Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Preparing for Mare-Wolf

Well,  I finally got it - The email from our BO saying the regumate is about to run out...

I can't believe it's been three months, but apparently it has.  Which is exactly when our supply of happy-mare-juice is supposed to disappear.

I'm sorta hoping for a Hanukkah, festival-of-lights, style miracle.  Like maybe the one day supply of regumate (/oil) will actually last us through the week (/8 nights), allowing me to enjoy a couple more rides before heading out of town...

I'm not sure how likely that is, but I am fully prepared for this to show up whenever we do run out:
That, my friends, is what a marewolf looks like.  She appears when hormones run rampant and no amount of lunging, treating, or massaging will make her happy to work.  She eats anything she can find (rocks, farriers, geldings) and can execute aerobatic bucks, but a simple working trot remains elusive.

Here's to hoping I still find P's sweet sleepy face when I show up to the barn.. If marewolf has taken her place, my plan is to give the mare a nice week off to deal with her first cycle, then see where we are at in terms of attitude.

If she's acting normal, we'll proceed without our happy-mare-juice and see how awful her second cycle is.  I think there's a good possibility that her hormones weren't our biggest issue, but they were the frosting on an otherwise pissed-off cake.  Perhaps having dealt with her feet and a few other issues, her cycles won't be the tipping point for her explosions. I've grown quite accustomed to rides without any bucking and I'd like them to continue...

But, if P's cycles do still cause her to explode.. Those ovaries are coming out.

Out, out damn spot!
Cutest nose ever... even if she's preparing for evil

Monday, March 28, 2011

Sunday Funday

After Saturday's down time with Denali's Mom, Sunday was more downtime with my mom and then the mare.  We baked cookies, defrosted left over horsey cookies and watched about 18 episodes of "say yes to the dress."  I know it's beyond inane, but something about that show is wildly addicting to me.   I can't tell if it's the trainwreck see-through dresses, or the mega-family-drama, or the crazy brides, but it's addicting.  all nicely packed into 20 minutes!  love it!

Anyway, something about the pace of the day and the on again, off again stormy weather had me in the mood to just play with the mare.  Groom her up all sparkly, let her run loose and then just sit quietly for a bit. 

The barn was quiet and dark when I got there, the horses were all finishing up lunch and it felt like all sorts of a Sunday afternoon.  I keep hoping that there will be a mini Poppet scampering around when I show up, but the mare is patiently waiting and holding that giant baby in for all it's worth.
patient mama
P was happily munching in her shed, which might be the first time I've ever seen her stand under cover while it was raining.  That mare feels some obligation to be outside at all times when it's raining (which is quite often in Seattle..).  I don't know if she thinks that she's keeping a lookout for the rest of the herd, or if she just likes the way it drips down her face.  Either way, I was surprised to see her standing in her shed.  Also unusual? the mare normally walks (or trots) up to me when I open her paddock without much of a delay.  But yesterday I clucked, and clucked, called her name, and clucked... all to no avail.  When I finally stomped down to her shed, I figured it out.

Slow Feeder.

The BO has constructed the first "corner" versions of her slow feeders for the stalls, so Riley's big bale sized box got placed in P's shed and she has been obsessed ever since.  I guess this shouldn't come as much of a surprise, since the mare is also obsessed with lick-its, hanging balls and anything else she can slowly attempt to eat/fight with.

I was pleased to see that she seems to be working with the box quite well and so far she seems to be consuming at about the right amount...  Though we will have to stay tuned, as she's a quick learner and might start hoovering the food out of the box somehow...

Once I managed to pull P's nose away from her new toy, I spent some time polishing the girl up and continuing to remove vast amounts of fur from her body.  I don't know why, but she refuses to just shed out like a normal horse.  She's trickling enough fur to clump all over pads and her girth and everything I wear, but not enough to actually get the damn job done.  It's infuriating.. but I digress.

Like I said, it felt like a lazy day, so I opted to just do some groundwork and let the mare play in the arena by herself.  She's been really respectful lately, not testing the waters with me on the ground at all, no attempts to escape, very - dare I say- obedient?  So our groundwork went well.  I took her halter off and chased her away to go play, which she refused to do.

Instead, she snorted at the mirrors (first time she's EVER cared about the pretty horse in the mirror..) and kept just trotting back to me.  So I'd send her away, she'd snort at the mirrors, then trot back to me.

She's easily impressed...
 It took a few minutes to convince her to go play by herself (but not with herself in the mirror).  As always, she ended up circling up around me and keeping herself on a nice 20 meter circle.  I dug my iphone out (excellent video I know) and recorded a couple minutes just to document her movement.

This is her right side (mostly canter, some nice trot) and I can tell that she's really starting to move a little better.  Way less tension in that right hind and more capable of stepping under.  Yay! Progress!

Afterward, we did a little groundwork without her halter, which is always affirming and exceptionally entertaining for me.  P can be such a sweet girl when she wants to.  Maybe that's why I get so offended when she's not.  :)
sweet mare behaves occasionally...
Finally, it started absolutely POURING out, which nixed my plans for a walk and some hand grazing, so instead we just waited out the downpour until P deemed it suitable to walk back to the barn.

Not impressed with the weather.
It was a nice afternoon.  I have pangs of guilt for not actually riding, but I keep telling myself no one else cares, least of all P...

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Remind me to Read This Post...

The next time I'm feeling like I'm at the end of my rope, would someone PLEASE make me reread this post. Ok thanks.

Friday was lovely. It was sunny and warm and since I dropped the Boy off at the airport for a boys weekend away, I had nothing scheduled but playing with the pony and catching up on sleep, which was a beyond exciting proposition.

