Monday, February 28, 2011

ANNIVERSARY (of sorts) & Body Work #2

One year ago, was my first ride on Miss Pia. After a long weekend of touring branches and doing some smiling, waving and employee training, The Boy and I pulled into a farm about an hour south of home and checked P out for the first time.  I'd love to say that we've made huge leaps and bounds, but realistically, we're sort of clawing our way back to where she was this time last year.

We have managed to build a bit of a bond and we have overcome some HUGE obstacles, so those definitely go firmly in the "success" column.

Did I think we'd be schooling more movements? sure, did I think we'd be jumping? yeah... but I also didn't count on a neurological disorder, 3 months off, and a serious attitude adjustment.

All in all, P is healthy.  She's stronger, moving bigger and (most importantly) sound.  I'm learning more about myself and my own expectations/boundaries and both of us are supremely happy at a barn where good care is never in question and we have a strong support group.  We're getting there.  I looked at the calendar recently and realized that had we gone through with our scheduled spinal surgery, P would JUST not be getting ready to come off of stall rest.

Can you imagine!??

She'd be getting ready to finish 6 months of stall rest and I would be getting ready to die.  I mean really.  We all saw what happened with 2 weeks off in September with her little tendon scare.  SIX MONTHS.  She would absolutely annihilate me trying to get back to work.

So yes.  I'm thankful I don't have a cooped up marewolf/dragon thing on my hands, and I'm thankful that we still have Supermom to keep us on track.  Things are pretty good.

Aside from a few more treats, P couldn't ask for much more... and aside from a few less bruises, neither could I.

Happy (sorta) Anniversary Mareface.  I still like having you around :)

Pretty Mare...

On the actual training/riding side of things, the mare's unplanned vacation continues.  Partially from my work load and partially from her own spa days.

Friday was our follow-up Rolf session to readdress her right hind and see what progress we made.  Body Work Lady (BWL), said that P was a lot looser than she was two weeks ago, which is a great sign.  At least her leg isn't so screwed up that it's immediately snapping back to its stuck/tight/tense position.  BWL worked the right hind again then also made some progress up along P's spine which in theory will assist with unlocking that right hind and help make it easier to engage and eventually muscle up that leg.

P was very friendly the entire time.  She got a bit bored, and tried to chew her way threw the cross ties, but when she wasn't fussing with that, she was calm, dopey and yawning like a... baby?

BWL said that P was much less reactive at her pressure points and way less cranky about being worked on.  So that was a glimmer of progress being made.

On the other end of the leg, P's feet get trimmed today.  So hopefully we can start to undo more of the "uneven" right hind, which should help reinforce the changes that BWl is making from her end..

Work continues to explode in my face with all sorts of terminations, sales disasters, cranky customers and new lines to take on.  SO, off I go this week, over the mountains, up to Canada and perhaps EVEN a quick trip to California (though sadly, not for shopping...).

I'm hoping to be able to play with the mare on Wednesday and Thursday, but that all depends on the gods of the airline industry and them smiling down on me.

The barn has been gorgeous this past week.  The dusting of snow has been just enough to make everything sparkle, without freezing the ring or causing too many difficulties (aside from a high level of finger dexterity in the cold...).

I'll be thinking fondly of it for the next couple of days and can't wait to get back on track later this week and weekend.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Next on the List? Slow Feeders...

As I mentioned in my post about our (stunning) tack room at the barn, the BO doesn't sit idle for long. So with the tack room "done," she took a whole day off before starting another venture.

(have I mentioned that in the last year she's installed security cameras in the barn/stalls, automatic (warmed) waterers and an automatic fly spray systems that keeps the property literally pest free??)

The current project that seems to have already started? Slow Feeders.

I've been fortunate enough to always have ponies who clean up their feed, but don't hoover it. This usually means that with a typical three meals a day, there are always whisps of food available for munching and snacking all day long, which (I hope) helps to keep the ulcers to a minimum.

For those of you not on the "natural lifestyle" bandwagon, the hype and movement behind slow feeders is to mimic natural grazing patterns for horses who are locked up in stalls, or turned out on dry paddocks with nothing to munch on (like Pia).

One solution (the easiest) for this problem is to just throw your horse LOTS AND LOTS OF HAY. This works for some (especially hard keepers), but most horses will eat more hay than they need to if they have truly unrestricted access. Not unlike me and my eating habits when I'm provided with a full box of crackers and a loaf of cheese.

In the wild, horses spend upwards of 60-80% of their time "grazing." however, they likely aren't just stuffing their faces full of perfectly manicured Kentucky bluegrass, but rather meandering around and foraging for sparse, low quality food. This would be like if I had to hunt for my crackers and actually make my own cheese... the effort would naturally inhibit the quantity of food consumed.

Essentially, slow feeders aim to be the solution for both of these issues. There are lots of designs, but most struggle to provide restricted access to feed, while allowing a snack to be constantly available.

Translation: The ponies have to work for it. and it takes them longer to shove their faces full.

If you've had the pleasure of studying for a pony club rating, or googling like mad to understand why your horse might be colicing, you already know that horses' stomachs are insanely small and they empty insanely quickly. To the extent that even a large meal (if devoured) is through the stomach within about an hour. That leaves behind lots of acid and bile to slowly create ulcers while your horse waits for you to toss him his next meal.

The BO is on a mission to create the perfect slow feeder to address a number of issues.
  1. A few horses bolt their feed and stand around cooking ulcers while they wait for their next meal.
  2. A good slow feeder would allow her to toss hay once a day and not be so tied to strict feeding schedules for the horses
  3. Aside from the physical comfort of not getting ulcers, a lot of horses show attitude changes, and less anxiety when they have (slowed) access to feed all day long.
There are three main "types" of slow feeders that you can create. Horizontal box feeders, vertical box feeders, and nets or meshes.

The Horizontal feeders are essentially a box that you fill with hay, then top with a grate (usually with 2"x 2" openings) that the horses have to pull the hay through.

Vertical Feeders have a few different looks, but essentially you pile the hay through a shoot, and the horses access the hay through a grate on the side at the bottom. (think traditional hay chutes with a grate at the end).

