Monday, October 31, 2011

Mountain Trail Clinic: Drive Home

Wow, so this feels like it's in the ancient past, but the last couple of weeks have let me marinate on the whole trip with P and sort of marinate in what it means for us.

Sunday we skipped the little schooling show in an attempt to hit the road early.  The Boy had figured that since we needed to haul P home, then haul ourselves home, we have about a 10 hour day ahead of us on the road.  (that wasn't considering the inevitable "2 hour horse delay" that The Boy has decided should be factored on to any horse related event).

P was just as happy Sunday morning as she had been the entire time.  Eating, drinking, peeing and pooping all as she should while happily watching the world stroll by her stall.

The Boy and I went about watering and feeding then packing up the trailer as best we could. I know one is never as organized packing up to go home as when you pack up to leave, but my god.  Our "tack stall" had become a tangle of split reins, bailing twine and saddle pads.  Not for the OCD at heart.

I grabbed P and took her for one more big walk out through the fields and relished in her continued calm.  It seems so basic, but her presence of mind and confidence never ceased to be stunning to me.  I guess this means that when I have kids I'll probably be constantly amazed at their most basic accomplishments, but for P it felt big.

I guess for me it felt big.

Back in May it seemed like feeling totally comfortable and confident with her (even on the ground) in a new and scary situation was unobtainable.... But there we were. Calm as can be and happy.

headed home
We loaded P and May back up into my trailer and hit the road.  May was a little bit less thrilled with her back seat spot than she was on the way down and insisted on screaming and scrambling about every time the truck pulled to a stop  (which was frequent since we needed gas, McDonald's, a rest stop and then gas again on our way back).

But aside from May's protestations, the trip was quick, easy and uneventful (as they should be).  P arrived without breaking a sweat and walked off the trailer on her own without any unnecessary attempts to race back to her herd...

Watching P reintroduce into the herd was actually a pretty cool thing.  Her new BFF, May is much (much, much) higher on the totem pole than P is... Which begged the question, whether P's new alliance with May would improve her standing in the herd, or if upon returning home to the "cool kids" if May would ditch her again.  As soon as P hit the pasture, she calmly (though assertively!) walked back into the middle of the group and greeted her two closest buddies (the fat tiny pony, and a chubby QH named Charlotte).  A few moments later the Lead Mare made herself known and chased both P and May out of the group.  There was a brief "don't forget who runs this show" display that involved P and May taking a few laps around the property, before Mrs. Lead Mare let them settle again.

P resumed her place toward the outside of the group, but was meandering around without the sort of nervous jumpiness that she previously had.  Cowboy Man said that it's typical for the newer/nerdier horses to gain confidence from outings like this and that often it will predict them moving up the pecking order a few notches... interesting stuff.

The Boy and I just sat watching the group for a few more minutes.  P wandered over for one last treat and some water before trotting off with her friends and we finally loaded ourselves back in the truck for the last leg of our own drive.

All in all, I loved every second of the weekend.  I loved how great P was, I loved watching other Mountain Trail horses.  I loved having The Boy along for a horse infused weekend, I loved watching P work, I loved planning for an overnight pony adventure and I loved petting all the donkeys.  I just loved the whole thing.  It made me hungry for more and it made me patient regarding P and her progress.

Oh yeah, and I loved riding my horse again.

Also, the fact that The Boy is convinced that we now "need" to find ourselves a nice trailer with some living quarters? yeah.  I love that too.  The more our "shopping lists" can overlap, the better...

A girl can dream right?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Only In Dreams

Oops! Still have one more day to blog about from our adventure.. uhhhh two weeks ago.. (bad blogger, very bad), but I'm not quite getting there yet.

Instead life has been CRAZY, and by life I mean "work" as that's where I typically carve out my bloggy-bloggy time.

But that's neither here nor there.  This is just a quick post (during a conference call, WHOOPS) to share my oh so amazing dream last night.

Apparently I was playing around on P in the woods.  And she was feeling amazing, so naturally I pointed her at a few logs and branches that were laying around and she hopped over them like a good little bunny.

Then, as we meandered down this perfectly shaded trail of my dreams, the small branches turned into small x-country fences (bounce, bounce) and then those turned into larger x-country fences (bounce, bounce, bounce).