The barn was abandoned when I got there which sorta surprised me, but meant that I would get to see if P's good behavior from Wednesday would hold up without a buddy in the ring to keep her calm.

P didn't seem to mind and aside from one hairy eyeball she gave the mounting block...

She. Was. A. Gem.

She didn't stop once when we were warming up, she 'bravely' trotted past all scary spots in the ring and her ears stayed soft from start to finish.

It wasn't our most spectacular work, but it was a really productive ride. I felt like I was able to ask more of P in terms of transitions and figures instead of sticking to big, sweeping, looping movements.

I threw in some simple changes that would have caused a mini explosion back in December and even worked in some leg yields maintaining a fairly soft and low frame.

It was satisfying to feel like even with my increased demands and working the entire ring (scary parts and all), that Pia never felt 'on the edge.' I felt safe, secure, and totally in control.

After one excellent zig zagging leg yield, I pulled my tack and threw the mare out to graze in the last bits of the sunshine. She shoved every bit of fresh grass she could find in her fat little lips as her totally normal and not at all anxious sweat pattern dried out. It was a nice quiet moment, that is until mosquitoes the size of small crows started swooping in relegating me to the role of fly swatter. :)

Happy mare. Happy human.

Afterward, It was back to my folks place for a nice big pasta dinner and gorgeous Seattle sunset. Having just gotten our loft up on the market, we're back in the parents basement which makes me feel a bit like I'm home from college again.

I'm not complaining mind you- a girl can get used to living in this house, and since we're preparing to move into the house next door, we can also get used to the view....

Back to the barn today!

Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Friday, March 25, 2011

Wednesday's Test (and MAMA pics)

Man, the details that fade when I don't blog regularly..

I haven't been ignoring P all week, but it has been spottier than I'd like.  Wednesday I finally got out (that made for a total of two days off since our "meh" ride on Sunday) to ride the mare.  The real excitement was that somehow the sun broke through the Seattle clouds and gave everyone a false sense of springtime.

It didn't feel false though, in fact, it felt downright LOVELY and even my craptastic-rental car actually showed me the temperature (not sure how, it hasn't done that before) and confirmed that it hit that magical 60 degree mark.
Crappy car likes the sunshine too..
I was glad to see that another boarder was pulling in behind me, which meant that P would likely have a buddy in the ring, and since Pia respects the "buddy system," life and the arena are generally less scary when another horse is in there to help her battle the demons in the corners.

Since our last couple of rides were squirrley, I popped the mare into the arena to buck around on her own for a few minutes.  She was cute and cantered in a couple circles before coming into the middle and sticking her nose in my hand.  I sent her out a few more times, but she wasn't very rambunctious and kept returning to me and shoving her nose in my hand like "mom, I'm done, let's do something else now thanks."

So, I trusted her, and took her back in to tack up.  Her eye seemed soft and the fact that another pony was getting ready appeared to be very calming, frankly, so was the warm breeze and the fact that for the first time this year I wasn't tacking while wearing my extra puffy barn jacket :)

My chicken self still lunged P before I got on, but she was nice and slow (maybe a little mincy to start).  Her ears and eyes were still soft so I popped on after about 5 minutes.  Since another horse was working I decided to walk a lap or two before starting our trot, just to suss out any new scary spots in the ring.  Not too surprisingly, with her trusty buddy there to protect her, P was suddenly not upset about the scary corner, scary wall or even the scary mounting block.  When I asked for her to trot, she did so without hesitation.  There was one sticking point on the gate side of the ring (ugh, MARE!), but after that she didn't protest too loudly.  It took longer than normal to really get her engine revved up, but she wasn't outright ignoring me which was a nice change.

Since she was being good, I tried to focus on a few things like straightness, getting her in my outside rein, and staying between my legs on smaller circles.  I've been so focused on moving forward, that I haven't been too picky about drifting through my aids which hasn't been helped by the fact that I really haven't school anything smaller than a 20 meter circle in a month.

The small circles made P cranky, and she tried to pop her shoulder and blast out of them, but we got a few good ones and then moved on.  After some decently balanced canter work totally absent of any freakouts, I pressed my luck with some babyleg yields.  Starting at the 1/8th line and nudging over, I was trying really hard to keep the mare relaxed and moving off my leg.

I'd really like to start reintroducing some lateral work to get her paying more attention to smaller aids, but when we left off with our lateral work, it was causing some serious ear pinning and chest biting.

I'm happy to say that we accomplished decent leg yields in both directions without changing our frame or getting too stuck.  I worked up to the quarter line in both directions and then called it a day.

Again, probably only 20 minutes under saddle, but she was so consistent and polite it seemed only fair to let her go graze and enjoy some of the sunshine.

This weekend looks like it's supposed to actually be sunny, so I'm planning a full attack of the barn. :)

Also, Denali's Mom and I are adventuring to a local schooling show to catch up, watch cute kids on ponies and sneak some crappy horse show food.  Yahoo!

Also, as promised here are a couple shots of Miss Poppet in all her massive preggers glory.  She's so furry and bulging I love it.

Hunting for more snacks.. I'm pretty sure she maybe would have eaten me if I let her

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

BABY PONY! (is almost here)

I keep forgetting to mention that we are about to have a brand new foal at the barn (!!!!!!!).

The BO's stunner of a mare currently looks like a tank and is getting ready to drop her (undoubtedly gorgeous) baby sometime next week (we hope).

Poppet is an eight year old Westphalian mare who has been sidelined by a hind suspensory injury.  She was the top selling yearling at the Westphalian auction her year and continued to develop all sorts of well.  She's definitely an older, heavier type, but her movement is K I L L E R.  Unfortunately, she came off the plane with an injury and not a single therapy, treatment, or  voo-doo known to man has been able to bring her back to full work.