The last category are your traditional hay nets and meshes, but with smaller openings. 1"x 1" can work with soft netting, but you can go as large as 2"x 2" depending on how aggressive your horse is.

Our BO is experimenting with the Vertical feeders, as our hay is stored in a loft and gets "tossed" to the horses at feed time. Horizontal boxes require that you remove the grate before filling, which is somewhat laborious and not very efficient for a barn full of these things.

The BO's first feeder has been built and is being tested on the same gentle giant who was enjoying his flying changes on Sunday... He typically bolts his feed and goes through LOTS of water in the process (thereby diluting his saliva and reducing his nutritional intake..).

The First prototype is a full sheet of 2"x 3" grating, with a slanted "slide" in the back that slants the hay forward toward the grate (so it can't hide in the back of the feeder away from nibbling lips).
Also, the whole contraption is hinged to allow for cleaning when needed. this design still allows the BO to toss hay from above, and keeps Mister Ruby busy and munching his three normal meals, but spaced out over 18 hours.

Ruby is still somewhat panicked that all his hay is trapped behind a fence and he isn't sure how exactly he's suppose to free it.

The concern is apparent on his big adorable face. Though somehow, Ruby still managed to empty the whole feeder... so apparently, he isn't that worried.

Has anyone constructed their own versions of these things? Any tips or tricks?

I'll be sure to post any updates and adjustments that the BO makes before the whole barn is outfitted...

In general though, I'm liking the idea, and eager to see what comes of it.

Weekend Ride &..... GRASS

The weather gods smiled on the Seattle area (briefly) yesterday and managed to provide a full uninterrupted afternoon of sunshine.   Not warm sunshine, but sunshine nonetheless, and it had all the horses' fits registering a little higher on the Richter Scale than usual.

P was no exception and since aside from the nice day, it was probably the first ride she's had in daylight hours in weeks, I was anticipating a bit of a debacle.  Since she's such a demon about being left in the arena alone I was excited to see that a few other folks were riding when I got there, which meant that Miss P would have to practice continuing to work, even when *gasp* left alone.  She warmed up easy on the lunge, so I only worked her in circles for about 10 minutes (5 on each side), before getting on.  She stood nicely at the mounting block, and even sat still while I snapped my vest into my tether and got all settled. 

What I did not enjoy was her full on BALK at being asked to trot.  It felt like back to square one with the trot transition, and while I got after her, I probably should have immediately cantered off, or done a million more walk to trot transitions to get my point across.  Instead, I just got her to trot and moved on from there.  I need to get over my need to minimize my "beatings" when other folks are in the ring.  I guess its kinda how a lot of moms don't fully get after their kids when they are out in public.. but I'm much meeker/quieter about addressing the mare's... issues, when being watched.  I know my fellow boarders don't judge me and I also know that I'm not getting extra points for quiet riding, so I'm not sure what my hangup is.

Regardless, mare started trotting and we didn't have any other sticky issues.

This was the first time that P has felt like a total powder keg since Supermom issued her butt kicking in December, so that was interesting and it resulted in one of two things during our ride
  1. a stiff, awful trot that felt as though bucks could squirt out at any moment.

      2. a floaty, forward trot with a surprising amount of balance and swing through Pia's back.

Fortunately, after some forward canter work, we settled into 80% awesome trot, and 20% holy-crap-what's-this-mare-going-to-do trot. Given the weather, giant other horse bucking through his lesson on flying changes (god he's cute) and some blustery wind, I accepted this 80/20 ratio and went to work. 

P was pretty soft both directions (the weird stiffness to the left was gone) and her right hind seemed to be swinging loose and stepping under more easily.  I'm 90% certain the "weirdness" I felt last week on the right hind was Pia attempting to use it and actually bend through her ribcage and not some horrible injury.  Even with my good gut feeling, I'll certainly be asking some questions at our next Rolf($$$) session on Friday.

For our ride, I focused on getting the mare's frame lower (something she was not particularly interested in) and maintaining the same frame for all of our work.  This included some lengthenings, spiral circles, figure eights, canter work, baby leg yield (from the 1/8th line...) and halt/trot transitions.

The only downside aside from a brief meltdown when the last horse aside from her princess-self left the ring, and the initial balk at the trot, was the mare's FIRST MINI BUCK since our come-to-jesus understanding that I thought we had.

It wasn't big, and she got immediately corrected for it, but the mare thought that it was ok/allowed/somehow appropriate for her to cowkick/hop when I pushed her into the corner early in our work. 


Hopefully that doesn't carry over into our work today.  Grrr.

After our ride I pulled her tack and let the mare dry her sweat off in the sunshine while she nibbled at the first shoots of grass peeking through the blanket of moss that takes over most lawns around here in the winter. 

happy mare hunting for grass...
This week will be a bit hit and miss.. tomorrow I'm off to LA for some meetings, then Wednesday and Thursday I'll be in Portland again.  Hopefully I'll be back in time to ride on Thursday Since the mare will need some time off again after her bodywork on Friday...

Happy President's Day!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Extreme Makeover: Tackroom Addition

One of the (many) benefits of P's current home is the fact that our BO has a) a great sense of style b) a willingness to constantly upgrade her property and c) the gumption to actually finish projects.

On a good day, I'd only manage one, maybe two of those traits.

Tackrooms (like trailers) are one of those things that I always notice and enjoy when they are particularly impressive with their features and use of space. It's hard to maintain a clean, well organized tack room, so whenever I visit a new farm and see that they've mangaed to do it, I take note.

Having had my horses on my own property for so many years, I'm mindful of how easily "piles" start to form, whether in corners or on hooks. Somehow those hooks of unused cavessons always creep in and the "specialty pad" shelf, turns into a house where seldom used former gadgets go to die.

The tackroom at my current boarding facility has always been neat, tidy, and uncluttered, but recently, our BO has been working hard to upgrade the aesthetics of the space, without losing any of it's critical functionality (store saddles, bridles, pads and training equipment in a warm, dry space that's free of mold and vermin).

Anyway, she's been attacking the space with a VENGEANCE recently, and it looks stunning for her efforts. It started with the gorgeously routered and painted paddock signs that coordinated with her bright red doors and gold trim that she constructed a while back. They turned out so nicely and looked so polished that the BO figured she could apply the same principal to the tackroom. First she took to reupholstering all the saddle racks, both in the tackroom and out in the grooming areas. They now are quilted, with a gorgeous black and gold cloth and trimmed with gold piping.