Until finally (as dreams do) we were magically on course going prelim at some unknown to event and I was actively (well.. "dream actively") thinking, "You moron, who takes a horse that's never schooled cross country before PRELIM."

But then I was also thinking, "god my horse is badass, she's never even schooled cross country before and she's GOING PRELIM." (aren't dreams wonderful?)

Anyway, all of this mental discourse is clearly happening as we are galloping our way through the woods and eating up obstacle after obstacle, when after a particularly LARGE log oxer I started to loose my balance and slowly but surely fell off my horse by way of sliding off her butt.  This of course meant that I landed perfectly on my feet and hoisted myself back on before a jump judge noticed and we continued our flawless ride....

I think I woke up about that point since I had to pee, but it was a pretty cool dream.  I mean, I'd prefer it if P would stop sliding me off her back (dream or not), but the whole jumpy-jumpy adventure felt nice.
oooohhh sparkly dream jump....
Back to the conference call..

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Mountain Trail Clinic: Day 3

Day 3 started with the usual rousing to get to the barn and feed/water the beasts at a decent hour.  Of course, without a 8:30am dressage time to panic over my idea of a "decent hour" is something around 8 or 9am...after at least two cups of coffee.

Yet again, the ponies were happy and calm when we arrived.  P ate, pooped, and drank consistently the entire time.  I did shove a tube of probiotics in her since the switch from pasture + hay to full hay seemed to.. uhh "disrupt" things a tad, but that was all it took.

Saturday added "cow sorting" to the option of classes available to take, which meant that the usually empty warm up ring was full of cows and women learning to sort and rope as well as a few extremely wild eyed horses.

Cowboy Man grabbed May and I grabbed P in order to take them for a morning walk through all the mayhem.  P was concerned and about as amped up as I'd seen her thus far.  she was snorting and her ears could not decide if they needed to focus on the donkeys braying, the cows mooing or the extremely disturbing hay-bales-with-a-head being manhandled in the roping practice...

Once we settled on the far side of the cow pen, she started to calm down and even went so far as to start sniffing and nibbling on the cows pressed up on the other side of the fence.  Apparently P needs a chew toy in nearly every situation.  in her stall, in the field... on the trail (this usually comes in the form of chewing on the horse in front of her) and apparently while watching cows.  One cow finally got sick of her "explorations" and shot a little kick at her.  P was horrified  that it could kick, but after a few swift snorts, she settled back down again.

After that, The Boy joined us and we headed out to the field to let the horses graze a bit and relax.  Apparently the wide open space was just as enticing to humans, because The Boy asked if he could take P for a "jog."

uhhhh sure... I thought as I eyeballed P's chain-less nose and The Boy's converse footwear... go for it.

Well go for it he did and P just jogged (and loped!) along side of him.  I think I must have been PMSing, or just totally emotional cause I swear to god I started to get choked up.  I mean, here was my (non-horsey) guy meandering around all easy-breezy with my supposedly difficult mare like it was the most natural thing in the world.
you can't really tell, but she's continuing to move better and better...

It was honestly really fun to watch him enjoying her so much...
After a while, the cavaletti that were strewn about were apparently just as irresistible to The Boy as they would have been to me.  (glad to know I'm not the only one) So he started scampering around with the mare and seeing what she would do.  I'm not going to claim that she looks like some athletic superstar here (it's a cavaletti..), but it was so damn cute to watch them!  Plus P's shoulder really is starting to loosen up a bit.  It's way less restricted than it was back in May.

and just cause I couldn't stop taking crappy iphone videos... P caved in with her shoulder a bit and he even corrected her! Superstars... the both of them.

After I was done GUSHING over the two of them, I rewarded myself with another delicious grilled cheese (the amount of american cheese & butter & bread that I can consume is staggering) before saddling up the horses for another afternoon giddy up.

While Cowboy Man was working with a few of the other horses The Boy asked if he could "sit on P."  Mind you, I have NEVER seen this boy on a horse and realistically the most discussion we've ever had regarding the issue has centered on the point that he loves horses but "thinks riding is weird and isn't interested in ever ever doing it."