She's the most steady, even tempered mare I've met (P should take note) and she'll work sound for about a week before her old injury shows up which is just long enough for everyone to get their hopes up for a full recovery...

So, instead, Miss Poppet gets to be a mommy and we're expecting her first baby (by Alabaster) in a matter of days.  Momma has already moved up to her palatial straw bedded 14'x28' box stall maternity suite.  The hope is that Alabaster lightens Poppet up a bit (although I like her tank-esque stature..).  I really need to snap some shots of her while she's still the size of a school bus.
Below is a really old video of Poppet, but you get a sense of her gorgeous self and hopefully what the little baby might be inheriting.  I can't wait to see what pops out!!

Stay tuned for BABY PICTURES!!! eeeeeeeeee

Monday, March 21, 2011

Trending.... Down?

I feel like a lot has happened since I posted, but I guess really I've only missed a couple of rides.  I'd love to say that Wednesday was the "blip" on our otherwise sunny forecast, but apparently we're trending away from the magical loose fun rides of last Monday.

Wednesday's video showed a much more tense and less tuned in Pia than I had my legs around Monday, and Friday's ride continued that downward trend a little farther..

What plots are you plotting in there tricky mare......
Friday brought a MONSOON of a rainstorm right about the time I was walking the mare to the ring.  Which is fine (objectively), but Pia has recently decided that the clogged drain spout and ensuring waterfall coming of the roof over the "P" is terrifying and unacceptable. 

Oh, and also, so is the northeast corner of the arena.

Oh, and so is the mounting block.

Mind you the terrifying waterfall is still outside the ring (aside from some splashed wet spots on the wall), the northeast corner hasn't changed a bit... and neither has the mounting block.  She's just being a brat.

P was actually a little twitty on the lunge and threw in more head tossing/squeals than I'm used to these days, but I figured that she was just feeling good after a day off...  I kept waiting for to relax under saddle, but she was tense, spooky, and I spent the entire ride trying to overcome her rather impressive half-pass/panicked bounces away from the scary spots of the ring...which she's cleverly created in a pattern that leaves only one 20 meter circle that isn't impacted.  After about half an hour we got some remotely decent figure eights in, so I called it good and got off. 

Saturday was some gift from god in terms of weather, so I opted for a big long walk (with a stop for nachos) with The Boy, and never made it to the barn.  The Boy and I did manage to meet up with Supermom and her husband for a fantastic dinner.  Somehow we've managed to never get the four of us in the same place at the same time so this was a first.  Both Supermom and I figured the guys would get along just fine and as I was finishing my third (brilliant) whiskey and the bar was turning on the lights, we finally called it a night... super good times. :)

Sunday I was back out to the barn early, hoping the sunshine would stick around long enough to warrant a bath for the mare to remove the layer of winter dust and mud and grossness.

As I drove out of the city I watched the temperature on my car (or rather.. the rental) slowly tick down from a "balmy" 49 at home in Seattle  to a 38 at the barn.  I'll bathe at 49... with warm water and sunshine to dry in... but not at 38 with wind and clouds.

So that was a sad realization, but I still tacked up the mare and got ready to ride.  Her growing topline and neck prompted me to check my saddle fit to make sure that my shimmed half pad isn't getting too tight on Pia's increasingly muscled shoulder.  I dropped the Prestige on her bare back and was shocked to see that the tree is no longer "wide" up front on the mare.

I ran my hands every which way, and decided that it was time to downgrade from the "big" shims to the "thin" shims in the saddle fitter pad, but to still use it.  The thought of P continuing to fill out and gain muscle is lovely.  I think all of our long and low work is paying off and its amazing to see her gaining "good" muscles from our exercises.

The smile disappeared rather quickly when P made a point of showing that whatever brattiness she had been displaying earlier in the week was just a warm-up for this ride.  On the lunge she was bucking, head tossing, cutting in on the circle.. everything.

 Bucking for fun, bucking randomly, pulling.. all sorts of nonsense that she usually doesn't do, and certainly hasn't done in a few months.

We spent longer than normal getting settled and when I finally went to leg up she was fussy at the mounting block.  After two aborted attempts to get on, I backed her up hard on the ground and threw her on the lunge again.  Galloping, bucking, ignoring me, jacking around and awful.  We spent another 10 minutes getting her to focus, then I attempted to mount again.

This time she was an angel, but it didn't last long.  She walked off with the frenzied anxiety that she hasn't shown a hint of since November 2010.  I walked a few laps, then bounced into the trot.  The transition was good, but that was it.  She stopped on the open side of the circle refused to move forward.  I turned her hard, whacked her a good one and gave her an opportunity to move forward.

She declined to take it.

Circled again, whacked her again, and let her move forward.

She decided not to budge.

So I flew off backed her up hard, made her move off from me and put her back on the line.

We cantered more until she was all but too willing to listen to me for transitions, then I tried again.

She "behaved," but she never relaxed and she continued to spook at light spots from the skylights, corners and horses walking around the property.  I called it quits after about 20 min under saddle since the beast was lathered, dripping and still gunning for more.

It felt like a huge failure, but realistically, she didn't buck under saddle and all of our transitions (after the first issue) happened without incident... Our canter was tense but uneventful, and the trot was "forward" but felt more rushed and jammed up than it has since Supermom reprogrammed her :)

Since P was already soaked and the sun was making attempts to shine through, I figured that I might as well just hose her off and at least get the mare clean.  She stood like a gem during her bath (in spite of a pressure washing going crazy behind a trailer and a few other understandable distractions) so that was her minor redemption.  While I was washing her tail I considered the possibility that maybe her change in pads contributed (she's notoriously AWFUL with anything remotely not perfect on her back), but that didn't explain the other increasingly tense rides earlier in the week..