Following that, she swapped out traditional tube steel saddle pad racks and simple bridle hooks affixed to the wall for coordinating red/gold headboards and saddle racks. A simple change, but once that made they whole room look "designed" and not created by default from expanding storage needs.

Drool Worthy Bridle Racks
Coordinated wall of saddle racks

Additionally, the plain exposed cedar shelving (that once housed saddle pads, standing wraps and helmets, has been replaced with two matching armoires painted in a flat black that makes their imposing pressence a little more understated (they are, of course, completed with decorative gold tassels). Finally, a coordinated red rug and sleek black ottoman/bench for getting boots on and off.. and you've got a seriously sleek and organized tackroom that's totally drool worthy.

Yesterday I walked into the tack room to find yet another addition - a new drying rack for saddle pads that sits just under the window and allows all the single bar drying racks to come off the walls. It's low profile, functional and cleans up the look of the room without any sacrifice in functionality. I'm seriously impressed.

The room still boasts the exposed cedar walls and ceiling that keep
it feeling like a barn, but the matched racks, beautiful handmade drying rack and armoires keep everything in its place, and clutter behind closed doors.

All in all, it's a gorgeously styled room, that somehow still fulfills all the needs of a functioning training barn. It's a room that provides that "aaaaaahhhhh, tackroom" feeling every time you enter it. Which, let's be honest, is really the most important factor.

Mystery Mare Strikes Again!

For the most part, Miss Pia's "little mysteries" or "surprises" have been less than ideal, and usually involve me taking ibuprofen for a few days to recover.

Last night, however, that was not the case, but let me back up. 

I've been a negligent horsey mom.  Yes I've been showering her with ridiculous body treatments and love.  But my attendance at the barn has been spotty at best due to (very fun) but consistent interruptions (damn wedding!).

Yesterday I left the house with my barn bag fully packed anticipating an overdue ride after a long day at work.  I say long because yesterday I had the joy of driving (yes, driving) to Portland for a meeting (yes only one meeting).  "Gingham!" (you'd be thinking if you knew northwest geography), "That's like a 4 hour drive!" (you'd say... as you added up the 8 hour round trip time for ONE FLIPPING MEETING). 

Why, yes.  yes it is.

"Why wouldn't you FLY?!"

Well, for some reason commuter flights were three times their normal (reasonable) amount, and the company plane is parked (for austerity), so I got in my little car and just drove, drove drove.

If you're thinking this must have been a really fun meeting, you're also wrong.  I got to fire a customer.  Yup, a customer.  Why? because in spite of the fact that they still owe us six figures (a high six figures), they are continuing to ask for lower prices and extended terms.  Guess what customer?? WE DON"T MAKE MONEY DOING BUSINESS WITH YOU.  In fact, WE LOSE MONEY.  Money I would rather spend on my pretty, pretty horse...

Long story short, I was exhausted when I got back to home base and I had those flickering thoughts about just skipping the barn and heading home to wrangle  laundry, dishes and other "projects" necessary before actually getting the condo on the market. 

But, in a rare showing of will power, I turned east instead of west and pointed my nose toward the barn. 

It was snowing when I got there and P was fidgety.  I couldn't blame her, I hadn't played with the mare since Monday and the cold snap around here has all the horses snorting and stomping with extra energy.  I tacked up and made a mental note (as the barn was clearing out and I was being left alone), that if mare had any hint of crazytown, I'd just lunge and leave the ride for the next day.

True to form, she was a bit crazy.. completely with a mini squeal (what is that) when we started and some head waggling whenever I sent her forward.  But, she was REALLY BALANCED.  Her canter, even to the right, was more uphill and more balanced than I had ever seen on the lunge. 

Progress from the bodywork? or devil-fire inside just waiting to burst out?  I couldn't be certain, but I was so damn curious I decided to get on.
Carefully considering whether or not she wants to behave...
 I calmly told the snorting-dragon-monster that if she gave me 10 minutes of good trot work, we would be done.  I don't think my kind words got past the hellfire, but who knows.  I swung my leg over (tethered my vest to the saddle) and went for it.  Two steps of sticky, wiggly walk, then, BAM. TROT.

A happy trot!  A happy, forward, excited to be ridden (but not crazy) trot! (Mystery #1)

We marched forward and Pia kindly lowered her frame during our first lap and didn't stop or balk once on the open/gate side of the circle.  (eh?? Mystery #2)

We increased and decreased our stride, and I started my big circles and loops. I've been starting our rides off to the right, which is notoriously Pia's stickier side which leaves me begging (and kicking) for even a hint of a right bend. 

So as I prepared for a change in direction, and to switch our bend to the right my brain started building my outside walls, and preparing to kick, tap, kick the mare's ribs over.  I half halted, took a breath and at the slightest first nudge, P lifted her back, swung her ribs and stepped under with her right hind.  (uhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh Mystery #3)

I (pessimistically) assumed that it was a fluke and swung around for another figure eight.  Transition to the left was sticky and annoying (there's the mare I know and love...) then as we came around to go to the right... she had beautiful soft change of bend.  This time she carried the bend through the entire circle and stayed firmly in my outside rein. 

I immediately stopped and gave Miss P an early walk break and lots of hugs and pats.  Though I wouldn't be surprised if my "praise" sounded more like shocked profanities.  The rest of our ride was great.  Easy canter, responsive, forward and bending.  She was a little on her forehand, but I wasn't going to be picky.  Also, if anything she was bracing against my left leg and stiffer to that direction. 

I'd be frustrated with that if I weren't so freaking happy she was releasing to the right.  Maybe that Rolf session did us some good!

Her right hind did feel a little funny.  I couldn't tell if it was just moving more than I was used to or what, but especially at the canter something new was happening back there. I'm going to focus on it during our next few rides and see if I can tune in more. 

