
Stay forward.

March we'll start to add in some lateral work again, bring her up a bit (if she's muscled) and hopefully work a bit more on quality of gaits rather than just obeying.

How'dya like them apples!?

She did throw in a couple little hops when we were really working on our right bend (and cantering), but I got after her.  Also, they seemed like genuine "ow this is hard" kicks, not "get off you flaming bitch" kicks.  I'm fine with things being hard.  I am not fine with her trying to murder me.  So that's an improvement too.

All in all, it was a great day.  P was quiet, soft and calm - even in a brand new situation with horsies she didn't know. She trailered like a champ, came off cool and dry both times and we both had happy rides. 

Can't ask for much more than that! 

Like I said, video, and more comments on the ride to come....

Center console of the truck - my favorite deli turkey wrap (fully used), and the syringe of ace (UNUSED!!!!).  YESSSSSSSSSSS

Saturday, January 29, 2011


Quick post to say that

A) the mare had great rides last night and today.


B) the BO and I are on perfectly good terms.

The mare has been happy and calm and I can say the same for barn atmosphere.

All in all I think my emotional reaction spoke to my stress level and the BO's tired/stressed state of mind when she got back from traveling.

She's super encouraging about P and I hauling out and seems proud of our recent progress. There is a legit insurance aspect which I'll explain when I have a full sized keyboard.


Here's to hoping that the mare enjoys her field trip!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Friday, January 28, 2011

Banner!!! (and boundaries cont'd)

First of all, I would like to extend a heartfelt thank you to Denali's Mom for allowing P and I to be the beneficiaries of her chronic procrastination.  If only I had such a handy skill to reciprocate with!  I can offer delicious enchiladas and wine.. but that's all I got..

Anyway, hope you like it.  We needed an update and this is fun!

I really enjoyed all of the comments on the last post.  I fully recognize the potentially very real insurance concerns (which speaks to the ridiculous nature of insurance) but I do think that this is an interesting point of contention at a lot of barns and shows a disconnect between what owners want and what owners can get when selecting a barn.  There are several barns in the area where you can bring anyone in, but they aren't typically the sort of facility that I feel comfortable at.  I'm sure there's a sweet spot between dangerously dilapidated fencing and a rigid show barn, but finding something in my price range within an hour of the rest of my life is a little more difficult.

Beyond my situation, I am baffled, and frustrated by the liability issues around horses.  I get it to a certain point and in our litigious society I totally understand the basis, but I mean REALLY.  Come on.  I know for a fact that Seattle code protects property owners and instructors to the max.  Yes there are exceptions and yes every once in a while a fancy pants lawyer is able to bust through and wreak havoc.  As someone who grew up with horses on my own property, I am (or was) used to being able to do what I wanted when I wanted.  Jump by myself? sure! trails? ok! flatwork? the ring was mine... I had no restrictions (though maybe some wouldn't have hurt...).  Sure people signed waivers when they brought their horses in.. but that was about it.

Between insurance, waivers, and posted signage.. I am a little shocked at the legal exposure that seems to still terrify a lot of owners., but I understand the paranoia. 

I guess I don't really know.  I respect the insurance stuff, and I can even get behind barns that don't allow outside trainers.  A little strange? our barn does host clinics from time to time (this weekend being one example).  So there must be something else that is a loophole there.  Maybe the clinicians have their own coverage?

I don't like feeling as though helping each other out or commenting on someone's ride is "taboo" I hope my current sense of dread continues to dissipate, as I am horrifically prone to guilt and absolutely hate feeling like I am crossing a line with anybody. 

Today I'm back out to the barn.  I sent the BO an email regarding training for Feb and about hauling out on Sunday, so I guess I'll get to see if there is an emotional aspect of this from her side, or I really did just see a fairly extreme concern for liability.

Also, here's to hoping that the mare holds her behavior for another day.. she's been off since Monday!  Fingers crossed!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Boundaries at the Barn

I've been thinking about how to write this post, as some thoughts have been rattling around in my head for a few days, but I've yet to solidify if I intend to simply vent, or attempt a more thoughtful discourse...

Essentially, it stems from a 'talking to' that I received from my BO on Monday following my two great rides on Pia.

She stated that she had heard reports that Supermom had essentially instructed me on Sunday and that it wasn't covered by her insurance, and it couldn't happen again.

I nodded, apologized for crossing any lines and continued cooling out my horse.

My immediate reaction was to instantly tear up and cry. I don't know why I had such a strong emotional reaction. Rationally, I know that it's fair for my BO to not allow outside 'training' on her property, sort of like movie theaters and outside snacks... But still. For some reason it felt very personal. Maybe it's because I felt like we were both beating our brains out over how to communicate with Pia and how to move forward. It felt like we were both looking for any help and any answer under every stone even if we had already turned it over 5 times..

I think I was expecting her first reaction to both an email I sent her and her having watched some of our Monday ride to be something closer to pride, excitement or enthusiasm over our fairly obvious breakthrough.

Maybe she felt those things, I don't know. But when her first sentence had to do with me breaking rules and not with the fact that she had just seen P canter around the ring in a relaxed frame for the first time... ever... I was caught off-guard and sad. Also, I guess in my mind Supermom has been over-the-top generous in her assistance and willingness to come up and give us feedback.

As a 'full training' customer at my barn, my loyalties and intentions regarding ongoing training seem obvious so I would be surprised if my BO felt any sort of threat by our progress. Additionally the chance to receive insight from Supermom on what makes P tick seems totally separate from my goals with the BO... I guess that's why I didn't connect those particular dots, though in retrospect I suppose they were pretty close together..

The whole thing left me uncomfortable. The BO reiterated that she wasn't mad, and she wants to see me succeed even if that means I leave the barn.

I appreciated the lack of anger or upset, but frankly that comment confused me further, as the thought of leaving had never even occurred to me....

I've calmed down over the week (and time away from the barn), but I still feel a bit unsettled. I'm not sure how my BO feels, or where things totally stand. I'm also not sure how I feel or how I want to proceed.

Given my success (however small) on Sunday and Monday, I'm currently thinking that I should take some time and work with Pia on my own for a while as we reestablish a functional working relationship. Our full training clearly wasn't helping us and seems to have been contributing to our struggles. Our stagnation has been clear to me, but my confidence is boosted by feedback and simply having someone in the ring with me, which had been the primary value of our current training setup. However, I feel as though I'm chipping away at those confidence issues and making strides for whenI'm on my own with the beast.

I don't want to leave my barn and I'm fully aware of how hard it would be to find someplace I enjoy as much that provides comparable care for the price. But it is the first time I have felt some coldness radiate out of the BO toward me and my plans with Pia.

It does raise an interesting question of boundaries and realistic expectations. Of course I wouldn't expect a movie theater to 'allow' me to bring in my own candy. But they don't stop me from enjoying my own mints... Or gum.. Or sweaters to keep me warm and comfortable during the movie.

It makes me wonder how far 'exclusive training' goes at a barn. I'm paying a premium price for my facility and I patronize the full service and training options. At the point at which onsite help or insight isn't available (an obvious example is vet or farrier services) when is it appropriate to seek external consulting? Where do you draw the line? If Supermom only assisted me on the ground, would the BO still care? Or is it the fact that I was 'instructed' while mounted?

Also, what constitutes a lesson? No money was exchanged, no formal agreement.. In fact Supermom didn't do much more for me than I've done for fellow barnmates when they've had sticking points or concerns with their horses. Are we not allowed to comment on each other's rides?

I know I'm extrapolating quite a bit, but I don't think it's totally ridiculous. Clearly I unknowingly crossed a line with the BO. What I can't tell is if it's actually rooted in insurance concerns, business protocol, ego or some combination of the three...

Regardless, I need another STP, to get through the next few days and gain some clarity on comfort levels as well as the mare's happiness. So, here's what I've got-

Today: fly home.
Friday: ride on my own
Saturday: ride on my own
Sunday: Supermom Sunday! This time on her turf.

That's right. We're taking our show on the road. Remember way back when one of my goals was to travel off property?

It was in the dim distant past, but I'm reviving it. Right now Supermom seems to be our best tool, so we're sticking with it. If she can't come to us, we'll go to her and see what happens when we throw P into a trailer and then a new ring.