But, nevertheless, up he went.  P was a good girl.  She scooted around a couple times, but I think that might have been due to the apparent death clamp that The Boy had going on with his legs.  I should have handed P off to someone else so as to capture this rare moment on film (err.. phone), but I didn't think of it, so the moment has just to live on through lore and legend...  When it was Cowboy Man's turn to leg up, P was a good girl.  Even less squirrely than the day before and just as forward and pleasant. 

Then... as he brought P back around Cowboy asked if I was ready to go for a ride.  I probably looked like a kid on Christmas morning because I'm pretty sure I bounced up onto my mare as fast as possible and grinned like an idiot the entire time.  That's not to say that I wasn't nervous as hell (where did that come from), but the nerves were easily outweighed by the happiness of being back on P.

Cowboy Man legged up on May (who hasn't been ridden since she was "rescued" and brought to the farm) which was curious.  May has a tendency to go up before anything else, so there were a few interesting hops/rears/leaps, before she decided that everything was ok and she could handle it... I took note that May was apparently not in a bridle.  let me repeat.  NOT IN A BRIDLE.  rope halter and a lead line.  uhhh yeah.

I seriously enjoy watching Cowboy Man work, but I am learning to appreciate more and more that there are just some steps in his training pyramid that I don't ever feel a need to master.  Riding a still traumatized horse with a penchant for rearing with a rope halter out in an open field might be pretty high on that list...

Once May was calm and ready, we took off to ride the perimeter of the field.  P was calm (mostly), forward (yay!) and happy (even better).  It took me about 10 minutes to actually start breathing and relax, but once I did enjoy every minute of it.  We explored a few fields, a gorgeous hazelnut tree grove and some irrigation ditches.  P amped up a couple of times (usually when May got excited about something), but each time she came back quickly and quietly much to my satisfaction.

45 minutes later we were back to the barn and I felt like a million dollars.  The morning fog was deciding to turn into a cold wet mist that had us all pretty chilled, so we called the ride and let the ponies go back to their stalls while we ate (more) and watched the classes go.

Finally, around 6pm we tacked P up again with the intent of having Cowboy Man work some of the obstacles under saddle.  Classes were using the main arenas until 7, but we had access to the warm up ring (cows and all) which seemed like a good place to start.

P decided that her string of exceptional behavior was tediously boring, so she came out of the stall snorting, anxious and fiery.  Cowboy Man responded by working her along the wall, asking her to tune in and pay attention.  Anytime her ears and eyeballs locked on something other than him, or if she bulged in with her shoulder, she got sent around in a mini lunge circle a few times, then put back up against the wall.  P started to focus (albeit slooooowly) so we went to bridle her up and start things under saddle.

P, ever loving brat that she is, noticed that there was a brief moment between halter off and bridle on, which she took as a perfect opportunity to attempt to bolt and go find her friends in the main ring.  Cowboy Man managed to hang on (via lead rope around her neck) and wrangle the mare back, but not without a few slightly mortifying chants of "looooose horse! looooose horse!"

I found myself actually responded with "she's only mostly loose! not actually a loose horse! we're ok! it's fine!"  sigh...

Anyway, back to the wall she went with plenty of more circles.  The "tuneup" ended up taking up the rest of the hour, which meant that the main ring was available so we wandered over and started working in that space.  P settled eventually and I started working some of the bigger obstacles we hadn't tackled yet.

Most of note was P's attempt at the super deep "L" ditch that presented May with so many problems the night before.  P stopped, sniffed, snorted... then walked right on into the damn thing with a little bit of trepidation, but then rounded the corner and marched out like a champ.  The second time through I asked her to pause in the deepest part and she calmly obliged.  Champion!

After that we made our way over to the advanced ring which was SWARMING with horses.  The atmosphere got to P a little bit but she held it together and seemed to relax more when I was asking her to work than when I was simple wandering around.  The Boy took May again and had fun leading her all over the place.  P had a few moments of trying to tune me out, which made for a bit of a struggle, but we worked through it.

The hardest thing for me is not to back pedal and rely on the "tension" of my lead rope, but instead stay with the body language and enforce my requests without yanking on her nose.  I caved a few times, especially when P was trying to rush through obstacles, but we improved, and eventually finished the evening on a good note on a nice loose lead.

