Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Snaps from the Day...

My daily posts belie the fact that work has kept me away from the barn this week.  How it is that all regional meetings, charity boards and networking groups all pick the same calendar week to schedule major events I'm not sure.  But it seems to happen with shocking regularity.  Anyway, I'm busy enough to totally lack interesting content, but not so busy as to not blab endlessly about it.

Therein lies the magic of a blog.  No pesky editors red lining inane posts and no serious accountability for being interesting.

I forgot to post some of the snapshots from the show in my last couple of posts, so here's a dump.  There was a photographer on site, but I looked at her website and it didn't exactly inspire confidence in either the quality of the shots nor the promptness with which they will be posted, so I've got what The Boy felt inspired to shoot and that's about it...

Exiting the Back Gate
warm up
Prairie worries about horses walking around behind her.  It's sorta cute.

good mares get treats
Perpetual Towel Duty

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

"worst" round from the weekend (a comparison)

Hands down, our second warm up class (at 2'6") was Prairie's most tense class at the show last weekend.  She wasn't naughty but she was a little tight and wasn't at her most willing in terms of balancing and she certainly did not care what the hell lead she was on.

I thought S managed to squeak out a nice "school" from the round which apparently was effective since the mare gave subsequently better efforts in her next classes.  It's interesting to me that the "fussy" round wasn't her first... and wasn't her last... it was sorta smack in the middle.  Not sure if that's a fluke or not, but I made my little mental note and it will be interesting to see if that is the case again at another outing.

Anyway, for funsies I thought I'd post the 2'6" ride and also re-post a link to a 2'6" ride from last September.   Because who doesn't like to watch me zoom around a hunter ring at mach 5. I really should have popped over to the jumper ring and still made time when we zoom-trotted between fences...

Last weekend:

Last September:

Man.  I forgot how pissed I was during that round.  Whoops. talk about transmitting negative energy.. We had some okay moments (and I mean brief ones) during our show in September, but not much more than that.  Six months does seem to make a bit of a difference!

Monday, February 25, 2013

3' Courses

Still on a bit of a horse show high from the weekend (which is a nice alternative to the horse-show-hangover which can result from exhaustion, horse laundry mental fatigue).  I finally got my camera to talk to my computer so there are videos of most of our rounds.

I was moderately forgetful and managed to not video our 2'3" warm up round - which was boring by any measure, but really, really awesome relative to the not-so-boring 2'3" rounds Prairie has had a habit of producing.

The Boy took over camera duties so we do have a record of P2's 2'6" warm up class, 3' warm up and then the two courses from her Pre-Green Division. The camera ran out of space halfway through the Under Saddle class since my brother borrow the camera for his 3 week adventure in Turkey and I was too lazy to delete all the photos beforehand.  An interesting juxtaposition to the inherently "not lazy" things that come with prepping for a show, like packing backups for EVERYTHING, wiping snot out of nostrils every 5 minutes, removing sand/dust from legs and bellies after every round and other neurotic details that aren't important but somehow get done.

Anyway, here's the 3' warm up.  I liked this round a lot.  P2 was still a little unbalanced in her corners, but overall she kept a much steadier rhythm than she used to be capable of.  Also, while Prairie still needs some heavy half halts after fences, S was really able to relax and let the mare move up to her distances.  She's still throwing herself over her shoulder (especially on the second fence in lines) but it's much, much, much better than before.  For her first round at 3' I was thrilled :)

Editors note: Hunter rounds are boring and the next three videos are nearly identical. 

After watching the other horses in the division, I was feeling pretty good about Prairie being "right" in the Pre-Greens.  The other horses were a bit more behind the leg (as they were supposed to be?), but perhaps a bit quieter in the bridle than Prair... but in no way was I thinking "oh crap, we moved up too soon."

Prairie's first division round looked pretty good too.  Very similar to the warm up round (and the exact same course, lol) but Prairie held her leads in a couple of the lines (hard for her) and stayed mostly steady.

The second course for the division was actually different (or as different as Hunter courses are...the line-diagonal-line-diagonal was in a different order..) but I think it was Prairie's worst.  I'm not sure if she was just bored, or tired or impatient, but I could tell she was less at ease than in the first two.  S did an incredible job of squeaking out lead changes and holding the mare together but I could tell she was working harder for the same ride.

The HUS class was actually fun to watch (The Boy would disagree).  Prairie had a couple other very quality horses in the division ridden by good pros so I was less confident about her just winning hands down than I have been when she's bopping around the Long Stirrup Division with me...