I'm cautiously optimistic about what we'll get done on Sunday, but even if we stay stuck on the ground, I'll enjoy the chance to explore our relationship on new turf.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Two Times a Lady

First off, my phone ate my almost completed post. Which is frustrating and probably means I'll do a craptastic job of trying to recreate it on my phone. Again. Humph.

Secondly, the mare was sooooo good! And! We did it all by ourselves!! (giant self congratulatory pat).

Pia was definitely a bit tuckered out from Sunday, so I wasn't worried about energy levels, but a pouring rainstorm renders the noise in the arena to a loud roar and essentially makes it impossible for the ponies to hear anything coming/ going and they end up a bit (understandably) spooky.

P held it together until she didn't notice a trailer pull into the driveway until it was right in front of her face. That warranted a large freakout. A Snort. And a squeal (really?).

But, she calmed almost the whole way down pretty quickly and managed to mostly pay attention again. Since I knew two other horses were tacking up, I tried to lunge until they got there (didn't want a mystery horse spook as they magically appeared at the gate), but P was clearly over it.

So I got over myself and pulled her up and threw my leg over.

She was... Tense. But not crazy. The ears were glued forward, but there was no threat of stickiness and my biggest issue was simply trying to talk her neck down to a somewhat less checked up frame.

We trotted. We trotted bigger. I had to tap her a few times on the open side of the circle, but that was it for corrections. We popped up to the canter and did lengthenings, figure eights and small circles. We came back to the trot and spiraled in and out, we put our nose on the ground. We did NOT spook when the other horses came in and we did not buck.

I couldn't have asked for much more than that...

We zoomed around for about 35 minutes before I called it a day and gave the mare huge pats. Big, huge, smooshy pats.

I informed her that since she was good, she got to keep all her new toys and she even got a cookie.

It was a good ride.

So, now it's time to think about why.

Supermom strategy? Yes
Regumate? Maybe
Shoes on our toes? Maybe.

Usually I have about 6 variables that have changed, so a short list of three seems more manageable/ slightly less ridiculous.

For the time being we're sticking with all three. I'm down in LA for a couple days, but when I'm back Thursday we'll nail a few more rides (I hope) and look forward to Supermom Sunday again. (new holiday!).

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Monday, January 24, 2011

Fresh Tracks

This weekend was one of some serious revival/renewal.  Saturday I finally dragged myself to a doctor and got 3 ribs, two vertebrae and one hip snapped back into place.  I didn't really know that they were "out" of place, but never in my seriously physically therapized life have I walked away form an appointment with such an immediate sense of pain relief and "fixed-ness."
The ribs were knocked out from my fall, but the vertebrae and hip were long standing issues that I've sorta gotten used to and never knew that they could/would go away with such minimal correction.  Needless to say, I'm now obsessed with this doc and already booked a return trip for Thursday.  I informed Pia that my bodywork bills will be taken straight from her budget. (even mares have to make sacrifices..).  She was either ignoring me, or didn't like her bodywork anyway... who know.

Due to my extensive bodywork and other appointments, the mare got Saturday off, which teed us up for a potentially interesting day at the barn on Sunday when Supermom returned (but this time to watch me ride the mare).

So as entertaining as hearing about the various pops and shocks that resulted in my happy back is, I'll skip straight to Sunday and recap our day-o-Supermom.

In fact, I'll skip right to the summary.

Mare was great.  And I feel awesome.


I was a bit apprehensive about riding the beast after a light lunging on Friday (sore back was gone, I think she just strained something little during our mega ride on Thursday..) and Saturday off.  I was not encouraged by the vigor that P was displaying in the cross ties.  She wasn't bitchy, or even snotty, but she was vert... umm... alert.  She was puffed up to her full height and extra interested in absolutely everything that was happening.  Horses moving, dogs sniffing, cars coming and going.. P was intrigued and intently interested in the bright shiny world.

Not a great sign for me, who usually prefers her ears out sideways and eyeballs half closed, but oh well.  Supermom and I set up my saddle for my fancy new airbag-vest and hit the ring which was freshly dragged. The physical blank slate for our session felt like a really nice way to step back into the arena with her...

We started on the lunge and P was (as always) good.  One thing that continues to impress me in our relationship is how obedient this horse is on the ground.  Her respect for space and body language on the ground is near perfect.  Her manners on the lunge are great.  She whoas  and goes on verbals, never pulls the lunge line and even increases and decreases her stride within a gait on command.  It's admirable, but something that makes our struggles under saddle even more frustrating.  (because my typical strategy of "return to the groundwork" doesn't apply.  We're already functional at that level...).

Supermom did have me raise my expectations a bit for her lungework.  We affixed the lunge line in a way that helped to encourage a bit more bend and flection on the circle. It worked great and have the additional side effect of also increasing her attention on me.  Supermom had me admonish Pia for even the slightest head waggle (I hadn't been as strict on this) which resulted in an even more focused mare (yay).

About halfway through our lunging, another horse joined us in the ring, but P didn't even bat an eye (yessss).  After working both sides for about 12 minutes total, we unhooked, tightened our girth and hopped on. 

I clipped in my vest, made a mental note to un-tether before dismounting (I swear I'm going to deploy this vest by accident...) and got to work.  P was calm (no ace!!!) and didn't seem too bottled up, so we moved straight to the trot and although she wasn't extra forward, she was trotting and made no overtures to actually stop and fight.

Two tight circles and one lap around the ring later and we were forward and swinging.  Supermom decided that she would basically give me a lesson from the ground on how she would be riding P (for which I'm thankful), so the first order of business was a few basic adjustments for me and my approach.
  1. Hands wide and LOW. Like really low.  Like training-wheels, baby, low.
  2. Slightly more forward seat.  
  3. Relax my shoulders (oops)
  4. All hand movements go wide (open rein) and straight back (to my thigh), none of my crappy-crutch of crossing over or lifting.  Bad, bad. 
We cut the ring off (avoiding the gate) and got straight to busy with the goal of getting P to work forward and eventually (god willing) release her back.  This started with big forward trot around the ring... with figure eights and smaller circles thrown in.  Supermom told me to start unsticking her ribs with lots of bending and over-bending and a bit of shoulder in.  She had me really using my corners and constantly asking for P to drop into an even longer and even lower frame.  It only took about 5 minutes to get Pia really working forward and keeping her nose at or slightly in front of the vertical in a much less compressed frame than she has typically been working in.

(side note: although I was previously doing lots of stretchy circles, my fear/trepidation kept my reins short and Pia's neck fairly checked so as to avoid any serious antics... in retrospect I think my "defense" was working against us..)

We popped into the canter early, working a lengthened stride down the long side and a more balanced stride through the corners.  P felt great.hunchy back or stressed neck.  I almost fainted from exhaustion after a full 8 minutes of canter work (can you say GYM). but I was thrilled that P was moving and even when she broke a few times, she popped right back into the canter when I asked (yeehaw!).  It wasn't perfect, we did have two small discussions that warranted small circles (again regarding the open side of the circle), but ultimately I felt safe in my corrections and we were able to move forward immediately without escalating the "fight."

After our canter work, the mare got a long walk break (longer than usual) but she returned to the trot right away.  More bending, more forward and an introduction to spiraling our circles in and out.  We worked from 20 meters down to about 10, staying in a very forward trot the entire time and maintaining a fairly low frame.  I gotta say, that for working her butt off  P's ears were soft, her neck was relaxed and she was starting to let her back/ribs go and start swinging.

By the end of the hour, we had a consistent, happy, forward trot, and P was maintaining her own lengthened frame without much encouragement and Supermom only had to "remind" me about my hands/shoulders every 2 minutes instead of every 30 seconds.

All in all a big improvement.  Yes she was falling on her forehand at the end, and yes we were both sweaty messes, but both seemed the result of actually working and moving for an hour, not from being locked in battle mode.

After the ride, P got lots of cookies and currying.  I realized that I cannot WAIT for spring to get here so I can pressure wash the sludge of winter off the mare.  There is a layer of grime that seems to be permanent and even with weekly laundry, P is rendering her blankets muddy, smelly and gross.

Once P was put away, Supermom and I were off to the tack shop to spend waaaay too much money.  Pia is lucky that she was good, since my renewed affections for her resulted in some serious splurging.  New Stirrups for me, new boots (brushing and bell) for her and some liniment which realistically is something we could both use...

Not a bad day.  Not a bad day at all.

Today I'm attempting to replicate our ride (though maybe slightly less intense) before I'm launched out of town for a few days due to "work."