We managed to put the horses to bed by 9:30, which was early by our previous standards and left plenty of time for a few martinis back at the hotel while we discussed the continued victories of the weekend...

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Mountain Trail Clinic: Day 2

Friday started off with some seriously socked in fog.  The sort of fog that managed to block out all hints of a sunrise which encouraged my whiskey addled brain to stayed firmly snuggled under the hotel bed covers (shudder).

But, the notion of ponies with kicked over water buckets (I was the only one to hang my buckets) and empty tummies roused up with more vigor than I usually have on a weekday.  The Boy eventually responded to my prodding, and shortly thereafter we were rolling down the road headed to the barn.

True to my worries, almost all the buckets had been flipped, tipped or strewn about the stalls, so we got to work right away re-hydrating and tossing hay at the beasts.  After that we spent some time observing the first session of the clinic watching the clinic which led to me scratching P from our class.  The groups were large (20 or so horses) and everyone seemed to stand around waiting for their turn to approach the obstacles one at a time.  That much standing didn't really seem like something we needed plus the verbal "coaching" included such helpful phrases as "if you want to control your horse's hindquarters, try moving your leg cue farther back."

Uh... yeah, we'll wait for the "open gym" time between classes, thanks.

I think I'd get more out of the classes if we were a) under saddle b) working the more complex obstacles that have very specific routes through them or c) totally unaware that moving our leg back would *gasp* help control our horses' hindquarters...

I didn't really mean to be a snobby brat, but my goals for P were more about exposure to lots of new things, and less about 3 hours discussing the merits of crossing a bridge... but I digress.

That meant that after watching a bit of the first session, we grabbed the horses and took them for a walk around the grounds.  After a night confined in a stall (and a strange one at that..) I expected P to be a bit puffed up when I took her out, but she wasn't.  In fact, she was totally calm.  neck relaxed, ears soft, and eyes alert but not anxious. (whaaaa?)

We walked through the crazy barn, around a big giant field, then went to go try to step through some puddles.  Cowboy Man had spent some time the previous evening telling me that the biggest thing to reinforce with P and "things she doesn't like" is that she may look at them, and dance around a bit, but she is never (ever), under any circumstance allowed to push her shoulder into my space.

Makes sense.

So, I watched him whack her a couple times with the lead rope to reestablish his "space" when P was figuring out the teeter-totter.  They weren't hard whacks, and it only took a couple for her to move off, but he was probably more consistent with that effort than with anything else.  I made a note, and deliberately whacked at P's shoulder with the lead rope if she encroached on my space during our walk.

For the most part she respected me, but when there were things like PUDDLES, she would forget that coming into my space wasn't an option and she'd bulldoze a bit in her efforts to avoid her toes getting wet.

It took a couple minutes to convince her that the puddles wouldn't swallow her whole, but we splashed through them all eventually without alarm.  Most importantly, we got to that splashing without any drama or tension.
May wasn't certain she liked the puddles either, but her buddy Aspen just dragged her in..
After our walk, I returned the mare to her stall for some lunch while we watched the clinic sessions a bit more.  Once the sessions broke out, and the sun made an appearance, we tacked up the beasts and decided to take them to the gorgeous 80 acre hay field behind the barns.  Cowboy man said he wanted to breeze P out and let her really run a bit.  Naturally, the concept of someone (anyone) hopping on P sans lunging and just goin' for it out in a huge field had me somewhat intrigued and maybe a little bit worried.

She's been great on trails for sure, but still needing a lot of feathering to keep her focused, forward and not exploding.  Things that seemed extra tricky in such a large open space..

Once we were out there I had a "oh my god I love this" moment as I took in the gorgeous field, gorgeous weather and happy, gorgeous horses.  It sounds trite, but it was one of those "god I'm happy to be alive" moments.  Love that...

I know I already posted this, but P is so damn CUTE getting ready for her ride
Cowboy Man breezed Aspen out a bit, then he grabbed P and took her down the field in a nice big trot, returning at a nice big hand gallop.  P looked squiggly and a bit hunchy, but she was a good girl.  He paused, waited for her to calm down enough to grab a bite of grass, then headed off again...