My primary thought is that I've been maybe a little too accepting of her small objections under saddle.  In my head I've been trying to preserve relaxation and just going f-o-r-w-a-r-d.  but maybe I've been giving her just enough leeway that she's totally ignoring the boundaries that I think I'm setting.

My plan is to change back to the bigger shims (why not) in case the pad change instigated this and ride extra firmly, in case this is a boundary issue.  I'll just have to do my best to fake a Supermom ride and see what happens :)

In good news, the mare is clean, and she got a Rolf session on Sunday which showed that her right hind is maintaining the adjustments that were made on it's own so we just worked on some stiffness in her lower back (maybe that was causing the bucks?).

Oh mare... it's a constant struggle... at least you're cute you adorable thing!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Wednesday Ride

Moderate Success!

Hoping for a repeat of Monday's ride, I tucked the video camera into my bag when I headed to the barn on Wednesday.  Flashes of my last attempt to video a ride (OW) danced in my brain and I wondered if my desire to try and prove that P's trot can be big and swinging was just asking the horsey gods (and P) to laugh in my face and instead give me yet another recorded instance of how not to get off your horse.

P's fidgety face in the cross ties and cranky ears signaled that maybe my suspicions were correct and the presence of the video camera now only served to bring out Mare-Wolf behaviors.  When the two other boarders at the barn took their mares out to the grass paddocks for some grazing, I knew I was cooked.

If there's one thing that drives Pia INSANNNNNNE, it's horses grazing just on the other side of the arena wall.  It completely short circuits her (otherwise someone sneaky and intelligent) mare brain....  But.... SuperMom's words were echoing in my ear about how I needed to let her brain explode and work the mare through such apparently extreme challenges.

Mentally, I acknowledged that this might not be a riding day, but that I would be ok with getting P to ignore the grazers and focus on me even if it took 45 minutes on the ground.  I grabbed the camera and tucked it into my vest on the off chance I'd actually throw a leg over the beast if she was behaving.

True to form, the mare was totally checked out.  It was unfathomable to her that I would ask her to work while others played and even more inconceivable that she should have to look at me instead of craning her head every which way to keep an eyeball on the grazers...

After about 15 minutes, I started to get her brain refocused on what I was asking instead of what was happening outside the ring.  About 5 minutes after that, both of the grazers went inside and P totally returned to normal.

So I turned on the camera, got on and crossed my fingers.  She was sticky to start, but less so than Monday (yay!) so that was our first success.  The loose, stretchy, bouncing trot from Monday was missing, but Pia was listening and all hints of Mare-Wolf were gone which made for another success, though I was missing the Monday Trot Spectacular.

We only worked under saddle for about 20 minutes.  It felt short, but given the extra hard lunging and general good behavior, I felt like it was prudent to quit while I was significantly ahead (and still in the saddle :) ).

We just stuck with the basics, forward canter both directions (still no kicking or bucks!), big working trot, a few lengthening requests and lots of stretchy trot with figure eights.
Her right hip is stepping under more and more these days... progress!


I apologize for the blurry shots and teeny tiny video... I experimented with the camera in a new spot.  I think I like it, but I did realize I could have gotten closer and stayed in the frame.  Either way, here's a few short clips of our work Wednesday...  I wish I got the big movement from Monday, but honestly, this is still such an improvement over the last time I tried to video at home, that I'll take it :)

Other random good news? P's bodywork got moved from today to Sunday afternoon, so I can stuff more rides in this weekend, yahoo!

Now for some YouTube audio track roulette! what will it be? acoustic guitar? ambient spa music? whoooo knows!

First up: Working trot... the start of the ride

Left lead canter... clearly we need to work on straightness (among other things)

Annnnnd Stretchy trot at the end... not our best or most consistent, but pretty damn good considering how wild she started out...

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Slow Feeders... v2.0

True to form, the BO has evolved her slow feeder design already in an attempt to produce the perfect combination of restricted access and constant forage...

Contestant #2 is R - a super fancy, super adorable (somewhat broken) KWPN who is currently on round 3 of resting a torn ligament (heart breaking).  That leaves Mr. R lots of time to sit in his stall and play with a slow feeder.  His model is designed to hold a full bale, and is made int he "horizontal" fashion, which makes loading a full bale easier, but loses convenience of the BO being able to "toss" hay from the loft.

Though, I'm not sure she'd be tossing bales down anyway...

The idea is to give about a 3-4 day supply of hay, and allow the horse to maintain a mostly natural headset while snacking.

So, here it is.  R was suspicious of me snapping pictures and immediate came to inspect whether or not I had any treats to offer...
Camera Focus Fail
You can see the feeder is shoved up in a corner..but it is still a sizable piece of furniture for a stall.  That may be ok in the BO's gorgeous 14x14 stalls that have big runs, but might not be the most efficient use of space for ponies in smaller quarters...
The grate floats loosely under the lid of the box, so that as the hay level goes down, the grate pushes down with it, always resting on top of the remaining hay.

R took to the feeder immediately and started nibbling and nosing the grate extracting his supper stem by stem. Though he was constantly nibbling and snacking, the full bale seemed to stay too compressed for easy eating.  To remedy that, when filling the box, the BO started "fluffing" the flakes to make them slightly more accessible.  The process isn't too labor intensive, but it does mean that the convenience of just tossing a bale into the box isn't relevant, so the next version of feeder will likely be the same style, but a triangle shape nestled into the corner of a stall to save on space.  It won't hold a full bale, but it should still accommodate more than a day of hay when filled to the top.