I've been doing some hard thinking about our training schedule and currently I'm thinking that I'm going to back way off our lessons schedule and let P's attitude dictate how quickly we progress.  I think we just need to return to basics and reestablish that we can work forward without stressing out and let the mare muscle up and grow her topline before we push much beyond a training level frame.

Supermom made the observation that it's possible that between Pia's "personality" (that probably deserves air quotes..), her late development, and her previous experience with pain/trauma (as a baby), that she may just not ever be accepting to anything that's painful for difficult.  Add in the dulled sensory issues from the Wobbler's and we've got a mare that might need special ed for the rest of her life.

I think I can handle that, just as long as we can keep having some rides like the one we had on Sunday every week.

I'm optimistic that Pia was trying to tell me that she wasn't ready or capable of partnering with me on what I was asking of her, but that she is ready and capable of some baby work.

At least I hope that's what she's saying. :)

Friday, January 21, 2011

Momma's Got a Brand New Bag...

Realistically, Pia got some brand new shoes. and I got a brand new vest...

So today's recap feels like I could type it from two totally different perspectives (the cliche shoulder angel/devil scenario comes to mind).  So I'm going to try to convey both of my thought processes without sounding like a totally incoherent, rambling fool. :)

First order of business: Presents!!

Today, Pia got new shoes.  I hope she feels as pretty and fancy as I do when I get a pretty new pair of shoes, but I can't be certain.  I trust the barn's farrier implicitly.  Whenever he was out while P was barefoot, he was always kind enough (and interested) enough to take a look at her feet and give me his opinion.  He respects barefoot, likes it on horses who maintain it well, but (as most farriers do) he ultimately saw shoes as the simplest solution for P's funny feet.  Unlike other opinions that I got, he never acted arrogantly, or proclaimed that the only way to even her out would be to take drastic chunks of hoof away.  So for that, he earned a bit of trust.

I have mixed feelings about P's new shoes.  Personally, I'd love her to be barefoot, I think that ultimately most horses should be barefoot, and that P and I aren't doing anything so demanding that requires shoes to combat extreme wear.  I like the idea of increased circulation and her feet responding directly to her body.  I just like it.

So why would I put shoes back on?  I recognize that this is a somewhat touchy subject for a number of people, but the honest answer is that for this horse, in this moment, I felt that it was the most responsible thing. 

P's hind feet were starting to wear somewhat extremely, and her heels were super low.  The shape of her hind feet was starting to "bulge" and while I don't claim a serious understanding of horsey hoof mechanics, it looked all sorts of wrong.  Also, I think it's possible that she's a bit tender so I figure while I'm on this crusade of trying to control every controllable in this mare's life, this was one switch I hadn't flipped.

So, I feel good because I think that it's possible her uneven wear and weird bulging hind hooves could have been adding discomfort.  I feel bad because hooves don't just magically wear strangely... they do whatever the leg above them does.  So I hope that I'm not just pushing a problem "up the line."  Only time will tell...

Time for my present...

I got..... a Point Two Air Jacket!!!!  This might lead most people to think that I've secretly been training my upper level event horse and not blogging about it, but no.  

Sadly, I have not.  The Point Two is simply a security blanket for me, and a requirement from Daddy-Dearest so that he doesn't secretly kidnap P in the night and hide her someplace I won't be able to ride her.  He's gotten much more protective of my riding even since I moved on from Star the Wonder Pony (15 years ago..) who literally twisted in mid air to stay under you.. In fact, he's pretty much convinced that every other horse is a death trap, so P's recent antics have not exactly helped to dispel that myth.
So, now I get to look SUPER STYLISH (I guess I did deserve that award..) when I ride.  Anyone wanna take bets on how many times I forget to unhook myself from the saddle and accidentally inflate the vest when I dismount!?? Cause I bet it's gonna be a lot...

On to our ride yesterday... (more shoulder angel/devil action).

I figured that since the mare was ridden Sunday, lunged Monday, and ridden Tuesday AND Wednesday, I could attempt a ride without Ace.  I don't like it as a crutch, and realistically, the mare had no excise for antics given her schedule... so I lunged briefly, and hopped on.

Then I hopped off. 

She was a bit of a firecracker.  I walked for about 20 meters, then went up to our trot and she felt like she was about to explode in about 40 million directions.  My panic trigger started wiggling and I got all sorts of freaked out.  I slowed her down to a walk again and felt her back/legs/neck coil for some sort of badness.  That's when I turned her around, trotted back to the BO and stuck her with .6cc of Ace again. 

UGH, fail.  I can honestly tell you that I am not sure if Pia really was acting differently without the Ace or if my brain is simply playing tricks on me.  Realistically, .6cc of Ace is a pretty little dose.  She doesn't get heavy with it, or dopey,  in fact, she's still pretty capable of anything she wants when she's on it... so I can't really tell how much of an effect I'm getting out of it aside from my mental piece of mind.

Regardless of the impact, I got back on and immediately got to work.  Increase/Decrease, loops, serpentines, all the usual tricks.  She seemed pretty good, and on the relative "sticky" factor, we had a decent day.  Pia did get stuck twice, but I whirled her in a circle and kicked/smacked which was enough to get her forward forward.  We did a couple circle/leg yields and they went better than Wednesday.  Our canter work was mediocre, but showed the most obvious improvement during the ride.  P was pulling her "I don't want to canter I just want to trot FASTER" crap, which makes me angry.  So, even though she was still going forward, I tried the circle/kick/smack routine then asked for my canter again and VOILA.  Magic nice canter transition.  I did a few quick transitions up and down, which went swimmingly after our circle/kick/whap discussion. 

So, I felt really good.  I felt like I was getting through to the mare and that I was getting more and more comfortable reacting quicker to her objections and nipping them in the bud.  I think that I need to reduce the number of "sticky" exercises (turn on the haunches, leg yields, etc) until she's even more consistently forward, but all in all I really feel like I came out on top. 

Once again, I was exhausted when I got off, but I felt less defeated... so that has to be a win of some sort.

However, as I was untacking and my brain was processing the ride, I got a little less "happy" about it and started down the path of considering how much of this fight will realistically improve over the long term.  The BO is very complimentary of my riding and impressed at how well I've "stepped up" and really ridden the mare, but she's leery that this isn't sustainable for me in the long term.  I don't want other people's opinions to influence me (too much), but she does raise a good point. 

I spend a lot of time and a lot of money on my horses (well, just the one right now) and at some point driving through the rain after work to go to war every day is not exactly a spiritually relaxing endeavour. :)

Mostly I'm playing devil's advocate with that line of thinking.. but still.  This phase is hard.  It's hard to feel like I'm confronting my mare on EVERY little thing, and not ever really learning or moving forward.  Looking back, I feel like we have had lots of "positive" rides, but realistically we're worse off (in terms of progress and consistency) than we were 10 months ago when I first got Pia.  So that's a little frustrating.

So, like I said.  Yesterday day was a day of ups and downs.  My brain often works too hard, and I end up with waaaay more interpretations of a situation than I care to have.  I'd sorta prefer to either be elated or extremely frustrated.  At least that would offer a little more clarity!

OH, one more thing that was slightly upsetting... When I was currying Miss P after our ride she was super-duper-sore on her left lumbar area.  She's never been backsore, and I poke and prod her on a regular basis... so that was really odd.  If she's still sore today, she gets the day off. We did a lot of big half halts and "sits" yesterday.. so maybe she tweaked something.  who knows.  Oh Mare.

In the mean time - We ride. :)  I'm out there tonight, tomorrow, and Supermom is joining me again Sunday.  With us luck!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Back in the Saddle Day 2

Proud to report that yesterday was our "best ride in a while"

....yes, I still lunged her...

... and yes she still had some ace coursing through her veins...

BUT we had a great ride!  (assuming the new standard of "great" that includes no bucking and no falling...) 

Frankly I'll take it. and I'll be darn proud of us for it. 

There were a few things stacked against us.  First of all, when I do ace the beast, I don't ace her until after our lunge session.  So I walked her into the ring cocktail free,  Which was good.  Our friend Zorra (cute mare) was working nicely at the far end and P seemed content to allow her to proceed.  Of course, just as I was getting ready to send Pia out on the line a monster truck and monster (horse eating) trailer came down the driveway and proceeded to unload (what Pia could only assume) was an angry devilish mare who was surely sent to steal Pia's dinner. 