The second time they cantered down, and breezed back, with P staying totally straight.

The third time... there were a few little bucks and wiggles, but Cowboy Man kept her forward, happy and running. I snagged a video of her biggest antics, which on the scale of zero to crazy, is way damn closer to zero if you ask me.. or at least, nearly zero if we consider her behavior this time last year "crazy."

I was happy to see that none of the bucks P was throwing were her big "EFF YOU GET OFF" bucks, they were more her "wheeeeeee! look at MEEEEEE

Honestly, if back in May you had told me this mare would go for a gallop in a huge field, then come back with soft ears and a soft eye, I would have told you to stop saying such obviously crazy things.  But here she is, galloping like a crazy woman, then coming right back to cool, calm and collected...
Brand new beast.
LOOK at that mare!  I still can't get over it.

After a successful romp, I talked the group into finding some greasy mexican food and some margaritas to celebrate with.  They seemed only fitting.

The tequila led directly to a nap, which ate up a majority of the gorgeous afternoon, but was also totally necessary.  Once I roused from my slumber, it was back to the barn in order to take advantage of the open rings when the classes stopped for the day.

The ring was decently crowded (mostly due to some permanent boarders who were eager to get their normal rides in during this event) which definitely perked P up a bit more.  I figured out that perhaps some of her totally uncharacteristic chill attitude from the previous evening might have been due to 7 hours in the trailer.. since even with her gallop and long walks, P seemed significantly more interested in all the new and fabulous horses swarming around.  In order to tune her up a bit, Cowboy Man set up some "snacks" in her grain bins along the arena wall and asked P to really focus on her ability to lead like a grown-up horse and follow our feet in terms of stopping and starting.  She was tuned in.. mostly, but every once in a while she'd just have to whip her head around and see who was throwing a fit at the water/bridge/ditch.  It took a few correction to get her shoulder back where it belonged, but she figured it out right quick.

After the tuneup/tune in, CM took P to the small little ditch with mounds going in and out of it.  P was totally baffled as to why we would ask her to step into such a ridiculous ditch when she could so clearly step around/over/behind it.  Some carrots and asking her to put her nose down in the bottom of the thing worked wonders to erase the anxiety associated with such a terror, and after a few short minutes P walked happily through the whole series of ditches/mounds.

this nose down move totally neutralized her instinct to short and puff up..

I know this thing doesn't look scary, but P was convinced it was not to be trusted.  However, after 2 minutes... this was her first walk through:

What was really cool to see was the fact that after P walked through one of those things, she pretty boldly stepped into every other version of that obstacle in the ring.  It was neat to see her gain confidence in answering the "question" as opposed to needing to relearn at every. single. instance.

Clever girl.

I followed that success up with some work over some tarps, a few bridges and negotiating some large log piles that required P to walk in slowly and not scamper out like a lunatic.  She was a gem.

Then we watched May get worked by the really big "L" ditch.  Honestly, I wouldn't have walked into it.  The thing ramped down to a depth of about 5'6" feet and rounded a sharp 90 degree corner before ramping back out.  The horses couldn't see the exit as they walked into it, which seems like a reasonable reason not to follow your stupid human into a deep ditch.  May was pretty convinced she'd die if she walked into the thing, so she kept jumping out about half way down.

The lesson there for May wasn't that she had to go into the ditch, but rather that she absolutely could not jump out toward her people.  She figured it out, and once she rounded the corner and saw the exit you could tell she was like "oh, well why didn't you say there was a way out...."  She's a sweet little thing.

In spite of our attempts to get out of the barn at a decent dinner hour, it was well past 11 when we finally left the horses to their dinners, so we headed back to the same pub we found on Friday for more burgers, more tots (duh) and more whiskey...

Such a good Friday.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Mountain Trail Clinic: Day 1

Okay, I'm back in the land of the living(/working) and have had more than enough time on the road to really digest the Mountain Trail Clinic and P's exceptional (exceptional) weekend.