We rocked around the ring for another 30 minutes and P was a gem.  No ear pinning, no kicks, no bucks, no grumpy face.  Right about the time I was stretching her out for her last trot circles, I thought to myself "dang, she's being extra good considering I haven't ridden since Monday! what a mare!"  Then I realized, I didn't ride on Monday, I only lunged her.  When did I last ride my mare?  Oh yeah, LAST WEDNESDAY.  8 days!!! 8 Days off and this is the happy ride I get!?? (MYSTERY #4!!!)
GOOOOOOOD MARE! (happy human)
Couldn't be more pleased.... And P looked pretty happy with herself when it was all said and done as well.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Non-Horsie Post (NHP) or... the other Girl's Best Friend

In lieu of your daily Pia update, and yet another picture of her in the cross ties looking tired/pissed/hungry/adorable, you get me. Adorned in things that I will never, ever (ever, ever, ever) own.

Last night I was honored to "model" at a brilliant event put on by a dear friend and her smashingly brilliant jewelry company.  Me and a few other lucky ladies were chosen to wear, model, and otherwise look fantastic in some seriously showstopping gems.

Turns out they pulled in all their giant pieces from all of their stores and decked us out in a few different "suites."  I got to wear a ring that's getting farmed out for an awards show (I wonder what skinny, food deprived finger it will end up on!) among other gorgeous items.  All in all I was wearing more than 75 carats (plus my own ring!) at any given time of the most sparkly gorgeous little stones I've ever seen.

My personal favorite was the massive, 100" long "loop" of diamonds.  I decided that I could totally wear that casually... just with jeans and a tank, (ha) even to the barn (haHA)... but alas, the 50+ carat weight on the thing means it is nowhere near the budget.  

ah shucks.

Anyway, here's my first ensemble:

Okay, Okay, clearly I am NOT a professional.  you can't really see the HONKING ring on my right hand, or the stunning earrings all that well.. but here's what I had on:
  • 7 carats in the cluster earrings, very vintage, very gorgeous (I told dad they'd be great wedding earrings... he didn't bite)
  • 51 carat necklace.  solid diamonds.. I wore it looped three times, though it looked amazing roped around my wrist later in the evening...
  • 6.5 carat yellow gold bangle
  • 8.42 carat white gold bangle
  • 4.5 carat cushion cut diamond ring, flanked by an additional 2 carats of side stones
  • the model's own engagement ring (also by Ben Bridge)
I loved walking the runway as they described all the pieces when they said "gorgeous diamond engagement ring.. blah blah blah, the model's own.  I feel like that's what they say when someone uber glamorous (like Jackie O) would supplement her own killer shoes or jewels for a photo shoot.


Anyway, I had a ball, I didn't cry when they took the pieces back, but I was sad to realize that wearing such stunning pieces was so easy.  I thought I'd be nervous in so many valuables.. but NOPE! turns out I handled it just fine.. . I did have to explain some chocolate stuck to one of the sparklers... but hey, there was a chocolate fountain.  And there was NO way I was ignoring it, and almost no way that I wasn't going to be somewhat covered in it by the end of the night.

Sigh.  Back to reality...

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Sometimes, I just have to laugh?

Had a great, albeit quick, evening with the mare last night.  She's so damn lovable.

Anyway, while stalking our local saddle fitting expert on her new site, I saw her list of "when to call a professional fitter" and almost spat coffee out all over my keyboard.

(note: Pia's saddle FITS. I swear)

The following are common misbehavior relating to saddle fit:
  • Being “Girthy”, attacking the cross ties or biting at the wall when being saddled (she doesn't actually bite at anything)
  • Rearing (just the once)
  • Refusing to move forward (uh. yeah.)
  • Refusing jumps (NOPE!)
  • Head tossing (it can stay still?!)
  • Tail swishing (this stays still too!?)
  • Pinning of ears (They only go up for photos or carrots..)
  • Bucking (These go up all the time..)
  • Chronic Spooking (Only when the tractor resembles a MONSTER, or there's weird patterns in the arena sand..)
  • Inability to move in a straight line (actually ok on this one)
  • Teeth grinding (not really)
  • Objections to being groomed (only when she doesn't want to be)
  • Unable to stands still (There are things to do!)
  • General bad attitude (only cause everyone else is so laaaaaame)

I mean jesus, she should just put a two minute video of Miss P up there.  Of course that might not speak well to the insanely expensive (totally gorgeous), obsessively fit saddle that she sold me... But really.  Aside from not refusing jumps (or cavaletti), That's P.  Or it was P, now she's just a tail swishing, ear pinning grump.

Actually, that's not fair.  Last night she was so in love she wouldn't even go free lunge.  I tried to let her run around but she kept just trotting straight back to me and wouldn't leave unless I whacked her on the ass with the whip...

If I'm being totally fair, that list may have described P in December, but almost all of this has gone away with the Regu-Mate.  She hasn't even offered a cow kick or a buck since we started, clearly no rearing, the head tossing is down to a minimum, her ears are usually flopped out (unless a BOY walks by), she isn't spooking, no grinding, she practically sat on my curry comb yesterday and mostly seems like a nicer mare overall..)

I guess this is a good transition into the comments from the Rolf session Miss P had last week.

As I mentioned, the practitioner(/therapist?) found plenty to work on, and as she did the first time, she focuses on the tight tissues surrounding P's funny right hind that I am CONVINCED causes a majority of her tension and discomfort..  Here were her notes:
Right hind is laterally rotated.  Hypertonic adductor muscles are pulling the medial aspect of her leg upwards, making it difficult to get the hoof balanced on the ground and also limiting engagement of the right hind.  I freed up the tissues along her medial hind legs, focusing on the adductors.  She was extremely sore to the touch, especially around her ischial tuberosity on the right.  Her lumbar spine is braced.  Have you had your saddle fit checked lately?  I often find this level of bilateral tension in horses with saddle fit issues.  It could also be attributable to her inability to equally engage the hindquarters.  I released her neck at the anterior aspect of her shoulder.  She was tight and had symptoms of a pinched nerve on the left side, at about C5 and C6.
Like I said, he saddle fit was just inspected in November and all was good.  So I really don't think that's the root of our problems.  Could be, but a) I'd be pissed,  b) I'd be furious and c) I'd be surprised.  I did double check everything yesterday and it seems to still be fitting well..