Pia (bless her), took it upon herself to giraffe neck above the arena walls (don't worry mom... I can SEE this devilish beast... I'll let you know if we have to RUN). I let her look, but I did make her stand totally still.  I know I should have made her ignore it... but with one mystery mare unloading and one working in the ring, I didn't want to risk P having a conniption and spooking either other horse.. So I accepted the giraffe neck/periscope imitation.

Fortunately, the new mare simply ambled off the trailer and ambled into the barn without batting an eyelash.  (edit: The BO brought this Sweedish Amorex mare in as a potential lease/buy option for another gal at the barn, but I think she secretly wants this to be a Pia v2.0.  She's a cute mare, sort of a bigger, uglier version of P.. but still has a really sweet face. I think maybe her movement makes up for her big head). 

After the possible invader/dinner thief was out of sight, Pia went right to work and behaved nicely on the lunge.  No excess energy, pretty relaxed.  Easy cantering, easy trotting, easy...

But then our buddy Zorra left and that was (apparently) unacceptable.  P got a little spooky, and quick and head-tossy.  So we REALLY went to work (WWSMD - what would supermom do..). Pia went forward, and her circle got smaller until she was listening again... I was a little annoyed that our outburst happened toward the end of our lunging session, as I didn't want to run the mare's legs off, but I didn't want to deal with her big eyeballs popping out of her head or her crazy antics.  My compromise was to lunge a bit longer and to still give her a tick of ace before hopping on.

Once on, I repeated my strategy of moving right into the trot, which worked (mostly), though P was really stuck behind my leg.  I used some increase/decrease to get her up and adjusting but she wasn't what I would call "moving freely."  We popped into the canter (no bucks!) and worked that.  back to the trot... back to the canter... back to the trot.. etc.

P finally got forward, and I felt like she was actually holding contact in my outside rein (concept!).  I should mention that I switched her bit (again) to a french link snaffle.  It's a bit thinner than the other snaffle's I've put her in, but I think I like it.  She doesn't seem to be avoiding contact, which was a concern.. and she does seem to still have breaks (also a concern...).  I don't think her bit is the biggest factor, but I do think that this one might actually be contributing in a positive way, unlike our disastrous golden wings...

We worked some leg yields, utilizing circles along the way to help maintain forward momentum and keep the mare supple.  Basically we'd turn up the quarter line, leg yield to the wall, then as soon as we hit, we'd do a 15 meter circle, but shrink it so we returned to the quarter line and leg yield back to the wall.  I'm not sure how to better explain it except that the leg yield --> soft loop.... leg yield --> soft loop sequencing seemed to give us a nice rhythm.  We worked that on both sides, then returned to our canter work and did some nice hand gallops. 

Pia's canter has been oddly balanced this week (I'm not complaining) and I'm not sure what to ascribe it to.  Post Supermom, she's accepting my aids better (or maybe I'm just less scared to use them) and I am definitely supporting her more with my legs and taking a shorter rein.  Those changes along with some serious SMACKING with the whip have given us back our 10-12 meter canter circles.  This meant we got to gallop (kinda) and collect up to small circles the gallop forward out of them.

I'd be lying if I said that this was an easy exercise.  I know that P did most of the work, but I have not worked that hard on a horse in a long time.  Between squeezing and pumping and driving her forward and trying to lift her up with my legs and abs when bringing her back, I was panting almost as hard as the mare when we were done.  I mean wow.  It took some serious riding.

The great news? I could kick and drive and whap her with the stick without any hints of bucking or hunchy back.  We even had moments of balance between falling on our forehand and breaking to the trot.  Supermom had suggested that we utilize some hand gallop/canter extensions in our "forward" attitude and I think she's right.  Though it was hard to get P moving out and forward, once I did, I had a lot more adjustability to work with.

We finished with some nice flowing trot work (shallow loops and serpentines) with a final stretchy trot circle.  For our flowy trot I kept her a little more upright and asked her to stay "forward" but more compact than I usually ask for and really cooperated quite nicely!

Our only negatives?  I had to ride the crap out of her.  Pia still isn't offering anything or responding with quick, light movement.  Lots of kicking, and whapping with the whip.  Lots of small tight circles with lots of kicking/beating when she ignores me.  They work, but they are disruptive and take a lot of work.  Not only in the kick/whip/spin/leg/kick/whip sense, but also in the sense that I really need to be getting to that response faster and eliminating P's perception that she can choose not to listen the first, second, or third time that I ask for something.

All in all, it was a better ride than Tuesday, so that's good.  But we still have some obedience issues going on.  I'm confident that I can handle them if they stay at this level.  Also good news? There's no way that she was under the influence of her Ace for our whole ride.  So I'm pretty sure that her softness and stretching at the end was honest and not the result of her cocktail...

I officially give the mare a GOLD STAR for the day.  Maybe, just maybe some of this could be the Regu-Mate?? only time will tell..

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Back in the (quite literal) Saddle

Last night I rode my mare!

And, all things considered, it was pretty good.  The BO put a ride on her on Sunday, and I lunged her lightly on Monday, so she wasn't over the top fresh, but she has been spookier than usual which is a bit odd.

I decided to Ace the beast (just barely a tick), which in actuality was probably more of Dumbo's Magic Feather for me, as we didn't give her anywhere near a dose that actually dulled her.  It's possible that the baby cocktail calmed her down a bit, but since she wasn't even heavy in my hand... it couldn't have had that big an impact on her.

I got on, and got right to busy.  Forward trot and a bit of canter, without MAJOR conflict.  She was surprisingly sticky (grrr), but I was pretty aggressive with how quickly I was correcting her and I made sure that she was spinning in a circle to avoid any repetition of the whole rear/buck/dump sequence that I experienced two weeks ago.  I think I was mad enough at her stickiness that I had a smidgen of Supermom in me so I wasn't scared when she hunched her back and threatened a baby hop.

The bucks never materialized (even with extensive cantering and lots of small circles - something she considered buck worthy in the past..).  The stickiness dissipated, but never totally went away.  We got good work done, but I was using my stick quite a bit... Basically my emotional state during the ride flucuated between something like "wheeeee! I'm riding and we're trotting FAST" and "god damnit horse, why are you still doing this!"  

Also, I didn't realize how messed up my back still is from crunching down on my shoulder blades.  I've felt pretty normal in my day to day activities, but riding and keeping my core tight was borderline painful.  I guess that means I actually should go see a chiro for myself (and stop letting P hog all the bodywork..).  Also, the BO pointed out that my right hip is now stuck in front of my left one... whoops! that's not awesome for trying to stay balanced/centered....

All in all. I was happy.  I felt confident, P was better than she's been and I think I made my point re: going forward. 

Slight downsides were that she was sticky and my body hurt like a mother.

Overall, I have to be pretty happy with that ride though, especially considering I had been "grounded" for the last two weeks and I'm SURE that I wasn't as smooth and fluid as I pretend to usually be.

I'm back out to the barn tonight for another ride, then another ride on Thursday, then another on Friday and another on Saturday and hopefully another on Sunday (maybe with Supermom as a witness?).  I'm down in California for a chunk of next week and the BO is leaving for AZ, so I sorta want to roll with some rides in a row if I can manage it.

Pia has been quite the lover on the ground.  Very affectionate, very soft and not pushy at all.  Maybe all my snapping and refusing to let her chew on anything fun at all is actually having an impact....

Tired mare thinks she deserves endless cookies..


I am so far BEHIND on my blogging it's embarrassing.  But I'm going to try and catch up. First order of business:

I can't even remember if I mentioned that Denali's Mom came out to play with Miss P and I Friday night, but she did!! So fun.  She's wildly entertaining, we both have ridiculous mares (so it's always nice to have an empathetic ear to bitch to) and in spite of what she said, she totally, did not look homeless.  I'm a firm believer that you CANNOT hold anyone accountable for what they are dressed in anytime they are anywhere near horses (or children for that matter).

I have found myself in some seriously questionable outfits at the barn that have been known to include, swimsuits, earmuffs, hip waders, heels, goggles, goose down onesies, and/or cocktail dresses.  I'd like to pretend that these were all separate instances, but they weren't.  (hot).