Other modifications on the docket include a chicken wire bottom, so that little extra bits can fall out of the feeder, instead of old hay slowly piling up and rotting.

Aside from that, the box construction and lids are super safe, firmly latched and seem as horse proof as possible.. though even typing that statement tempts fate a bit.

The BO and I did discuss the unintended consequences of going to things like automatic waterers and slow feeders.

She was discussing how much she used to learn just from standing in front of stalls and filling buckets.  Even just 20 seconds of standing at staring, you can notice a lot.  Has that horse been rest his right hind all day? hmm, the poop looks different, that mare looks more lethargic than normal.. no shavings in that tail, hay not cleaned up.. blanket looks loose, etc.

Obviously these are all things that we tend to notice anyway, but it's interesting how many things your brain can observe when standing still and just staring at a stall for a few seconds, as opposed to jogging by it as you go to turn out horses.

I have every confidence in the care at my barn, and I know that the BO has a great eye and those horses get more observation time than most, but it's an interesting philosophy to consider.  Sometimes doing things manually allows you to absorb information you would otherwise miss. Thankfully our crew goes out of their way to still get that info.  But somethings would be hard to stay on top of, even with diligent checking.

Take for example, a full bale slow feeder.  Last fall we ended up with a chunk of our hay being "off."  It wasn't moldy, smelled fine, not dusty, etc.  But about 3/4 horses who were fed  from a neighboring set of bales got the runs and were out of commission for a few days.  Although more horses were exposed, the symptoms were obvious and correlated directly with who was getting fed from what hay bales.  The problem was fixed right  away.  Inside horses needed new hay, the horses who slept outside were fine, because they hadn't gotten any of the contaminated hay in their outside hay shed...

Consider what would happen if a bad bale in it's entirety was shoved in a slow feeder.  No other horses would be eating from it, and any symptoms could potentially emerge in only one horse.  My brain goes through different diagnostics if one horse appears sick, than if many do... It's not rocket science, but it is different than the "flake tossing" mentality that happens many times a day.  Also, if P ignores a meal, I know about it at at most 12 hours later (dinner --> breakfast).  Given a slow feeder, that hint of being off her feed would be less noticeable over a short time window...

What do you guys think? Even with meticulous checks, can you fully replace the awareness and observations made from casual horse care?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Only for the EXTRA nerdy...

Thankfully for me, my brother falls in the "extra nerdy" category and he sits next to me at work.  So while I often try to get him to appreciate something obscure and horsey (OMG, look at that EXTENSION!!!), he often offers equally obscure comments on nerdy articles, or games coming out or some such thing (I don't actually know what he's talking about, I just nod)

Today, however, he whipped this gem of a video out, which even I could appreciate.  Apparently some uber-geek took the time to set the opening cut scenes from the game Starcraft to footage from My Little Pony episodes. (LOL)

I must admit that I'm fairly entertained by how well this is put together and all the serious drama that these pastel little ponies seem to portray.  Even if you've never seen a minute of Starcraft, this is funny to watch.

I also love the idea of some expert-gamer-geek sifting through SEVENTEEN My Little Pony episodes to perfectly piece this thing together...

enjoy and remember - Friendship is MAGIC!

Toe Snappin', Back Swingin' Fun

There were about 42 times during my ride yesterday that I was cursing the fact there was no way to get video of P's progress.  Gosh she was fun yesterday.  Twitty? yes.  Pretending to be spooky? yup.  but F-U-N.

I was a little apprehensive about what was in store for our ride when P was extra impatient in the cross ties PLUS one of the TB's who lives outside had decided the world was certainly ending so he was screaming his bloody head off without pause.   She was doing her best impression of a giraffe the entire time and stomping and swishing and putting her mouth EVERYWHERE.  I'll admit it was sort of a losing battle.
Full Alert
You can see P's new 'do.  Frankly, I'm impressed that I've gotten her coat as clean as it is... but our slash and burn mane trim has definitely put us back into eventer-mohawk land.  I got some sideways looks for other boarders, but I think P looks darn sassy.  (Plus, let's be real, I'm not spending 3 hours pulling her locks...)

Anyway, my brain was adding up the extra energy and heardbound-ness and I wasn't loving the predicted outcome.  But, off we went.  Tacked up and headed for the ring just as two riders were finishing up and heading in to most definitely steal P's dinner (or so she was certain).

She was a little counterflexed on the lunge and obsessed with the barn, but she got over that once she figured out that looking at the barn meant she got to work harder (clever beast).

She was back to sticky when I got on (not loving this pattern), but true to form, she moved past it after two kicking/smacking circles and off we went.  After two laps I was GRINNING.  P (admittedly wound up) was expressing herself in a totally acceptable fashion - balanced, springy trot work.  It was a little harder to work the tension out of her neck than it usually is, but eventually I got her long and low for some big loops and circles as we warmed up... My primary challenge was convincing P that neither the poop in the far corner nor the wet spot on the wall by a sprinkler were going to eat her.  She was giving them a wiiiiiiiiiiide berth when we passed and was doing a fantastic job of shying away when I actually held her straight by them.

Finally she relented on the poop and admitted that it wasn't scary.... to the right.

Still terrifying to the left apparently, so I popped into the canter and we just jumped the damn pile instead of avoiding it (weird, weird mare).

When we returned to the trot I asked for P to maintain a little more contact and brought her up to something around a training level/first level frame.  one half halt and whooo boy! I'm sure it wasn't that dramatic, but to me it felt like she just sat and lifted her shoulders.  That led to some seriously fun big trot around the ring.  I couldn't take my eyes off the mirrors - the mare. looked. (and felt). AMAZING.

Her little toes were snapping out in front, she was sitting back, and her back was just soft through the bend....