We're going to try a few sessions of additional Rolf-ing every two weeks to see if we can get P to release her right hind a bit more, and subsequently relax her lumbar a bit.  Hopefully that will complement our long-and-low rides to help open up those joints and release some stiffness on a more permanent basis. 

As for yesterday, since the mare had the weekend off (post Rolf), I just took her out to the ring, attempted a free lunge, settled for normal lunging and had a nice big grooming session.  Then Pia got to stare at her favorite gelding while she got groomed and I made her lunch boxes for the week before jetting for a date (of sorts) of my own.
gelding, gelding, gelding. love, love, love
Poor mare has another day off today before we get our act together again starting tomorrow.  I feel guilty for leaving her alone tonight, but I just signed a waiver (I think I might have promised my first born) for the (get this) three million dollars in borrowed jewels I'll be wearing tonight.  If I don't have a panic attack in the process, I think it'll be fun!! I even get a security guard to ensure that someone doesn't lop off my hand/ear/head in an attempt to steal some of them. :)

OK... so maybe it doesn't sounds as much fun when I say it that way, but I think it'll be a good time! Plus, if even one little gem happens to fall into my purse, P and I could totally ignore that pesky budget we've been talking about...

Monday, February 14, 2011


Well, sorry for the extended absence.  The mare got herself a nice Rolf session last Friday ( so much for cutting back on bodywork...) and I got myself some serious house guests, so neither of us made much progress with our riding over the last few days.
I got some great feedback from the gal who does the Rolf work, and think that maybe (just maybe) we have some physical things that (god willing) we'll see some improvement on.  Best of all, she told me I'm NOT crazy, and that Pia's weird hoof wearing on the right hind has to do with her leg being a little rotated (held there by angry muscles and fascia, both of which can be asked politely to let go..).

So, as much as it sucks to get an email with a veritable laundry list of concerns from a professional, I was almost relieved to see her bring up a few new ideas/issues that she thought of while working on Miss P last week.  Long story short? Bills Bills Bills

(can you pay my bills
can you pay my telephone bills
can you pay my automo/
if you did then maybe we could chill)

I'll delve into the specifics later, as today is about VALENTINE's.  While there have been years of thoughtful handmade cards (and treats for the ponies), this year I am unprepared aside from a total willingness to declare my love for all things in my life (aside from the hint of a cold, which might just be a lingering hangover from the obscene amount of champagne that has been consumed over the last 72 hours...)

This year I am thankful for a mare who is challenging me, entertaining me, giving me lots of things to think about while in meetings/traffic/the shower and would rather not focus on the task at hand...

Pia's adorable, sassy, and at least today, I am very certain that I will continue to enjoy and learn from the process of paying all her bills, bills, bills.

Also, thank you Glee, for firmly implanting that little gem of a song from Destiny's Child and about 10 years ago....

Be Mine.


Thursday, February 10, 2011


So our ride last night was not unlike our Tuesday ride, but it was "better."  P was still stinky and a bit sticky, but she relaxed faster and got-to-good in about half the time.

When I pulled up, our usually quiet and deserted barn looked more like Grand Central Station with rehab horses being walked, the driveway packed with cars, folks riding, doting husbands attempting to handwalk horses while wives were out of town, and me.  and P.  Attempting to find our rhythm. 

I was somewhat glad for all the commotion. It oddly seems to quiet P down when she's working.  I think she finds a busy ring more relaxing (friends!) and she seems to listen better when there's stuff going on.  When its just us she has that teenage "NO MOM, let's go THIS WAY" attitude.  As opposed when to when its bustling and she seems to rely on my direction in a different way.  (I'll take it).

We tacked up, helped instruct a husband on how to lead his wife's horse.  Then how to hold a brush.  Then how to pick a foot, and finally how to walk around and graze the cute thing.  (ps, what a good husband.  There is no way that I'd ask the Boy to go out and groom/hand graze P if I was gone for a weekend...)

Anyway, There were two riders in the ring when I got in with P, so it was a bit crowded but she was so mellow on the lunge I just popped her through her paces quickly, then hopped on.

She tensed up a bit (normal), but didn't feel crazy... until horses started leaving.  The last rider in the ring finished and started walking with us (my usual plan of just getting on and GOING was postponed by a chat with another boarder and the horse she's trying).  Basically the boarder had decided she was not going to move forward with the mare she had on trial so she was ended her ride early (uh oh), we walked and chatted a bit about her decision before I got to work with P.

P was relaxed, but I think the extensive walk break worked against us, as she was back to her old antics of STOPPING when I asked for the trot.

(oh hell no, mare)

It didn't take much to get her moving forward, but I was irritated she even attempted it.  Her trot was springy and energized as soon as we actually got our transition, so that was nice.  If she's going to be sticky, at least she isn't dragging it into our work....  Once we were going, she was oddly well behaved.  She dropped to long and low pretty quickly, moved off my inside leg (YAY), and seemed to accept pretty much everything else.  We spiraled, we figure-eighted, big circles, small circles, lengthened on the diagonal, everything.  Her canter was balanced and together.. I didn't have to beat her forward down the longsides... all good things.

Since she was being so good I opted to quit early while I was ahead.  All in all she probably only worked for 30 minutes, but after our initial stick, she was a gem (on our relative gem-scale). After I let her cool out for a bit I did decide to test her one last time and asked for the trot.

Negative Ghost Rider...

Soooooo I gather my reins, spurred the little witch and asked again.

aaahhhhh, NOPE.


Circle, smack, smack, and we were good to go.

I made her work for another 2 minutes until she was reaching forward and relaxing again, then we called it a day.  I'm still annoyed about this little sticky BS that's creeping back in, though I am thrilled that there's no kicking or bucking against my leg.  So that feels like HUUUUGE progress.

While I was untacking I noticed that the mare's "antsy" level in the crossties is back to where it was pre-regumate and pre-supermom.

Then as I was putting her away I noticed that the barn dog had his snout in P's grain bucket munching on her dinner... .which is the meal that she gets her regu-mate..

Has he been stealing her hormones?? Pia's general attitude the last couple days has just felt bitchier than the general chill factor she's had since the regu-mate started... I don't know if it's connected to the dog stealing her lady-drugs, or if she's just testing/grumpy/something. Who knows, I'll just keep an eye on it (and mention it to the BO so that she can keep an eye on her dog, or at least know why he starts growing lady-boobs)....