Anyway, Denali's Mom was kind enough to pass the Stylish Blogger Award (omg!) along to me, so I'm posting it, however since literally all my fav blogs have gotten this thing by now (damn delay).. I'm skipping the final step of passing it on. I know, I know, I'm lazy. Maybe I'll just save it for when I find 15 new stylish people and re-gift at some unknown point in the future. :)

I will however, indulge in the 7 fun facts.. cause that's just... entertaining, or at least I hope it is.
  1.  In order to get my first pony I had to promise my dad three things. 1) no french kissing till high school, 2) no sex till college, and 3) Grandchildren by the time I turn 30.  This is a PERFECT indication of my parents child rearing philosophies.  They are great, even if I came out with some odd notions of how everyone else got their first pony...
  2.  My degree is in Cognitive Science, and I spent most of my research time teaching pigeons how to do ridiculous things.  Like move boxes around and peck at fake bananas.  All in the name of science mind you..
  3. I spend almost as much money at the Container Store as I do at the Tack Store.
  4. Thanks to The Boy, I'm somewhat addicted to Top Ramen (chicken flavor) with about a POUND of swiss cheese grated in.  It's.... addicting... and delicious.
  5. When I outgrew my first pony I swore that I would teach her to drive so that we could still compete.  She kicked the first cart she was hitched up to and I decided to buy a new horse...
  6. My Mom and I have matching tattoos.
  7. I have the world's BEST recipe for a smoked salmon-corn chowder.  YUM

More on the Mare shortly!!!  big hint... I GOT BACK ON. yeehaaaw!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Wear Gloves

Well, after a weekend of friends and distractions, I am back on track with Miss P and taking some steps forward.

The BO put a ride on the mare on Sunday, which I sadly missed but I got a good report from. Light lunging followed by a quick forward (read: canter, canter, canter) warm-up and a few actual exercises!

Apparently P was tense (BO thought it might be aftershocks from her 'tuneup' from Supermom), though 5 days between rides and a massive windstorm probably didn't help relax the mare either..

The most encouraging factor was that that the BO said P wasn't sticky in the slightest or Bucky (yay!). Hopefully those attributes carry over to our ride scheduled for later today.

The mare also got her first dose of Regu-Mate last night which I'm really, really crossing my fingers for. I'm not expecting her to become a different horse (in fact I'd be sorta sad if her personality ever changed), but I would be over the MOON if we were able to dull the aggressive/stallion-esque behaviors enough to take some of the fight out.

In theory we should see a bit of a behavior change overnight, though we are stocking up on Ace, just in case.... I really don't want to use it (Supermom is proof we don't have to), but as eager as I am to get back on, I'm still a little timid and hoping that I have the guts to bear down and RIDE if the mare tests me. :)

Regarding the Regu-Mate... The feed room has turned into a sterilized chemical warfare zone. Everything anywhere NEAR the Regu-Mate is bleached and sharpied with ominous warnings to WEAR GLOVES. I'm probably being over cautious with the handling of this stuff, but it creeps me out. For all the gross things (burgers, hot dogs, processed cheese products) that I'm willing to ingest, I usually steer clear of any other substances that have known adverse affects to your body. At this point I'm starting to consider involuntary sterilization an adverse affect...

So, everything is marked. Everything is separated from anyone else's feed buckets and I have stocked up on latex gloves..

Feels like progress! Hopefully I still feel like we made strides after our attempt to ride tonight. Wish me luck!!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Friday, January 14, 2011


Most days, at most times, I really enjoy my vet.  I like his outlook, I like his communication and I like his style for treatment.  Sure, his bedside manner leaves a little room for improvement, but realistically I don't mind a little more straight forward talk and a little less hand holding when it comes to me being informed about my horse.

But some days, at some times, I really sort of want to scream.  Not really at him per se, but at his office staff.  For anyone who remembers the frustrations I had around scheduling our Myelograms.. I've had run ins with the main office lady a few times.  She acts like she's guarding some ancient treasure and fiercely defends her schedule as well as most any communications in and out of the clinic.

How long have I been talking about Regu-Mate? A while right? It's been more than I week since I first emailed my vet to talk about filling a prescription for it (or telling me if he preferred another method of hormone control) which went DAYS without emails or calls back.  Why? well... she gets busy, she forgets, she took a day off (steam, steam, steam). 

The worst part is I have to try my hardest to stay sugary sweet to her because the last thing I need is to give her any reasons to make my life more difficult.  Ugh.

Anyway, I finally talked to my vet yesterday, and we had a fantastic chat about options (injectables, implants, marbles, etc) for controlling Miss P's little, ahem, cycle.

His basic take was that Regu-Mate is a pain to handle (yes), and expensive (yes), but seems to have the biggest impact.  He has a couple injectable options that are essentially slow release capsules, but they need to be redone every 4-6 weeks and haven't produced as strong of a "behavior change" as he's seen with Regu-Mate.  He also said he doesn't love the current implants that are available and that he's seen a low success rate with the marbles, as many mare tend to "spit them out" after a few cycles.

So we talked, and decided that since I'm basically using hormones as a test to see if they significantly impact P's attitude, I might as well spring for the Regu-Mate and get the biggest possible change.  Then, after we work our way through a liter of the stuff (probably in 3 months) if she's a happier mare, we'll just spay her.

Yup.  Spay.  We'll rip those little ovaries right out.

Realistically, she's not a candidate for breeding (ever), and as cute as she is, the wobbler issue is just a big red X over ever considering an attempt to make a little bouncing bundle of joy.  Also, foals are damn expensive, you don't know what you're going to get, and I don't know what I would do if a baby came out with even half her sass and fire.  Actually... I do know what I'd do.  I'd run.  Far away. :)

So, Regu-Mate it is.  BUT not until Monday.  Why??? Because vet office lady is 'gone' today so she can't call when the Regu-Mate arrives (apparently they had to call it in) so I can pick it up.

Never mind this is a full hospital clinic with horses there for surgery, recovery and diagnostics.  I'm pretty sure that SOMEONE could pick up the phone and call me.  I did fire back an email that said "please have whoever is on duty call me when it comes in" but she never even responded.


Yes, I know it's only a three day delay, but I feel almost irrational in my need to keep taking steps forward.  I just want to dose the mare up, and get on the thing.  Is that too much to ask!?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Supermom Ride Review

OK, apparently I didn't hit "publish" yesterday... WHOOPS! sorry for the delay! Here's the recap...

As promised, here's a more in depth review of what all happened on Tuesday Evening, and what lessons/changes I will be taking away for my own behavior.

Supermom started with Pia on the lunge. The intent was to "run the poop out of her," which we did.  Supermom opted for no side reins, and armed herself just with the line and a lunge whip.

P was exploding, so Supermom sent her off right away in the canter and kept her on a fairly small circle (I'm gonna say 12 meters) to make her work harder and to prevent any serious shenanigans.  When she was waggling her head or anything resembling that she got a smack on the ass from the whip, and sent forward.  The circle stayed the same size, and was dictated by how large it could be without "allowing" Pia to fart around too much.

When the head waggling stopped, the circle moved out to about 17 meters... and the mare kept cantering.  Supermom stated that her theory is to let Pia tucker herself out.  So the mare cantered (and cantered, and cantered) until she wanted to break to the trot (then she cantered some more).  The idea being that she'll "tell us" when she's done with her running.  After a few more rounds of waiting for her to break to the trot, then moving back to the canter, Pia was allowed to come down to the trot, although it was a quick one.

Supermom kept her marching right along in a very forward trot for the entirety of the session.  All in all, Pia probably cantered for about 12 minutes, and trotted for another 8-10 before changing direction.

The big change here for me will be replacing my typical sampler of transitions with just "forward" work. Don't fuss with making her go up and down thinking that will get her focused... Instead, send her forward till she's tired, then reiterate that "I" decide what she does and keep her moving.  Same thing in the trot.

The other big change will be how I deal with her "exuberance" when it shows up on the lunge line.  Instead of stopping her and returning to a walk/tugging on her face, the answer will be to send her forward and if necessary, reduce the size of the circle.  Not that I stop her.  But when she's hyper I have tended to "demand" attention at the walk and trot before allowing her to canter.  Also, I make her do lots of upward and downward transitions to make her listen.. rarely have I had P lunge in the canter for more the three or four minutes at a time....

Supermom repeated the same story on the other side, canter till she breaks, canter more till she breaks, canter more, then trot, trot bigger... trot bigger... trot biiiiggger, then stop.

We did a pretty fast "change" from lunging to riding, which put Supermom up in the saddle within probably 2 minutes of pulling Pia up off the lunge.  As soon as she was mounted, Supermom went straight off into the trot, and up into a canter as soon as she could.