I made cryptic notes along the way so that I could try and remember when we did what, but apparently a diet of black coffee and grilled cheese rendered my brain mushy and my handwriting illegible, rendering my notes all but useless.  This is probably where The Boy would say "told you so" when I insisted that "I thrive" on a diet of artificial cheese, bad coffee and various forms of fried potatoes. But you know what? that's what you eat when you're at shows/fairs/Oregon :)

So here's a rundown of how the weekend went, in mostly the correct order:

As I said, we got on the road without incident, although a bit later than intended.  This meant that with a 20 minute break for the first tater-tots and fried chicken of the weekend (and to rest the ponies legs..) we managed to hit Portland in the middle of rush hour traffic amid a totally dank drizzle.
Obama the Llama was the official send off party as we left...
 No matter, we persevered, the ponies continued to munch on their hay and we rolled into the Oregon Horse Center about 7:45pm just as the sun totally disappeared.

I was a little pissed about this because I always like letting the horses walk around the property a bit and eyeball things before getting shoved in teeny portable stalls for the night.  As it turned out, the stalls were generously sized, and all of the indoor arenas (uh, all 4 acres of them) were open to participants to investigate both with and without their horses.

P astounded me with how well she came off the trailer.  Alert, but calm, relaxed, not a stitch of dried sweat and just the teensiest bit of hay left over in her haynet.

We let the ponies relax for a moment while we stomped around and took a gander at the obstacles in the arenas.  P promptly peed, rolled and chugged 1.5 buckets of water, which was thrilling.  There's nothing I like more than a horse that pees right after (but not in) the trailer, and then drinks weird new water without batting an eyelash.  Maybe my expectations were set abnormally low, but P was already exceeding expectations by carrying out her natural course of business.  Frankly I wish I got the same kudos for drinking/peeing and sleeping... but that's another matter.

Once the tack stall was set up, trailers were parked and we were generally organized (9pm) we grabbed the horses and headed for the arenas to scope out all the neat bridges and ditches and other scary things that we'd be working with all weekend.

Again, I was expecting P to play her best snorting dragon, but either she's "maturing" or the 7 hours in a trailer really tuckered her out to the point that she was willing to humor me in my late night explorations.  Since all of the horses were decidedly underwhelmed by the arenas, we started asking them to work over a few obstacles, dirt pile with logs to navigate, big banks to step up and down, small ditches... water crossings, all sorts of fun things.  P was remarkably well tuned in, and approached each of the obstacles with interest but not disdain.

I didn't want to overface the mare (or pick a fight I didn't want to finish at midnight..) so I stuck to the "intro" level of each obstacle.  Baby, tarp, baby bridge, baby steps, etc.  I stayed away from the ditches, which were scary looking at night, away from the suspension bridges and away from the weird kinetic obstacles like teeter-totters and strange water obstacles with floating steps in them...

Yeah, okay.. so this one isn't that scary...
However, Cowboy Man grabbed her for a minute and demonstrated how much better P has gotten about "working under pressure" or as I like to call it "not totally freaking out when something new/weird/strange shows up."  She was a star.  P was interested but calm with all her challenges, the biggest of which for the evening was the teeter-totter.  But it only took two attempts before she figured it out and even was comfortable enough leaning forward and back allowing the thing to "rock" with her weight shift.

Serious. Star.
Smartest kid. :)
Before we finished the night, I walked P over to one final obstacle that was buried in the corner.  We hadn't approached it because it had been terrifying horses all evening which resulted in a steady line of terrified animals being slowly coaxed toward it.  The culprit of all this fear and angst was an old dirty cow hide that was tied to a rope and attached to a big pole.  Apparently in the actual "competition" you ride up to this thing, grab the rope and then back your horse away thereby lifting the terrifying hide up off the ground like a flag going up a flagpole.

I was surprised at how much trouble this little obstacle was giving most of the horses, but I suppose something that smells like dead, rotting animal that magically raises into the air like the specter of the last naive horse that approached it should be somewhat alarming to a herd animal with a flight instinct...

P however, displayed absolutely NO fear, and instead thought that maybe this was something that should be eaten, or at the very least befriended.  I have literally never seen her as interested in any one thing ever before.