I rode that carnival ride for about 10 minutes then decided that if she was going to be that forward and balanced that 25 minutes of hard work was more than enough.
I could have stayed there for hours, but it was late, Chicken Little was still screaming his head off in the paddocks and all things considered, P was listening oddly well.

I'll take it!

Next up... remembering to actually set the video camera up and cross my fingers that it captures something other than me catapulting through the air....

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Elder Statesman (err... woman)

God I love this pony...
Yesterday I had plans with one of my oldest friends to fuel up, bundle up and drive to the peninsula to watch a Jennifer Williams Clinic.

Jennifer Williams rides Pia's daddy, and just got back from a big training trip overseas.. so we thought it'd be fun to go audit and have a day of learning and snacking and horsey time. 

Of course it's been wet, windy and just generally snarly out here, so when the clinic organizer sent an email saying "it's gonna be cold, so bring PLENTY OF BLANKETS!"we took that as our cue to bail and find something else to do with our time.  (oops)

So instead of chattering our teeth and trying to hear Jennifer's helpful instruction over our own shivers, I drove north, met my friend D at her home and paid a long overdue visit to the current reining queen of pony-dom, Star.

By our best guesses, Star is currently somewhere between 36 and 39 years old.  And although I consider "40" a badge of honor in the horse world, I'd never offend a lady by nudging her age closer to another decade...

Aside from a total lack of teeth, the beast is still just as sassy and almost as active as she's ever been.  Or at least, she's still just as active as she's ever wanted.  Which basically means she's carefully whittled her daily responsibilities down to sleeping, eating mashes, being turned out, and snarling at other horses/people.

While she managed to be quite the show pony there for a while, it was always somewhat begrudgingly and I'm pretty sure she would have preferred her current itinerary over anything her riders had in store for her.  The only exception being occasional runs on cross country... but she certainly could have done away with anything involving flatwork or that blasted dressage ring.

Anyway, without any further ado... here's the little twit in all her glory:

Looking just as grumpy as always
oh the ears DO still go forward... how cute.

Nope... we still don't give hugs...

Like I said, she looks AWESOME.  Aside from losing her masseter (jaw) muscle from the lack of chewing, she really doesn't look her age.  I mean yes, she's a dirty little meatball, but she's earned that right I think.  Her coat looks awesome, her feet are great and her fat little tummy all look like what a pony should look like.

Ok, so maybe her withers should be a bit more prominent... but sometimes the old lady goes off her feed.. so I suppose its better to keep a little bit of a camel hump for some reserves...
I dare you to find the withers... I swear they used to be there!

She's had a few scares over the last couple of years, but somehow she keeps bouncing back.  My current theory is that she just isn't done pestering everyone yet, but who knows what grand plans she still has rattling around in that (semi evil) pony brain.

Before we left to go see D's current projects, we turned Star (and her friend Camille) out and watched them play... Her gaits show her age, but gosh darn, she looks pretty good! I can't believe how not-swayed her back is... what a little champ.

This is my favorite.. once she figured out what pasture was open for grazing, Star took off and (of course) had to be the first one there... I can't believe she still canters!

I don't think that pony has a single thing to complain about.... she deserves it.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Everybody's Working for the Weekend

Man oh man... After a long week of 'strategic planning' with our executive team (dotted with plenty of Pia daydreams...) I finally busted out to the barn this morning for some serious mare love.

P was all sweetness and very appreciative of a thorough currying since she seems to have decided to eject all of her hair all at once.

She still looks a little mincy to me on the lunge, but she worked out of it and I hopped on after about 10 minutes since she looks mellow and seemed to be fairly focused on me.

The only hint that she hadn't been ridden in over a week was a slightly higher level of stickiness which showed up after an easy initial transition to the trot but then stuck with us for about 4 laps. For some reason I was feeling timid in getting after her and P's STOP-BITE-BITE was met with my baby nudge-tap-tap...

Once we were through that though, the mare was a gem. Her trot was forward and lofty and she was bending nicely around my leg in both directions.

It was just what I needed and after 30 minutes of easy forward work on the buckle we went back to the barn for some sprucing. The fuzzy knees got clipped, whiskers trimmed and I took scissors to the mare's mane to remedy the mullet she was attempting to sprout...

A lazy day at the barn full of hair flying in all directions was just what I needed. I'll post some pics tomorrow so everyone can see Miss P's funky new 'do.


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

P says: THANKS

Wow,  I've been so distracted by boring, non-horsey things that I totally failed to notice that we simultaneously hit our 200th post and our 50th follower! (cue fireworks and P in her celebration crown)

P with her celebration crown
 I'm not sure either of those things mean much more than I've been rambling with far less editing than I should... and yet somehow it's just barely coherent enough for you to still bother reading..., Regardless of how or why you stumbled upon us, Miss P  and I thank you SO much for coming along this wild (or not so wild) ride with us.

When I started a blog I didn't really think that it would serve much of a purpose beyond helping me keep track of some goals and give me some perspective on progress.  Little did I know that it would become a really powerful tool for keeping my own expectations and frustrations in check, while also opening me up to the sort of supportive forum I haven't really had since late nights in middle school helping all my friends pack up their color coordinated tack trunks in anticipation of some tiny little horse trial.

What's really bizarre is that I have never been able to maintain a traditional diary, ever.  Apparently (like most things in my life) all I needed to do was to sprinkle a little bit of "horse" on top, get some affirming feedback from strangers and POW, here I am.  I absolutely adore the minutes I set aside on a (almost) daily basis to ponder about Miss P and review what's been going on in our lives. 

So thanks for reading, thank you for your comments, thoughts, insight and perspective.  It makes this whole blogging thing worthwhile.  And if you're lurking out there with a blog I don't know about, post a link in the comment section so I can stalk you!