This is something I've never attempted.  My usual M.O. is to get on, walk for 5-10 minutes, covering both directions and adding in serpintines and loops to slowly get Pia listening and on my aids.  My thought has always been to wait until her neck is soft and she's relaxed (often when I get on she winds herself up and has a tense neck and rigidly pointed ears..).

Supermom's theory was that the long loose walk puts P in charge a bit.  She feels like she's "done" and gets to walk all loosey-goosey around the ring with her head wherever she wants.  By getting on and going, Supermom got to assert that she was in charge and that the mare was GOING FORWARD.  Also, she was counting on the fact that P can't have that big a fit when she's already in a forward canter (true).

So off they went.  Pia threw in a couple hops, but no big bucks or other objections.  She was forward from the start and I think they probably logged more canter laps than I've managed in the last couple weeks combined. :)  Supermom even made her change rein in the canter and struggle through a change (ha, ha!).  Good mare.

After P was listening, Supermom brought her back to the trot but kept the same "forward" mindset.  Lots of leg, and quick to the whip if P was hesitating.  I didn't catch Pia's couple outbursts on video (darn it), but there were a couple cow kicks at the whip which resulted in a SWIFT tight circle and some serious lacings from Supermom.

That's another opportunity for change on my part.  Circle, and whip.  I back off on the whip sometimes because P is already standing dead still, which gives her lots of options for bucking/rearing/etc.  When she's spinning in a circle, she can't manage the same acrobatics.  I remain slightly envious of Supermom's ability to prevent the absolute "stop," so I'm hoping to replicate that.

I did mention the fact that often I end up "stuck" and can't even get her to circle.  Supermom's response was that should that happen, I'm to get off, put then mare on the lunge and run her off her legs again.

Essentially, the moral of the story is that any time the mare ignores me or is disobedient, she works HARDER.  If I can accomplish that under saddle with a hand gallop, or tight circle, great.  If I can't, get off and lunge the snot out of her.  Then remount and try again... Any stickiness? get off and lunge the snot out of her. (wash, rinse, repeat)

Hopefully she's a quick learner and gets the message that just listening is the easier (and ultimately lazier) option.

Supermom didn't have to get off (obvi. that's why she's super, duh), but she did have a few rounds of "reminding" why P should listen the first time when asked for something. 

This includes spooking.

At one point, P sorta shied in the corner and tried to scoot sideways.  It wasn't a big shy, but it wasn't part of the Supermom plan.  So she got spun and wacked and guess what?  On the next pass through the corner... she didn't miss a beat.

So, I must keep repeating - any time the mare ignores me or is disobedient, she works HARDER.

That's mostly it.  If I can stick to that, and avoid giving Pia any opportunity to think that she's in charge, I think we're good.

I think....

Here are the promised videos.  I tried to swap the audio so that you don't have to listen to me shouting into the microphone as I "talk" with Supermom during the ride... but I'm not sure the clips are totally done with the process.. I apologize if they are not.  Also, there's always the fun Russian Roulette of what songs we'll get to hear! I particularly enjoyed the "spa tunes" that ended up replacing my shrieks on the Fall video...

Stay tuned for more info on what my Vet had to say, and also a fun mystery present from the ever concerned Dad!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

It's Not You, It's Me.

I really like this pic with the reflection.. Pia x 2!

I've had the pleasure of uttering the fateful phrase "it's not you it's me" to more than a couple of boys in my time (who hasn't).  I think I usually worded it slightly better.. or at least masked it a bit to save some dignity and pride, but the message was the same.... a relationship wasn't working, and in my effort to take some of the blame/own up to my disinterest, I usually went the "it's not you, it's me" route.  In reality I knew that it was definitely also "them."  I mean, if they were magically different, maybe my interest would have changed too, but I digress....

After watching Supermom with the P monster last night, it's very, very clear to me that:
It's not Pia, it's me.

Long story short, Supermom got a great ride out of her.  Not picture perfect by any means, but the goal was "forward" and to maintain the appropriate number of hooves on the ground. Both of which were accomplished with flying colors.  Incidentally, these are both goals that I've failed pretty hard at in recent weeks...  Which makes a couple of things very clear:

1) This is almost ALL attitude
2) Pia totally has my number
3) I've allowed the amplification of her outbursts.

On one hand it's a relief to know that the mare isn't totally batshit crazy.  If she had been up in the air and all around town with Supermom, I'd be worrying that I had a totally insane, dangerous, wild animal on my hands.  As it stands, I apparently have a very pretty, extremely clever, somewhat bitchy animal on my hands... which is better.... (I think)....

On the other hand, it is somewhat demoralizing to realize that I'm pretty much to blame.  Yes, the mare is very smart.  She is more clever than anything I've had the pleasure of working with, and I still think that the comparison to a velociraptor is totally valid.  She's smart enough that I should cut myself some slack, but it still doesn't make me feel great.  The mare is also sassy.  I think this goes hand in hand with smart, and hand in hand with velociraptor... but it's a bit different.  She tests, and tests... and tests... and its frustrating that while I feel I have drawn hard lines with her, apparently they haven't been hard enough, or drawn fast enough.

(In related news... I think that this sign will be going on Pia's paddock in the near future.. so we can track our "progress")
So... what's next?

Well, I think (aside from getting the Regumate if my vet EVER returns me phone calls..) I do my best to emulate Supermom's ride last night.  I'll recount her ride in more detail tomorrow (when all my video is up and online so you can see for yourself that the mare does indeed go forward and keep the appropriate hooves on the ground.

Basically my gameplan can be reduced to a few simple steps.

1) Back to basics.  We're going return to the mindset of "one month under saddle" and take away all the potential battles of the movements and work that I've been asking Pia to perform.  I need to re-establish my authority and that needs to start at the beginning.

2) Specifically... GO FORWARD.  Lunge forward, ride forward, start in the canter, GO FORWARD.  Eliminate the stick, and be done with it.  We aren't going to be able to do anything if we are constantly getting stuck every time we try something new.

3) Stick with it.  I know my resolve has been wavering a bit day to day, but seeing P work like a real horse tells me that its an obtainable goal, and I owe it to myself (and P) to keep hacking away at it.  I do need to figure out at what point (should I still not see supermom results) I call a spade a spade, but I haven't thought about that yet.

So, video tomorrow (I promise). in the meantime, here's some more stills from the ride.  You can clearly see that P is moving and that the hooves are where they should be.  Fun FUN
CAAANTER! This is how Supermom started out...
This is the trot we ended with.  Still a bit tense, but FORWARD and reaching (kinda)

Tuesday, January 11, 2011



My brain has had a mental "drumroll" rolling for the past 24 hours.  The Boy asked me what my best guess was for how today would go with Supermom.  And for all the opinions and loud comments that I usually have at the ready - I really don't have any expectations for today.

I can picture P being a (relative) angel for her.  Maybe a little hyper since she hasn't been backed in a week... but otherwise a good mare.

I can picture P being an absolute terror.

I can also picture P being a moderate terror, but just good enough to inspire some much needed confidence..

Mostly, I can picture almost anything.  I'm excited for it.  I am so looking forward to getting Supermom's perspective not just because she's a great rider-lady, but mostly because she knows this mare better than anyone (me included), and I'm just so, so so curious what changes, if any, she's able to feel..

Bah, the suspense is KILLING me!

My perpetual impatience is why I'm not any good at things like mystery movies, award shows, or Christmas. 

Will report back with full details and maybe even some video!!

Monday, January 10, 2011

STP Results

P finally back to work (kinda)

Well, much like the week- the weekend hardly went as planned. 

Friday, work absolutely slayed me, which meant I got to the barn super late after everyone had been fed, so I just loved on the mare, groomed her up and then let her eat.  I felt slightly chicken for not working her on the ground, but I quickly got over it.  My shoulders still aren't totally normal, and since I was fairly certain that she would be a little bit of a puller on the lunge... I opted to not spin that particular roulette.

Saturday was supposed to be super productive (not at the barn, but still). But, instead I woke up with the absolute worst headache of my life and some serious vomiting (funner!).  I've never had a "migraine," but maybe this was that? I spent basically the entire day on the couch squeezing my temples with an icepack on my forehead.  The embarrassing part is that when I woke up I assumed that it was a (undeserving) hangover.  I feel like it's probably a red flag when you can reasonably assume that much discomfort might be self inflicted, but you aren't totally sure...