So... either she's a carnivore (possible) or she's so desperate for friends an old beaten up cow hide qualifies as a good prospect.
Will you be my friend??
P's trailer mate, May also found the hide extremely interesting, but she was significantly more suspicious than P was..  I snapped a quick phone video of P's continued interest as I did my best to make the cow hide "dance" a bit.

After that, we called it a night (at like 12:15am) and headed off in search of food and whiskey...

All in all a fantastic start.  Safe haul, happy calm horse and a fun introduction to the spooky creations in the arenas...

Saturday, October 15, 2011


I rode my horse!

In a giant field!

Without a flash/martingale/spurs/whip/noseband!


(And she was a good girl!)

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Friday, October 14, 2011

P says...

She's having a blast and you'll hear more when there's a full keyboard to type on!

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Thursday, October 13, 2011

Go South, young mare!

Blogging live from the passenger seat...
P is locked and loaded in the back along with her cute friend May, a dainty little Holsteiner.

The Boy and I drove out to P's summer camp last night and after we finally emerged from under the rain clouds, it was a gorgeous drive

P got a quick scrubbing and a rudimentary mane chop (note: me and dull scissors in fading light are NOT a great combo for a haircut...) before The Boy and I took off for dinner and a super romantic stay at the local holiday inn.

(the big cool old barn at summer camp)

This am we were up early in an attempt to hit the road by 9am. P was ready, but her buddies weren't, which meant that we hit the road at the crack of.... Uh, noon.

Boy gets points for being a fully readied road buddy (tires, breaks as oil were all changed and checked pre-trip) and p gets points for managing to not tear her tail out after 4 months of it dragging on the ground.

(scrubbed, wrapped and clean-tailed)

So we're on the road, two hours down and four to go! Hang tight back there girls..

(The Boy approves of the new truck/trailer combo...)

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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

In Thought & Love

I know the entire blogosphere is reaching out to Andrea and her gorgeous Gogo today.  While I know that I don't have much to say that hasn't already been said by those far more poetic than I - I am still pausing on this characteristically gray and rainy day to think about their journey, love and heartbreak.

We all strive for the sort of partnership that Andrea and Gogo have forged - which will remain a testament of Andrea's knowledge, love and passion as well as Gogo's heart and talent. 

If there was some sort of official internet salute, I know we'd all be giving it to her. 

Love & Support & Respect to them both

Monday, October 10, 2011

Extreme Makeover- Garage(??) edition

Okay, so this is totally overdue (what isn't), but when the sun peeked out this weekend, I was compelled to finally attempt to go through the remaining boxes in my garage that have been sitting totally ignored since our move (which, apparently was like three months ago.. who knew).

The "tack corner" has been done for a while now, but it hasn't been totally organized and it's also had its access blocked by a MASSIVE box of crap that belongs to The Boy.  I'm sure he thinks the boxes (and boxes and boxes) of horse stuff is crap, but his massive box was serious crap.  We're talking unopened mail and old sweatshirts.  He also has an old gross chair (although extremely valuable in the sentimental sense) blocking my pretty, pretty tack corner.

Never fear, the crap has been sorted, trashed, stacked and some of it re-boxed.. Which means that my garage is FINALLY organized, labeled and I have the free and clear access to my tack section that I've always wanted.

It's not nearly as fancy as the old BO's gorgeous tack room, but I'll take it.

Here's the final product:
Yay! Tack corner! Two blanket racks for pads, four bridle hooks, my sacred saddle rack and big shelves to the right for bins, blankets and all the extras.

You can see that I have a couple sets of those big shelves (oh the joy of a family business with warehouses..), so my tack area just tucks right in.... It's brilliant.

It's also being put to good use since the mare is still at Summer Camp and I get to keep most of her things at home (and hidden in the's like the horsey version of shoving things under your bed).


Thursday, October 6, 2011

Trail Adventuring

I cannot quite wrap my head around the fact that it's October, and Miss Mare has been living at "summer camp" for four full months now.  I was anticipating "3 to 4 months" at the outset, but now that the leaves are changing and there's a chill to the air it feels like she's been gone forever.  Not to mention that my next trip over I really need to remember some winter clothes for the mare.  Turns out her summer wardrobe of.. uhhh well, nothing, is no longer 100% appropriate.  In fact, last week (as I was covered in that green goo) I was sadly currying out what remained of her summer coat... no mistaking it, the woolies are coming. (A fact that was particularly hard to grasp as I stood in late September sunshine basking in the lovely 70 degree goodness.)