I'm finally getting back to the barn tonight (hmm, I wonder how many times I've said that in the past two months..) so hopefully the mare is still there and she still remembers what I look like, or at the very least what pocket the treats hide in (I'll take insincere affection at this point).

We might just lunge and play, we might ride, we'll see.

I'm hoping that P's toes are feeling better (I'm cringing at the thought of them actually being sore post-trim.. ugggghhhhhhh *stomach flip*)  I'll expand on that topic soon as I've been working with Lucy over at the Barefoot Horse Blog, and getting her thoughts/insight on Pia's feet.  If you don't follow Lucy, I really enjoy her posts and explanations that generally accompany photos..No crazy rhetoric, just some really educational and (seemingly) logical comments on hoof care.

More tomorrow!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Back Burner

 Ugh.  Wow.

Nothing helpful with the horse has been accomplished.  Nothing.

This weekend was going to be a doozey regardless given the INSANE to-do list I had procrastinated myself into in order to have the loft all ready for its closeup this week so we can take some pics and get the damn thing on the market.

However, while on our way home Friday, the Boy and I were discussing whether or not he was going to convince me to walk (in the rain) to our favorite watering hole, or if I was going to convince him to drive me the few blocks and save my (obviously) adorable shoes from the puddles.

Right about the time I was making a critical point about a block from home, WHAM

When I looked up again, we had spun 540 degrees and were now facing the wrong way staring down oncoming traffic.

Hmm. ( I thought).  This isn't ideal.

Turns out some asshat who decided that cutting through a church parking lot was faster than going around the block, t-boned us going about 40 mph as he entered the roadway.


Thankfully no one (including the very cranky french bulldog in the back) was injured and we quickly got to sorting out the particulars.  Unfortunately, I was delayed by the fact that my door no longer opened on its own and The Boy was so concerned about my well being that we were unable to get a licence plate off the offending car before he RAN AWAY.

For a moment, I actually thought he would be coming back.  But that shows my naivete in these situations (why would you leave!?)

At that point I decided that calling the cops was prudent, so I spent the next 10 minutes assuring the dispatcher that I would not being hanging up (mam, no. I'm still here mam.  Yes, I'm here.  No mam I'm not hanging up..).  And trying to convince the only witness to help me out however I could (car make/model?).  He was obliging, but very upfront about the fact that he could not be there when cops arrived.  Which led to a fairly entertaining juggle of trying to keep the dispatcher happy and still cajole as much info out of the witness before he scampered off into the night.

One helpful bit of info?  Apparently the asshat who hit us, ran across the street. And not only that, he ran into a secure parking garage WITH his (presumably now) effed up late 90's white honda civic.

Didn't strike me as the best possible hiding spot, but what do I know about hiding from the cops...

Anyway, long story short, Seattle PD finally showed up (not that impressed by the response time) took down all the info that I had already given over the phone then sent us home while they attempted to track down the perp. (Uhhh, he's in that garage, right there. I suggest looking there first?)

Anyway, we limped home for the last block.  I held all the airbags up out of the way and The Boy drove at a speedy 2 mph, which was all the screwed up rear axle would allow us. 

Long story short, the time spend with SPD and towing the car someplace it can get fixed absolutely KILLED my weekend and left me wheel-less which in turn left the mare motherless.

Just when I thought I was getting back on track with the cute beast.  Turns out I'm screwed again for the week.  I've got two days on the books for possible rides between now and the weekend, but that's it.

I'm cranky.  I want to ride, I want to smell my pony and I want to go breathe in the sweet hay smell and relax for a few hours safely away from work and my (now impeccably clean and tidy) home. 


The shining star of the weekend?  A late night hot dog that was topped with (get this) MACARONI AND CHEESE.  It nearly made everything else a-ok.

Nearly :)

Friday, March 4, 2011

Walk It Out (& don't eat your farrier...)

Today was a nice day.  I drove all over god's country to see some customers and since my last call put me 20 minutes from the barn right around quitting time, I pulled a louie and headed for the mare.

The driveway was jammed with cars (ok there were 4 cars, but that's A LOT for our barn) and I realized why... Farrier Truck.  We have an attentive barn full of ladies who like to be present during trims (which I admire), but it does tend to cause a bit of a back up in the aisle/arena/driveway.

Usually fine, but I don't like riding right after a trim, and I knew that Pia didn't get done Monday.. so she was probably on the docket for this return visit... Dang.

I grabbed her from her paddock, saw the fresh hoof wall on her toes, (grimaced for them being "buffed" thinner) and pulled her inside.  Her feet look generally good, the right hind is balancing out a little more and her frogs aren't shrinking yet..

I did get a report that apparently Pia attempted to eat her farrier.

I guess when he put her back out in her paddock, she decided that lunging at him and trying to take a chunk out would be the best way to ensure that he didn't make her stand in the cross ties ever again.  (naughty mare).

Can't say I blame her.

She seemed nice enough to me, and hasn't given a hint of her ears pinned, angry mare-face to me in her paddock/food space in over 6 months.  I hear tales that she's getting snotty to people picking her paddock and feeding her, which is unacceptable.  I've given everyone full license to whack her a good one if she tries to be mean, but apparently Pia is still "testing."  I'd school her, but she's just fine with me, so that makes it a little harder to control.

Regardless, we tacked up, and hit the ring.  She looked really ouchy on the lunge.  Not off, and not stiff, but her stride was little and she really wanted to pop into the canter instead of step out in the trot.  Maybe I'm just being paranoid, but it looked like her feets were hurting so I let her just mince around for a few minutes (she was perfectly willing to go forward), then I decided that maybe we would just have a LONG walk instead of really working under saddle.  As I was watching her go round and round and round on the lunge I was trying to think if we had ever just "walked" for a long time... and I didn't think we had.