However, when the whole thing wasn't gone by 1pm, and I reviewed my Friday night consumption (one delicious dirty sapphire martini, and 2 gross light beers..) there was absolutely NO way that my (sometimes) indulgent self could be to blame.. I mean a) I have to be way worse behaved to get a good hangover and b) they always go away in the afternoon....

I resigned myself to being recumbent and the couch superseded any attempt to get to the bridal show, which was probably good, as I'm sure walking into something like that with a pre-existing headache is probably a bad starting point.. ;)

Sunday saw a total resurrection of my energy and head space (literally), so it was up and off to the show (I wasn't thrilled, but I fared better than I expected.. and Denali's Mom was right, there was LOTS of cake to keep me happy and moving).  Afterward I jetted to the barn for our little get together which is always so much fun.  I really can't compliment the women at my barn enough.  Such an interesting, diverse group that we are pretty much guaranteed entertaining conversations. 

I mean really, here's our roster:

  • a decorated surgeon who specializes ONLY on larynx operations
  • a PhD in pathology who specifically studies fossilized dental remains (she's like bones, its rad), oh and she flips houses
  • Financial planner turned Nurse
  • Exec for a national natural-foods grocery store(she brings GREAT snacks)
  • A girl who sells sprinklers and fire hydrants for her family biz (oh, and studied pigeons and chimps and visual cognition) oh wait, that's me.
  • ex microsoftie turned entrepreneur
  • retired middle school teacher (her "scolding voice" makes me stand up straighter)
  • retired nurse who served in a few armed forces..

I mean really, how cool is our barn!? regardless of what we talk about, someone always has an interesting tangent or story or life plan or something.  Plus, everyone's come to dressage from such different routes (Pony Club, eventing, fox hunting, western, standardbred racing, hunter/jumpers.. you name it)

I love them, they're so nice, and no one is even remotely adding pressure or giving unwanted advice about Miss Pia right now, which I am so grateful for.  I've been at a few barns where any lameness/illness/buck/bite/etc seems to be free license for anyone and everyone to rain down their judgements/advice and corrections.  I love perspectives and ideas, don't get me wrong, but when people are mean/rude/ignorant about it, it's obnoxious....

Anyway, post party I grabbed Miss P, determined to get at least ONE groundwork session in.  Since she had so much time "off" I assumed she'd be a bit crazy, so I tacked her totally up and planned to work in side reins to minimize the ridiculous antics, and hopefully encourage slightly better self carriage.

She was dancing on her toes while I affixed her side reins and lunge line and got all situated with my gloves, which did not bode well for our session...  Since she was off to the races, I only made her walk for a second before we cantered.
And cantered. 
And cantered some more until she was tired. then we cantered.
And canted.
And cantered some more until she was more tired.  Then we cantered just a teeeeeeny bit more. :)

Finally we got to busy.  Lots of transitions, making her listen within her gaits gaits to verbal "half halts" and whatnot.  She was, as always, really good.  Even though P was hyped up and a little rushed the whole session, her ears were pretty soft and she was fairly obedient.  It was encouraging to have a fairly "productive" (by my new standard) session.  Although there is a level of frustration that her obedience and attention on the lunge translates so poorly to under-saddle work. 

Here's a quick iPhone video of her lunging, just to prove that she's not always a snarling beast (realistically, she's only a beast when you're riding... which is only 45 minutes a day.. which really isn't very often at all...). 

This was taken about halfway through, so she wasn't at her most attentive, but still, for one-handed lunging and videoing, she's doing OK.. :)

Current STP?

Today: Lunge Again. (not much to add here)

Tomorrow: Super-Mom!!!!
Super-Mom (and for those who missed it Super-Mom's second visit was great too) makes a return visit to ride the mare, and give me any insight she has.  I'm really curious whether P will continue with her (moderately consistent) sticky/bucky behavior, or have a totally different act for Super-Mom.  Only time will tell, but I'm super curious.

Oh, and for those following the Hormone Plan, My vet has been on vaca (I feel like he's ALWAYS on vaca), but he returns tomorrow.. so more info then (hopefully).

Friday, January 7, 2011

Short Term Plan (STP)

I'm not sure if anyone else gets overwhelmed with long task lists/huge goals (I'm overwhelmed by many things... an entire house to be cleaned, 40 page papers, weight loss, etc etc).  So it should come as no surprise that this whole What To Do With Pia thing is somewhat, well... overwhelming.

I'm trying to figure out all the possible answers and all the possible outcomes before I feel comfortable moving forward with anything, even though I know that approach is totally unrealistic and unreasonable.  (Though I never promised that I wasn't either of those things...)

I really do appreciate all of your thoughts and comments.  I know that there's no way for you guys to "know" her as well as I do, but fresh ideas, fresh perspective, and even just tangential experiences are all helpful.

So, in an attempt to keep my brain from exploding, here's my (very) Short Term Plan ((v)STP):

Today: Go to barn and put the mare to work. 

I don't really want to ride yet (self indulgent... maybe), but I do want to get to busy and at least have something to work on.  So, on the lunge she goes.  Round and round  aaaand roooouuund and roouuuuunnd she goes.  But its work time.  Super-Mom had a good observation that the games need to stop.  no more tag, no more anything that makes me a herd-mate and not the boss.  Good idea.  I'll listen to that.

Tomorrow: No Mare Time. (I have the Seatttlllle Wedddinggg Show!). 

I'm sorta horrified.  I'm a great party planner, but the idea of thousands of crazed brides in one place clawing at photographers and gowns and whatnot is HORRIFYING.  I'm scared.  a little.  Okay, a lot..  but I've promised myself a croissant on the way to the convention center.  So I'll probably suck it up.

Sunday:  More Lunging Work.  

Then a barn party! Wahoo!  I like wine and cheese with the barn ladies.  Let's face it, I like wine and cheese with almost anything.  Strangers.. the weird smelly guy in IT, raccoons...)  Though I'm not super looking forward to 8 people telling me my mare is crazy (I do acknowledge that there's a chance she is totally bat-nuts).


Monday is too far away to be considered part of the (v)STP.  (v)STP's don't last more than a weekend, max.  So Monday, will be the start of another STP. 

Love it.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

FAQ's (or random thoughts that don't have flowing paragraphs)

Ok, so mostly I have disjointed thoughts and answers regarding my current state of mind with Miss Pia.  Please bear in mind that in no way have these thoughts been the result of prolonged thought or consideration, but rather they are a mediocre collection of some rambling, my BO's thoughts, my family's thoughts and the general blogosphere :) 
Coherent and meaningful thoughts have not matured yet... so accept this as sporadic and spastic brainwave activity.

Q: Is Pia in pain?

A: I don't think so.  She has been examined every which way, and nothing has shown up.  I'm not ruling pain out, but I don't think it's the primary cause.  Also, not that this justifies me being ok with her possible pain, but I've had horses who basically lost legs with me on them and they still "kept calm and carried on."  So I'm not sure that's a full explanation for her behavior even if she is hurting somewhere.

Q:  Does she like her job?

A: Apparently not.  I mean, my gut says that this is mostly attitude... and mostly an objection to working, so I'd venture to guess that she doesn't like her job.  However, her choices for a job are somewhat limited.  Mostly because of the Wobbler issue.  I just don't trust her over fences.  Cavaletti at the highest setting has been my personal boundary for her "jumping" until I know for certain that she's not slip-sliding all over the place.  Her balance is still an issue - it's mountains better than it used to be, but while the slight drainage incline of a ring isn't noticeable on most horses, it feels like a real hill on P.  That is kind of my barometer for how loose her balance is at this point..

Q: What's her "day" like, (food, turnout, etc)

A: She's fed lots of hay (6 flakes) and her grain bucket twice a day.  Right now she's on Envision and a baby scoop of rice bran along with her smartpak, multivitamin and Quiessence for "calming" (ha).  She's on the loading dose of Quiessence.. but I'm not sure that's helping much.  She's out 24/7 with a really nice three sided matted shed.  She runs around with the other ponies and has line of sight with the entire herd. She isn't turned out with anyone right now, but I'm ok with that.  She gets MASSIVELY herd bound, if she is.   She is/was worked 6 days a week, with at least 3 good free lunge sessions in there as well to let her stretch her legs aaaaaall the way.  By no means is she on 4 acres of grass, but that's a rarity in my area, and I couldn't afford it even if I found it.  The fact that she's out all day is pretty rare in itself. 