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Full of BEANS

Well, the mare was "energized" yesterday, and it's the closest she's been to her old ways since we found the light with Supermom (and Regu-Mate).

It's was clear from start to finish.  She was fidgety in the cross ties, snarky to all the boarders and just generally more antsy than she has been for the last few weeks.  That being said, she was still WAY more manageable than what we were dealing with, so I keep trying to keep it in perspective.
Oh Hi, I'z have electric legs and fiiiiiiiire.
Really our problem was that when we went to the ring, another mare was being hand grazed in a paddock, but left to return to the barn shortly after we started lunging. 

Being left has always been a struggle for us.  P's ears were instantly glued to the barn and her attention was nearly impossible to get.  Even with her lunge line looped through her girth to encourage a bend, she still cocked her head out and toward the barn whenever she passed by that side of the ring (grrrrrrr).  I got pissy, I got demanding, and I tried to get the mare more interested in what the screaming, cranky human was doing than what was happening (or NOT happening) in the quiet barn.

It didn't really work.  So we lunged. we lunged and lunged and lunged, and the mare's anxiety about being alone kept her quite 'perky' for longer than usual.  We lunged and lunged and lunged.  She was a rushing, floppy mess.  No balance, no ability to step out instead of just faster.  nothing.  I was irritated.

Finally, after about 25 minutes of almost all canter, she started to slow and come back from the brink of panic.  I decided I was sick of it and that getting on would be the best way to move forward and make her focus on something other than the mare who walked back to the barn forever ago...

Then she did it. 

She was sticky.  The witch tried to wiggle out from under me when I asked her to walk down the longside and away from the barn.  (what the cuss!? BAD MARE)

So I whipped her in a circle and smacked her.  (no result)

So I whipped her into a circle (again) and smacker her. (no result)

So I yelled, whipped her in a circle and smacked the CRAP out of her (we went forward).

At this point I should have moved straight into a canter and made her work, but I was knocked a little off my "high horse" and retreated a bit.  Not good.  Especially as the mare was all sorts of tense and fire breathing.

I tried to lower her frame (nope) and send her forward.  What resulted was less of a gorgeous replication of the long, loose and swinging trot we got with supermom and more of a speeding, tearing, stress ball shooting around the ring.


We were trotting.  And we were not sticking on the open sides of circles.

I think my temper got the best of me a little bit, as I felt stiff and grumpy which didn't exactly translate into any sort of encouragement for the mare to come down and work over her back, but we got through it.

By the end of the ride she was long and low and supple, but I think we got there more through exhaustion and less through constructive asking and giving.

All things considered, still better than a month ago, but not where we've been.  I'm headed back out tonight and am crossing my fingers that we're past it.  Otherwise I'm going to have to really think about what I'm doing that's letting this behavior sneak back in...

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Goal 1: Budget.. (or coming to terms with my spending habits..)

In an attempt to actually come up with a real budget and attempt to stick to said budget I took a look back through my "horse" documents and saw a cute little hypothetical "budget" I had penciled out when I was considering whether or not purchasing a horse was a viable option for me. 
I eat $$, poop $$, steal $$ and sleep on a big pile of $$$
Even more charming is that when I conducted my "research" I started by looking at my old horsey record book from high school.  Here's what I had (in monthly fees) way back when.  Bear in mind these figures are approximately 15 years old.. and I kept my horses at home.

Hay: $26
Grain & Beet Pulp: $30
Farrier/Trim: $42
Vet Savings: $50 (to grow a rainy day fund)
Lessons (8 monthly): $160
Trailer Payment (to dad): $40
Barn Improvements: $50

Grand Total: $402

FOUR HUNDRED AND TWO DOLLARS.   That was my cost for maintaining a Prelim level eventer.  Yes, I was the one feeding and mucking and whatnot. But WOW.  Oh, and my trainer came to my house for lessons and I worked most of that cost off by hacking out 2-3 of her babies on a regular basis... so basically my beast cost me $242 a month... oh how times have changed.

Thankfully I wasn't so ignorant as to think I could get away with anything nearly that cheap this time around.  I was somewhat realistic when looking at what it would cost me to be at a barn I wanted to be at and getting the level of care that I wanted to have. 

I work a ton. live in a city, sit on multiple boards and travel fairly extensively.  All of that means that I was looking for a barn within 30 minutes of work and home, full care (that I trusted), as well as having a trainer who could work the beast when I was out of town so I wouldn't feel guilty about missed days... I knew my solution wouldn't be cheap, but I didn't want to forge down the ownership path unless I could make that particular scenario work for me...

So, in the name of working through this and putting my costs out there, please remember that the barn market in Seattle is PRICEY and it still horrifies me to a certain extent.  These numbers are WAY more than I know most people would ever consider spending (way less than others..), but it's what works for us and while I know I could lower my board costs, realistically I can't lower them much without adding hours and hours of travel on a monthly basis, which (as told me this morning, literally isn't worth my time).

OK, so onto reality and what I actually bleed out on a regular basis.  My first year with Miss P has seen some outrageous costs.  Some were planned (Saddle! Trailer!), some weren't (Myelograms!), but they all add up regardless.  Fortunately, I started with a large "horsey rainy day fund," which has diminished, but I guess that's what it was there for.  My problem now is that I indulged the vet expenses and fun start up costs (like a new saddle) which allowed me to hide from actually setting and sticking to a regular budget.  Realistically, P and I have more goodies and equipment than we could ever dream of, so now it's time to come up with a viable ongoing budget that tells me when I can splurge on lessons, sparkly browbands and clinics, instead of just hemorrhaging cash for everything that sounds appealing.  (wah).

Part of what has prevented me from actually setting pen to paper is the fact that I'm somewhat terrified of how much cash I'm spending on Pia and that if I don't write it down, I can pretend it isn't real.  Don't get me wrong, I can "afford" everything I spend on her, but its not necessarily the most responsible method of managing my finances, so it could stand some analysis and adjustment.  Also there's this Boy who apparently wants to start a family and expects a savings account... As charming as P is, I probably need to figure out how much of my paycheck she is entitled to.

