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!


  1. I hope this isn't a setback. But whatever it is, you'll get through it! Things get worse before they get better so just keep going!

  2. I totally sympathize, and since I don't want to be throwing any more opinions at you, I'll just say that I hope it gets better, hope you figure it out, and hope you can shush those devil voices in your head and not get discouraged. I have similar discussions in my own head all the time, where I feel less and less good about the ride the more I think about it. Don't let it get you down. As for the vest, I would most certainly somehow injure myself on it. Probably not even while mounted. Have a great weekend!

  3. I envy those who can keep their horses barefoot, but my mare simply cannot be bare up front. My other horse has been barefoot his whole life, and it's really nice. The great shoe debate can get pretty heated, but I feel WE know what's best for our horses.

    I went through a period with my horse where I felt like we were going backwards. It's definitely frustrating, but it helps to focus on the positive. I hope you have a good ride on Sunday!!

  4. I have never posted on here before, but I read your blog pretty consistently. I just wanted to say don't get discouraged, and don't beat yourself or your mare up when the ride is less than fantastic.

    I am by no means an expert trainer, but I have trained a bit, and the one thing I know is that when horses have learned what buttons they can push to intimidate, or to just get their way, it WILL be a bit of a struggle until they believe that you really do mean business and you are no longer going to allow them to continue to be the one to make decisions.

    One of the reasons I enjoy reading your blog is because you are so dedicated to your horse and her well being. Stay positive and stay strong, I think you are doing a wonderful job of working through your communication with your horse!

  5. Thanks guys! I'm not TOO sensitive to opinions, so feel free to throw them out. I appreciate the different perpectives, and I feel like I always get some nugget of new info. :) I'm not SUPER demoralized, just indulging in a little bit of internal devil's advocate (though sometimes its not helpful). I'm hoping P isn't still sore today so that we can have a (hopefully) easy breezy ride tonight.. I could use one :)

  6. Okay, here is my opinion:

    I am very worried that you have lost perspective on how dangerously your mare is behaving. If this is a behavioral problem related to pain, hormones, or Wobbler's, and not a training issue, your diligence is futile and at a very precious cost. If this is a training issue, you should address this issue in the safest possible way: from the ground.

    The stickiness which you refer to in your posts sounds like a pain response, especially if she is resistant to step laterally or canter. Other readers have made the same observation.

    You mentioned P being sore in this post.

    You described your BO's concerns.

    You see the danger yourself, hence the new jacket and ACE.

    There is no shame in taking a step back. Your mare's behavior may be escalating, because she is trying to tell you that she cannot continue in her current state. Forget about me, please respect your father's fears.

  7. Posted a huge fricking comment that went Poof. GRRRRRR.

    To sum up, love the vest, and I think you are doing everything right with Pia. Don't give up-yo are just what she needs, and you guys are going to be great:) I read your post after this too, and I think you guys are turning the corner. You've had her less than a year! Give yourselves more time...I think your persistence will pay off in spades:) Seriously, I might have more concerns if you weren't so smart and were working alone, but you have lots of support and you guys are progressing.

    Go team Pia! I'm rooting for both of you, and if I was a bettor-well, I wouldn't bet against you two in the show ring:)

  8. I'm not totally sure about this, but I thought the point two vests were meant to be worn in conjunction with a standard body protector (XC vest)...they each serve a different purpose in protecting you in the case of a fall. I didn't think you could just wear the air vest alone?

    **Congrats on your good ride in front of supermom!

  9. I don't know what Pia's issue is, but I know that you care deeply about it and are working your butt off trying to find out. You are an awesome advocate for her and you will absolutely do the right thing as soon as you know what it is. Pia is lucky to have you.

    The air vest sounds like a fabulous idea. I'm going to go with 3 mishaps in the first 6 months (not including unplanned dismounts).


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