After the first few circuits at the trot though I was feeling pretty good.  I know I'm biased with regard to her movement, but I was really impressed with her steady rhythm, consistency and super solid ride.  Her transitions were all prompt and organized, she was brilliantly steady in the bridle,  and S even managed to keep a nice "hunter loop" in the reins.  S also showed her off perfectly in the arena, managing to make her circles and adjustments without ever having to interrupt Prair's stride.

On one hand I think her age (almost 8 as opposed to many Pre-Green's 5 or 6..) is an advantage. She's just been under saddle longer and her body is more mature than a wiggly 5 year old.  There was one really cute Liver Chestnut Gelding in her division who is going to be a stud when he's a bit more polished... super flashy, super cute, decent mover and looks like he'll be lazy enough to pack some AO's around without any bother. 

Prairie's egg timer did go off just as they pinned the Under Saddle class.  Up to that point she stood at the back gate nicely, dozing in and out while she waited her turn, but 6 jumping rounds and one flat class was apparently her limit.  Once she left the ring she immediately got fussy, started pawing and expressing her desire to be done with this crap already.  Didn't seem right to get after her too much at that point so I just gave her a pat and some treats while I made a mental note of her limit.

All in all, obviously I'm thrilled with how Prairie was. 

Is she the perfect, low RPM hunter? not by a long shot. 
Is she way calmer and more manageable than in November? definitely. 

It does seem like the subjective judging pendulum is swinging back towards horses like Prairie with a bit more of a forward, workmanlike gait - and clearly the judge on Saturday was rewarding that, but that's not necessarily the case with every judge and I'm sure there are plenty Hunter judges out there who would have pinned the Pretty Liver Chestnut Gelding above Prairie every time.

As for our next shows - we'll be back at the same Hunter Series at the end of March, a possible Dressage show at the start of April and then I'm not too sure.  We might keep hitting this series monthly since Prairie seems to handle the facility well and it's a good place to keep logging some miles.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

In the Money!

In case your calendars weren't appropriately marked- Friday was "national margarita day" and I celebrated appropriately with S after getting Prairie comfortably tucked into to her stall at the show.

Over our traditional night-before-a-show Mexican meal, we thoroughly discussed all globally important horse topics and then got onto the issue of whether we were holding Prairie at Baby Green's (2'3"/2'6") or pushing for the Pre-Green division at 3'.

As I've said before, the height has never been the issue - just the increased standards and expectation of rhythm and lead changes. (details)

But given our national-margarita-day courage, we opted to push for the Pre-Greens and just add a few warm up classes before the division to work the kinks out.

S gave Prairie the best round I've ever seen in her first class - took a blue ribbon - and never looked back.

Prairie won every class she went in and managed to take the championship (and PRIZE MONEY) from some really well respected pros and their much more experienced Pre-Green hunters.


Cannot quite express how impressed I was with the big mares patience and performance yesterday. She's come SO far from last November and to know that we've done it without any shortcuts or drugs or harsh anything is awesome. Lots of room for improvement but I can't get over how steady and calm the big girl was.

The Boy was on hand with a camera (and snacks, and coffee) so I actually have some decent footage to share.

So pleased. So, so pleased....

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Dream Farm...(sigh)

So this property has been on the market for... a while.  And with a $14.8m price tag it's easy to see why.  Property taxes alone would be around $80k a year (to say nothing of the electric bill...).  But man, the facilities are drool worthy.  I'd be happy with a stall in the barn, to say nothing of the over-the-top home that comes with..

Assuming I actually had $14,800,000 and wanted to spend it all on a farm, it would sadly violate my 30 minutes from home requirement. (so sad).

Anyone want to chip in on this?? Or find a rich foreign prince to buy it for us?

The full listing can be seen here
property map

Indoor looking at the sales center/lounge

Why would you need a house?
OH, cause it looks like that.
outdoor bar area (obvi)
Indoor bar area (and pool?) Is it weird I only like the bar pictures?
Just in case a video would help persuade you....

It was originally developed and is currently being run as a big time Arabian facility (along with some cattle ranching).. but with 160 acres I could see a nice XC course... some extra homes for my friends... what else??