I've broken down my "budget" into two categories: Fixed Costs and Variable Costs.
Our Fixed Costs are things that I write checks for every month no matter what's happening.  So for us that means
  • Board ($675) cause the mare needs a house
  • Farrier ($100) cause apparently the mare needs shoes
  • Smartpak ($105) ok.. she doesn't NEED all this, but I like her current "pak"
  • Vitamin E ($40) definitely need this, and its way cheaper than that surgery we almost had
  • Extra Hay & Rice Bran ($72) keeps mare fat
This makes for a startling total of:  $992


These costs easily get away from me because I never see them all at once.  My board (and training) bill comes once, farrier is separate, smartpak buys itself, and my vitamin E is ordered in 3 month intervals...  So, I never get the grand total delivered all at once... (duh).  but those little $30 here and $40 there do, in fact, add up to real dollars.

Fortunately for me, I'm finally feeling good about getting away from full time training, which was another $600 a month.  That's a HUGE budget changer, and realistically makes P less of a money draining hole.  Plus her regular visits to the vet have slowed to a trickle of regu-mate and regular maintenance, so that's more manageable as well.

Great, so Variable Costs... (aka, the "fun" ones)
  • Training ($50-$600)
  • Lunging ($20 a session)
  • Bodywork ($35)
  • Rolf Session ($145)
  • Showing ($$$)
  • Clinics ($100)
  • Tack Store Hemorrhage ($$$$$$$$$)
  • Smartpak Add Ons ($20-$140)
Yeeeeaaaaaaaaahhhh.  That's a lot of monies.

My current "theory" is that I need to pick a flat dollar amount to spend on the beast, and adjust my variable costs accordingly.  Like.. $1400.  So, this month I would get to give the mare a Rolf session, then have $250 to spend on (at this point) rides and lunging while I'm out of town.  Anything left over slops into the fund for next month.   So far P has only had one lunge and one ride from the BO for the month ($70), but she'll get a few more this weekend while I'm occupied elsewhere (boo). 

Ugh.  Now I really just have to pick a number and commit to it.  My head keeps saying $1,200, but part of me knows that I'll blow past that without thinking twice if we ever start taking regular lessons again...

commit commit commit commit commit.....

Monday, February 7, 2011

The Return of "goals" or (even longer term plans - ELTP)

This weekend afforded a significant amount of time for thinking and "planning."  Between the four hour drives and the total lack of cell service or television, there was lots of time for thinking things through and chattering about nonsense with The Boy.

Fortunately, most of this was done while sipping on some champagne and sinking into an oversized bathtub brimming with bubbles - a circumstance which makes almost any conversation beyond tolerable (and also a circumstance that makes almost any hairbrained plan seem logical and necessary).

Aside from solving the world's problems (Egypt should seriously call us), brainstorming names for some seriously unborn children (as in, they'll stay that way for a while..names for magical additional horses however... that could be more immediate) and planning two moves over the next 16 months (yuck) I got to think and daydream about Miss P.

I think my goals for Pia dropped off for a number of reasons.  Mostly I got lazy, but also the fact that I seemed to simply be copying and pasting my previous goals with very little "checking off" got a little old.  Setting goals loses its steam when you don't coordinate them in a way that allows any completion or accomplishment. 

Admittedly, accomplishment is somewhat easier to feel when not getting pitched into walls or sneered at every time you walk up to your pony. 

Regardless, the last couple of weeks with P have renewed my sense of competence, boosted my confidence in terms of sticking to my own agenda (and not an outsider's), and reminded me that the mare is capable of being as sweet as her pretty head implies.

Among his many talents, The Boy's unwavering support with my riding and making things work is something I truly value.  Additionally, his eagerness to "get the mare on the road" for overnight shows and road trips is endearing and only makes me more excited to actually reach that point.(side note: this weekend he spilled that he thought going to Rolex would be a great vacation.  Can anyone say honeymoon!? kidding, kidding...).

Sometimes the gap between where we are now and actually packing up for multiple days of exhibiting as a competitor seems larger than the grand canyon...  Other days, it seems like I just have to get a little more comfortable with the idea of being really bad at our first few shows and we're practically there.. ;) I have already sworn to myself that I will have a video for the first time P has to enter a Dressage ring complete with monster letters and flowerboxes... I can ONLY imagine how much her little brain will explode.

Okay, okay, so GOALS.  I have some written down on scrap paper from the weekend (including my badly ignored budget goal.. WHOOPS).  They are coming I promise.  Probably later today.  But they are mitigated somewhat given the fact that this month is already consumed with a surprise visit from all my bridesmaids (who are scattered across the country) and getting my adorable little city loft of on the market (tear).  All of that adds up to extra time off for the mare, though thankfully she seems to be handling days off without the fire-breathing-terror that she used to.

That's a win right there...

Friday, February 4, 2011

Mare Hugs

So the Mare has been a lover all week.  Her post field trip rides were excellent, focused and calm.  We had a few "hyped" moments and minutes where her ears were GLUED on the barn, but she worked through it and I'm happy to report that her stiff right side was slightly less stiff when she wasn't craning her neck to see outside the ring (like our field trip).

She's also finally starting to shed out, which is a blessing, since her furs got a little longer this year than last and she's been taking for-ev-er to dry after our workouts.  Things I'm not so excited about?


Last night both of us were nearly eaten alive and I angerly busted out my fly spray when we returned to the barn.  I mean really.  The horses are still in their winter rugs, but the one 50 degree day somehow spawned a whole crop of the bloodsuckers and they are OUT.  I'm not thrilled.  My dissatisfaction probably showed through my very "aggressive" tack box search for my fly spray.  P was not amused.

Anyway.  Aside from bugs and furs, we had a nice week together.  Yesterday we did ground work.  We worked on yielding our hindquarters and shoulders when asked and tuned up on keeping her head at my shoulder.  Lots of trot halt, lots of pivots and lots of big pats.

So far so good... I gotta think that this combo of ass kicking rides, regumate and shoes is treating us both well...

Mare has an easy weekend since The Boy is whisking me off to our favorite getaway again for some gluttonous meals, lots of delicious wine and hopefully some active snowshoeing.  I'm looking forward to it.  While the mare side of my life has been great, work has been somewhat stressful, so the respite will be a welcome one. :)

Happy weekends everyone!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

There HAS to be a word for this.