Last week's trip was fantastic.  I canceled all my appointments, cleared the day and made what few calls needed to be made while I made my way (car and ferry.. sadly no planes) to the mare.  There is something about the energy of P's "summer camp" that just lifts my spirits.  The barn isn't fancy, the grounds aren't impeccable, but it is perhaps the warmest barn I have ever been a part of.  Everyone there loves what's happening and loves being a part of it.  Farm hands are learning the ropes of hoofcare, vet assistants make daily rounds on all the horses, flowers are pruned, dogs welcome you and all the owners seem to just unwind upon arrival.  It's brilliant.

The first order of business was going to get the mare.  She continues to look fantastic.  Still skinny and MUCH less shapely than she was, but I think we might be starting to see her "true" body emerging.  Her feet look crazy good, her withers continue to emerge from that knot of shoulder muscling that is dissipating and her eyeballs continue to soften.  I gave her some great early morning scratches, then asked her to follow me back to the barn sans halter (yay!), which she politely obliged to.
My attempt to document our halterless leading...
After her snack (which is what ended up all over her face and then me), we fitted her for a new saddle.

GROAN, I know.. a new saddle. BUT this one isn't very spendy, and at the moment, my dressage saddle is about twice as wide as she is.

So, we're getting an Aussie trail saddle.  It *sorta* looks like a dressage saddle, but it feels very, very western.  I figure, we can always use some serious trail gear, it's cheaper than my last pair of shoes (WHOOPS, that's another issue..) and we definitely need something that fits her NOW, even if it isn't our most favorite, forever, long term choice.

Twenty minutes of tracings, pictures and measuring me later, I led P back out to pasture for a few more bites of grass while us humans prepared lunch. (reason #427 I love summer camp: the communal lunch, so fun!).

After lunch we saddled up (I got Miss Wendy again, love that beast) and we headed for the trail.

This time we found a new route that took us up into the hills a bit and under the power lines.  While it wasn't the most challenging trail I've ever seen, it did ask a bit more from P and for the most part she handled things wonderfully.

Cows, barking dogs, uneven terrain, stopping, starting, inclines, stumps, loose footing, were all handled in good (forward) stride(s).

Puddles however, were apparently a big 'ol NO-GO. 

I'm thinking that maybe P's brain/body might have been tired/sore, because she's crossed serious puddles and veritable mud-flats on previous rides with not even a bat of her adorable eyelashes.  This time though, holy hell, you would have thought we asked her to walk through a swamp of snapping crocodiles.

I had plodded through the meager puddle with Wendy moments before P's rather flamboyant refusal, which in turn caused the remaining horses to all give it the hairy eyeball and leap/skirt/bound away from the offending collection of water.  This seemed to only reinforce P's terror which was matched by the apparent threat of being left behind by everyone else who had (safely) crossed to the other side.

Three more quiet crossings by Wendy still didn't assuage P's fears at which point Cowboy Man was concerned that he had already allowed P's brain to escalate WAY passed the point he wanted.  She was asked to stand still (toes in the water) for a few moments, then to quietly walk the perimeter of the puddle which was accepted as a "win" and we moved on.

P was a champ, she was interested in leading most of the ride, pausing only when the trail would enter a "shadowy" area which apparently is a pretty normal balk for new-to-the-trail horses.  She doesn't stop per se, but she does give serious pause when the shadows hit the trail.

I don't mean like one shadow crossing the trail, or even the dark hole of despair where a wide open sunny trail disappears into the forest, I mean literally walking from the sunny side of the street to the shady side.  That, apparently is enough to cause Miss Mare to consider her next step.

All in all, a very successful ride.  Wendy was adorable, P only had one mini-meltdown, from which she recovered and lunch was delicious.

It really just isn't a bad way to spend a Thursday.

On the Horizon? One more trip out to see the mare this weekend before The Boy and I pick her up on Thursday for our little Mountain Trail clinic.
I never, ever get sick of looking at that mountain!
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