I promise everyone could come visit us anytime they wanted.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Snot Rain and Two Fun Horsey Announcements

First off, all traces of pretty-spring-time have been erased.  Traditional snot-rain (rain that flies sideways with irregularly sized raindrops and slaps your face) has returned thereby chasing everyone and everything inside and under cover.  Should make for a great show this weekend.  Thankfully the main arena is inside, but warm up is outside which will most definitely result in minimal warm up time and therefore a total crap shoot in terms of what sort of rides we get.  But oh well.  I live in the PNW.  If I wanted a sunny February I could move to FL, which isn't likely to happen... ever.

The biggest question is whether or not we blow Prairie's Pre-Green Eligibility this year.  I'm inclined to say "yes" because the puny 2'3" fences in Baby Greens are boring. This doesn't really affect what divisions *I* would be showing Prairie in, but as a Pro, S really has to pick carefully.  I know that Prairie would be more "successful" if we held her for one more year then did her Pre-Green/Green years starting in 2014, but I'm not sure I'm that patient and I'm also not sure I care.   I think we'll see how she schools tonight and make the call.  If she's calm and confident, Pre-Greens and 3' it is.  If not, we'll knock it down and sit tight. In my head S can still get smoked by the more experienced competition in the Pre-Green's at bigger shows and I can plop around in the Pre-Adults and Modifieds. 

I reiterate that Hunter-Land confuses me.

Heading in for an Eq round at our last show (same facility)

Secondly, OMGSOMUCHFUN - two exciting announcements - both horse related so don't be getting any crazy ideas. 

One will have to wait a few more weeks (squee!), but the first is pretty good too:

I have conned The Boy into looking for horse properties.

Actually, not just The Boy.  I've also had to work on several family members since my weirdo family only purchases properties collectively (good for me! bad for them..).  Over the last couple of months halfhearted jokes of "well when we have our own farm..." and "when we're boarding horses at our place we won't ______ but we will _____" have turned into casual searches in the area which have sloooooowly turned into more education of the market and some formal inquiries. 

It's a little bit tricky because one of the main requirements for a potential property is to be within a 30 minute drive of our current home which eliminates most options that have enough land but aren't millions and millions of dollars.  Not wanting to spend millions and millions of dollars I think this might be an extended search, but it is fun to know that the family is on board with a possible horse-property acquisition and that I can actively hunt for the deal of the century.   Mostly I think this is fueled by my mother being semi-terrified of my father's semi-retirement and needing to keep him heavily occupied with projects.  In turn, my father seems to miss our little mini-farm that I grew up on, and lord knows The Boy is supportive of anything that comes with a tractor.  I don't really care so long as the property is conducive to keeping horses how I would like to keep horses, ie - big stalls with runs, lots of turnout and food all the time.

There's one local property that fits the main criteria but is just a weeeeeeee out of budget.  It's been an Eventing barn in the area for a long time - and while I would immediately take it from 35 stalls to like.... 12 or 15... it could be a good starting place to update and clean up.  We'll see.  Next steps aren't until mid-March but if any local peeps have a lead on off-market horse properties, let me know :)

We don't have farms like this here, but in my head I'm going to find one and the seller will be so happy that I don't want to turn it into 500 houses that we'll get it for nothing and live happily ever after.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Springtime Starts...

I'm only saying this because the weatherman assures me that our warm, sunny streak of fabulous February weather is definitely ending tonight and in no way can I be responsible for jinxing it - BUT OMG AMAZING.

It's been so warm and springy around here that I've almost switched back to normal riding gloves and away form horrid winter muppet hands.

This has also, (clearly) given the girls spring fever and they are busy peeing on everyone and squealing around their paddock like middle schoolers. 

However, Prairie has mostly returned from orbit and I think has a shot in hell of putting in a respectable performance at our little show this weekend.  Or at least I hope so.  It would be fun to watch her go quietly.  Of course my intention of "let's just haul for the day and let S take a few classes" has fully morphed into "nevermind, let's go Friday, school the course, then do two full divisions on Saturday plus maybe an extra flat class."

Oh well, as long as were done in time for the wine party we're supposed to be at, I'm a happy girl.

Pia continues to be force fed her GastroGard, and while I don't see a massive improvement yet, I think I will... soon...

As for me, I've gotten some good hacks in but am currently crippled from deciding that "what I really need" are some regular bareback rides to improve my balance and seat


Double ow.

On days when one of S's school horses isn't being used I've been flopping my leg over him and torturing myself with lots of sitting trot and a decent amount of posting.  I can already feel my balance improving, but dear god.  I don't know how my 12 year old self used to gallop around bareback jumping over 3'.