There HAS to be a word for this:

You know, when your horse has packed God an all his creatures/debris/crap into their hoof, so that as you are attempting to "pick" it out you end up with more of a hoof bomb than anything else?

Maybe it's because I'm meticulous, and I always flip the hoof pick around and pick toward my face/body, maybe it's because I'm clumsy as all get out.  But regardless of the reason, every once in a while I get a face full of flinging shavings, manure and mud.


Yesterday was one of these days.  P's hoof "pack" has increased substantially with her new shoes (those damn things offer all sorts of help in acquiring and keeping serious useless crap in her hooves).  I also hate leaving anything in the hoof, so I carefully scrape the edge of the shoe, dig into her heel area to totally clean things out and finish with a nice brushing to get all the wet gunk off her frog and out of the creases....

BUT sometimes this routine results in a serious fling of crap (literally) up and toward my face.  I'm pretty good at dodging it without dropping P's hoof and hiding... but last night I didn't dodge quick enough and managed to spray wet shaving in between my jacket and vest.  (ew).

This happens to other people right?  Please tell me this isn't my one unique super power.. I'd hate to waste it on explosive hoof picking. .

What is this called? I realized yesterday that it happens often enough I should have a term for it.  Hell, my birthday only happens once a year and it has a name... this happens way more often than that.




Arrrrrgh.  It's so damn gross.....

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Family Heirlooms.... (for P)

As always, Supermom continues to shower Miss P with gifts.  Currently almost her entire wardrobe has been furnished by Supermom and a few other items to boot. 

This time, however, P was lucky enough (and must be acting mature enough) to inherit a few of her mother's possessions.  The first, is Sadie's (her mama) halter, complete with nameplate.  I love the look and feel of well loved and well worn leather.  Sadie's halter certainly has it, and P's delicate little head looks just lovely in it.  Plus, it's nice to show your roots, right?
She also was declared worthy of her mama's old bridle.  Apparently Sadie had the same, large but "refined" face that renders bridle fit something that sits between mind numbing and impossible.  Supermom managed a lovely padded bridle with different sized bits and pieces that worked for Sadie, and wouldn't you know, it suits P's mini-nose just fine too.  It has a much better fit and offers more support for the bit.  Plus it's pretty to boot (it's what she was sporting on her Field Trip).

So, now Pia is joining the ranks of Totilas, in noseband fashion... if nothing else. (I'm pretty sure there's nothing else...)
P & T, bringing back the white padding....

Here's P:

And here's Mr. T looking just as dapper:

Okay, okay... so maybe she isn't quite  as, um, "regal" looking in this pic, but it's on my phone and P was a little more interested in everyone eating their dinners than she was in my cellphone photo shoot. 

Not that everyone and their sister doesn't imagine a perfectly gorgeous Totilas Foal, but holy crap, how cute would that baby's head be!? The whole "spaying" plan does put a kink in that particular fantasy... but then I would always have that excuse and wouldn't ever have to face the "there is no way your mare would ever qualify for a breeding to Mr. T.  Ever." rationale.

We'll just chalk it up to love lost and a shared fashion sense.

P.S. - Thanks (again, and again) Supermom.  P looks like a doll.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Field Trip: The Ride

Ok, so a few pics and videos from our excursion on Sunday...

Like I said, P was a gem.  She stayed calm and our biggest battle was getting her confident enough to move forward and to turn her attention to me and inside the ring, rather than everything "outside" the ring.  Her looky-lou behavior meant that we had some killer counter-bend going on, but since that's not exactly what I was going for... we had some work to do.

Going to the right was our biggest challenge (as always), but we stuck to a circle and I balanced my aids between asking for the mare to relax and lower her frame, and asking her to really bend around my inside leg (something that inherently causes tension for the beast).   I dropped my right stirrup for a good portion of our work just to get that much more leg on the mare.  She had moments of giving in and letting go, but the combo of stiff right side + stuff to look at outside made for some slooooow going.

P's canter work was pretty great for us.  She was less sticky (though still not "forward") but clearly fairly content to let me kick away at her.  Three weeks ago the amount of leg I was using would have caused a serious tantrum and bucking fit, but Sunday she just worked through it and seemed to try and release through her ribs.
Her frame was a little more jammed up in the canter than I would like... but given the circumstances, I'm not complaining.  We cantered. We circled, and we didn't buck.  (whee!).

I didn't realize it but we were working under saddle for a full hour, which explains why the mare started getting a bit fatigued and cranky toward the end.  We attempted a few small leg yields, but by that point she was pretty much spent.  I was a little annoyed that she was ignoring me as much as she was... but again (broken record), the ride really did surpass all my expectations, so I tried not to pick too much of a fight.

At the end of it, we were both wiped.  I can firmly attest that my right leg (and ass) is totally sore from the effort, so I'm sure P is feeling it a bit too.  She was such a love afterward though, I really have to give her a lot of credit (The Boy did give her a lot of carrots, so I'm sure she knew that she was a good girl...or maybe she just learned that Boy = Carrots, who knows)

Love those quiet moments after a good ride....
Exhausted, happy and looking hot in that Air Jacket....

Below are a few snippets from our ride.  The first video is our start.  You can see she's a bit apprehensive, but did move up into the trot without throwing a fit.  Her instinct is to be jammed up and behind the vertical (which is where we spent a chunk of the day).  She's still pretty leery of the corners.. but I was thrilled that her reaction was to just stop and avoid... rather than shy/bolt.  I'll TAKE IT

Second clip is our first canter work... Her trot is finally looking a bit better here.  Notice she's freely moving up into the canter (WIN), but we're still fairly unbalanced/counterflexed.  (baby steps....)

Finally... this is the end of our ride.  I made her go back to work after a 5 min walk break, so she's understandably cranky, though less so than she was in the past... At the end you can see a few "attempts" at a leg yield.  They were not successful.  At All.  In fact at a couple points she actually leaned into my leg, which is when you see me spin her in a small circle.  It's ugly, but it seems to be our best "please listen now" tool in our tool box at the moment.  Talk about absolutely TUNING ME OUT. brat.

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