Q: Hormones?? Haven't you talked about that non-stop?

A: Yes, I have. and I haven't done anything about it, so that's my first stop.  In fact, after I post this, I'm emailing my vet to discuss Regumate and get her on it ASAP.  In my head I was going to wait for spring when her ladybits went totally bonkers, but really there's no reason to wait.

Q: Why are you keeping her?

A: Uh.  Cause she's my horse.  And I don't feel like giving up (yet). Also, I can't afford two of them, and I've learned that I need a horsey in my life to not be a crazy human. Oh, also, even if she's not my perfect match, she's not particularly sell-able.  I'd obviously disclose the Wobblers, and I'd also disclose her current tendency to bounce around in the air on a regular basis.  There are very few riders out there who I would even feel responsible about turning her over to.  She's not exactly a 4-H project for your average 10 year old...

Q: Do you think she's dangerous?

A:  I don't know? I know a couple things.  I know that she NEVER EVER pulled this shit with her Super-Mom, so she's capable of not being dangerous.  But I also know that I've never been taken advantage of like this by anything. Not by sneaky ponies, not by crazy abused OTTB's, etc.  If I can't correct the behavior (and don't get me wrong, I don't think I'm a horse whisperer, or magic trainer, or even that great of a rider.. I'm just brave and consistent..) then I'd have to say, yes.  I do think she would be "dangerous" for a lot of people out there.

Q: Aren't you scared of her?

A: No.  I'm not scared of "her."  I'm a little shaken, and have zero confidence in my riding right now.  I know that she only pulls this crap if you let her, and somehow, I'm letting her.  Maybe I'm not reacting fast enough, or strong enough..  I'm a little tentative with our transitions, and definitely a little defensive about cantering, but I wouldn't say scared.  Of course I say that right now, when I haven't been on since Monday... But I have been to the barn and groomed and played with her, and there's no PTSD kicking in :) so that's good.

Q: Your Dad is offering you a new horse, what the hell are you waiting for?

A:  Well, sort of.  He's offering to pay for P's "retirement" if I want to try and find another partner.  It's hard for me to even type this without feeling massive waves of guilt crashing at me from multiple directions.  For one thing, I'd feel horrifically guilty putting P "out to pasture" at 7 years old.  Horrifically. I'm pretty sure that mare is capable of some neat things, and I'd hate to waste her.  On the other hand, what horse doesn't want to just be a horse? Maybe my reluctance is me being selfish.. 
The other guilt issue is being "Daddy's Little Girl" and letting him bail me out.  I know I can afford a horse. Realistically I can afford another horse a lot easier (something that I don't need 4 lessons a week on is a lot cheaper). But I don't like the idea of it.  I just don't.  Oh, and then there's the guilt of just straight-up giving up.  Regardless of the impact on P or on my family's pocket book, I just don't like the idea of giving up.  I've never "given up" on a horse.  Ever.

Q: Wait, your DAD would pay for it?

A: Yeah, the idea of me ending up in a chair, or even just in a hospital bed for an extended time because of a horse is horrifying to him.  He's always supported my decision to ride, and to event, and to fall off and get trampled from time to time, but he does NOT support me getting on every day knowing the big bucks are coming. In fact, he's very vocal about his disapproval and the least supportive he's ever been of my riding because of it.

Q: What's your BO think?

A: Good question.  She is supportive, but currently is definitely playing Devil's Advocate for moving on.  She's a mom, and she saw the fall on Monday from her living room.  I believe her when she says it was the meanest looking outburst she's ever seen.  But then again, she is used to a barn full of well behaved, well mannered, really talented geldings.  She freely admits that she doesn't tolerate snarky horses and she rarely buys mares.  I think she would be relieved if I moved onto another horse, but I might be putting words into her mouth with that one.

Q: Is she smart?

A: Too smart.  Waaaaaay tooooo smart.  She's sneaky, and I feel like boredom might be what this is stemming from.  But I try to mix up our routine as much as possible.  I don't have an obvious solution for engaging her more. We play with poles, we play with cavaletti, we play on our own. We play tag, we stretch, I give her days off with just love, I give her days where she's is worked to the bone.  I'm certain she's too smart, I'm just not certain how to stay one step ahead of her :) 

Q: What do YOU think?

A: I don't know.  I'm trying to be realistic and not think from a place of diminished confidence, or fear, or desperation.  I do think that P could come into her own and that we would be RAD if I can figure out how to keep her engaged and not bitter.  I also know that it's not worth my body, or my confidence to totally get wrecked on this mare.  What I can't tell is if we're at that point, or if this is a tiny speed-bump.  I'm pretty sure that in a year or so, I'll be able to look back and tell how significant this is, but I think I'm a little too close at the moment.

If I could wave a magic wand, I'd want P to be happy and not bucky.  I love her sass, her interactions and her brain (most of the time). I don't care that her gaits aren't the most competitive for dressage, or that she's pissy sometimes.  I really do enjoy this horse and the time I spend with her - That isn't in question.  At all.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Oh the Shame...

I'm the lump off to the left... thanks for checking on me P!
Yeah, yeah, everyone falls off. I know.  And everyone (well most everyone..) gets back on.  And realistically, aside from the obvious medical risk, it's always nice when you don't have too many witnesses when you do fall off, which makes me wonder (slightly) why I would post this.  But really, what's the point of video if not to continuously watch it and get to a point in the (hopefully not too distant) future where I can look back and think "gee, we've come SO FAR."

Just so you don't miss the highlights.... here they are:
First big buck coming out of our rear.. it's obvious that I've already lost my seat and one of my stirrups at this point...
Continuing to buck across the short diagonal.  At this point I have one stirrup, and no reins... dang.
Bailing.  For the record, this is not what an emergency dismount is supposed to look like.  This is a "land-on-your-back-and-you-will-feel-like-a-ragdoll" dismount.
Thank you for all the well wishes and comments yesterday.  Both my body, and my confidence are feeling pretty bruised.

I am however on the up and up, and actually managed to dress myself this morning (yay!) though the bra proved a bit challenging at first.. The Boy is unfortunately dispatched east of the mountains for a job for the week... so he got his nursing in on Monday... but is thankfully not around to witness the tea drinking, advil crunching, peanut butter demolishing tragedy on the couch that I can become... (though I have managed to watch more Keeping up with the Kardashians then I ever thought I would and got oddly hooked on Say Yes to the Dress). 

I must say that my equitation looks like crap.  I understand that perfect eq during bucking fits doesn't top my "things to school in our next lesson" list, but usually I sit down and ride it out a little better.. I'm blaming the Black-Stallion-Rear-Session for my less than stellar grippy-ness.

Anyway, a number of you commented on the fairly large probability that her behavior is stemming from a pain response.  I'm not sure where I sit on that (ha.. sit... ) right now.  Last summer I was CONVINCED that she was in pain, and that was the issues behind the bucking in hand, bucking under saddle, bucking while being ridden, etc..

However, I'm currently less convinced.  She's had full work ups on her back, and more body work/chiro attention than I care to admit.  So far there's nothing that suggests a painful joint of deterioration... What I do know is that she acts like this when she's in heat (though she shouldn't be right now..) and is totally capable of not being sticky (going forward) and also capable of not bucking (at all) when she's distracted and happy.  This tends to happen when other horses are in the ring, or she's fat and warm.

Also, when you smack the twilight out of her, she stands stock still and behaves like an angel.  When the BO had a conversation with her after my fall, she was able to get on, and move forward with no issues... no hesitation, no balking, no bucking.

Additionally, when she is slow to start and gets stuck behind my leg.. its always in the same place.  It always happens on the open side of our circle, closest to the gate.  Always.  And the objection totally dissipates within the first 5 minutes of our ride.

Now... getting her relaxed and swinging through her back is another issue entirely.. but it happens, and she's able to stay in work 6 days a week without getting increasingly sore, or objectionable.  In fact, she tends to get less objectionable.

Which has me currently leaning toward "attitude," but by know means would I bet my life on it.

If it is attitude, then that is another topic entirely.  One for another day, after more thinking and less pain killers in the system.

I am going out to the barn tonight to make her grain boxes and groom the mare up.  I'm still not exactly in what I would call "rideable" condition, but the mare and I should kiss and make up.

But for now, here's the vid.  Not that dramatic, but certainly not comfortable...

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