We've hand walked.  (lots), but even under saddle when I'd start with 5 or 10 minutes of walking, P would get more and more amped up and usually trotting/cantering was the best way to let her start to relax, so long walks have never been part of our routine.  Back in my eventing days I used to throw long walks in all the time as a means to loosen up after conditioning gallops, or just let the brain relax after hard dressage schools.  P hasn't had the workload to warrant the same "recovery" days so I've never really thought to add them in.  But, since her muscles were a bit tight from the first two days of work, and her toes seemed to be tender, I committed to forgoing any work in the name of a long, relaxing, suppling walk.

I legged up, she was good, sticky to move away from the gate (twit) and sticking on the first pass by the gate (twit), but otherwise amicable. We walked, I asked for a bigger march, and we marched... After about 10 minutes I started playing a little more, flexing and counter-flexing her down the long sides, a little shoulder fore, small figure 8's... nothing remarkable, but just asking her to stretch and think a tiny bit.

All in all we walked for 40 (!?!!) minutes without any hint of stress or anxiety.  She was blowing and stretching the entire time (yess) and we didn't get in any fights after the initial stick.  It certainly wasn't our most exciting ride and my frozen toes can attest to the fact that it wasn't my biggest workout, but ultimately I think it was a good thing to accomplish.

Sleepy mare after her exhausting walk.....

The mare gets today off while I go meet with the (gasp) wedding planner (complete with, you guessed it! champagne...)  Hopefully we get back to work and this baby, mincing stride thing goes away.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Shifting Gears

When I finally got to the barn yesterday (don't worry, in spite of my prolonged absence I managed to remember the way there), I found this:
 A sad, wet, soggy face.

But I was pretty excited about the fact that it was a sad, wet, soggy face that I could see in the daylight.  BAH, daylight! SO thrilling.  P's dour expression of "I hate Seattle weather" didn't put a damper on my excitement to tack up, ride, and COOL OUT all under the big shining bulb in the sky (well.. filtered through a rather extensive veil of clouds.. but let's not get greedy).

Anyway, I was thankful that the BO let the mare get her wiggles out while I was gone, because Pia was managing to remain fairly calm and didn't hint at any mare-wolf lurking beneath the surface while we tacked up.

Fun note- while we were grooming, one of the gals in the barn (who has an ADORABLE upper level boy) was chatting with me and said "oh my gosh your horse is SOOOOOO athletic!"

Now, I am fully aware of P's athleticism, mostly from all of her exceptionally gifted airs above ground, but our working trot doesn't exactly hint at this fact (and neither does P's passive standing around in her paddock).

She continued, "OMG, yesterday, in her paddock, I saw her do a buck pirouette!"

Apparently, from a standstill the mare managed to leap, buck, and do an about face while landing in the same spot.

I tried to explain that I was less "excited" about her "abilities" since the only times I seem to experience them include a string of expletives and an attempt to make it past the 8 second rodeo standard...

Anyway, we tacked up, headed to the ring and started our lunging.  Even though P was relaxed and attentive, I extended our time to about a total of 15 minutes with the clear reminder that she had 10 days off from riding and a few extra circles wouldn't hurt.  I was however, pretty impressed that given the time off, P's ears were soft, her canter was balanced and even, and she was mostly focused on me the entire time. (progress??)

I hopped on, dealt with the initial stickiness (grrr), but we popped into the trot quickly with a surprising lack of tension given Pia's short sabbatical. 

She was forward for sure and had a bit of tension in her neck, but she wasn't racing around and she didn't have the distinctive "powder keg" feeling that often accompanies our first rides back.  

We cantered early and without any bucks, kicks or issues (yay!).  P's right lead still feels weird to me, almost like her right hind is paddling out to the side.  So, I spent 5 minutes cantering the mare up the centerline and inspecting our reflection.  She was pin straight, and I couldn't see anything bizarre going on.  I'm chalking it up to the bodywork, but still being a bit wary.  She doesn't feel off, and it doesn't feel like the 'disconnect' I used to feel from the wobblers.. so I'm at a bit of a loss.

Trot work was good for the first 20 minutes.  She stayed forward and after bout 10 minutes was nicely moving off my leg for changes in bend and staying fairly supple by our standards.  We were still tipped a bit on our forehand, but not terribly, and she did a nice job of balancing and lifting when I asked for some lengthenings. 

I wrapped up with some trot/halt/trot transitions with a focus on maintaining as stretched out a frame through the transition as possible, and making the mare stand and relax for about 30 seconds every time.  P's mental fuel tank ran out after about 6 transitions and I felt her whole body tense as her ears locked on the barn for dinner.  We managed a bit more stretchy trot before we called it a day and cooled out.

All in all, a pretty great ride considering the time off.  We'll see what I've got in store today...

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


God I'm boring.  I could write a really interesting update on centrally controlled sprinkler systems, or even on a soon-to-be-launched specification effort for pump stations, but that's not nearly as entertaining as Miss Pia and her antics.

Flat out, I miss the mare.

I miss the barn.

I miss riding.

I miss the mare.

Fortunately I'm back out to the barn tonight, and I had the BO free lunge the beast yesterday so that she got to stretch her legs.  The weather around here is some sort of hell, which should make for a SUPER interesting ride.  So far I've seen three cycles of sunshine/hurricane gusts/sideways rain/normal rain go by and I'm sure that this isn't the last of it yet.  So, that should make for some SUPER DUPER riding especially since the beast has had a week off (YIKES!).

Here's to hoping that I remember what side of the horse to get on....
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