I'd play this game with my girls, but I honestly don't trust them enough.  Give me a steady-eddie gelding who will happily plod around while I struggle to regain my seat any day.

But really - As long as it's warm and the sun is shining I'm happy with anything at all...

Monday, February 18, 2013

Just when you commit to a decision...

Horses do a fantabulous job of causing you to question it.

Saturday I had a fairly nice hack on P2 after her gallopy-gallopy-jump sesh on Friday and since the sun continued to shine she got turned out without any clothing at all.  I tried to steal Pia's blanket too, but after she attempted to cow kick and then bite me I decided the grumpy beast could roast if she wanted to.

Anyway, right after I left the barn S snapped this pic of the two mares enjoying the sunshine and grooming each other.  I've never seen Prairie groom with anyone before and the only horse I've heard of Pia grooming with in the three years I've known her was her asshole boyfriend at Summer Camp. 
S's "behind the dumpster paparazzi shot" of the girls being nice to each other
It's a little heartbreaking to know that just when I decide to take P elsewhere the two girls really are good buddies.   I know that Prairie will get another turnout buddy, and that Pia will have the mini herd-lette, but sometimes it takes horses a while to find the right friend who they can scratch backs with. 

At least I know they (mostly) enjoyed their time at the same barn together...

Also leading the Irony News - The Boy talked me into parking the trailer at the barn, especially for show season when we seem to dart around a bit more with the horses.  I emailed my Barn Manager and was (sadly) told "no more trailers were being accepted due to upcoming construction."

Of course, me being me once I decided I really wanted to pay $50 for the privilege of parking my trailer on site, I was immediately frustrated that it was no longer an option.  After a few back and forths - including my suggestion that if we just parked everyone's trailer straight there would be more than enough room for two if not three more rigs without expanding the parking area... I was told that I could try parking my trailer over on the neighboring property where the BM lives.  It's a tricky spot (an angled, parallel parking, sorta jammed under the tree, situation) But I'm going to give it a go.  If I can wiggle the rig into it without ripping my hair out, then I'll take it. 

(for the record this new spot would also double in size if I scooted the owner's trailer over 8' but I don't think I'm allowed to).

Bah, barn politics.  At least they are letting me try out this makeshift spot, I do appreciate the consideration...

Friday, February 15, 2013

Jump School in the Outdoor

The weather gods (or demons depending on your outlook) somehow let some sunshine sneak into the Seattle area this morning which I jumped on (literally) as an opportunity to get Prairie over fences outside again.

I wanted S to take a ride which meant that I showed up a bit early to drag some jumps out and charged my phone so that I could get the best, crappy phone video possible (standards are low).

When I rode Prairie outside on Wednesday she was a full blown lunatic.  LOOOOOONatic.

I think it might have something to do with her being in full raging, pee on everything, heat.  I've never really associated a behavior change under saddle with her heats, but she used to be so much loonier all the time I wouldn't have noticed.  I'm crossing my fingers that it's heat related and not that the gerbils are just beginning to wake up from some prolonged winter hibernation...

Anyway, Prairie was (again) looney as S started warming her up.  She looked lovely, but I know first hand how it feels when bystanders comment how "forward and swinging she is" when all I'm thinking is "crap crap crap, hold it together, OH GOD. crap crap crap."

But she really was pretty.... see?
screen captcha

Anyway, as soon as S started popping over some crossrails, P2 lost her looney little brain and just wanted to run.  So Run They Did.

S let go of her face and let the mare breeze (as much as one can breeze in an arena).  Once Prairie figured out that her face wasn't going to be wrenched off, she settled into a (startlingly) massive stride.  I'm not joking when I say at one point she took the long side down in seven strides.  SEVEN.  granted that was once she straightened out, but still.  If I had any nails I would have bitten them all off.  All of them.

I think the little gallop was good for her.  She was swapping her leads (effortlessly) and moving her shoulder more than I have ever seen.  Probably felt pretty great actually.

As the mare slowly came back from orbit, S began taking a contact and adding in some (large) circles.  Eventually they started figure-eighting back and forth over a few fences.  Prairie was much more amenable to not-bolting, and even managed to correct her own leads for the most part.

After another 20 minutes and a huge walk break S strung some course like patterns together and Prairie mostly behaved.  The only screwy fence was the white gate, which she always jumps funny. She tends to over jump it and sort of launch herself to the other side.  It's very similar to how she used to jump all of the time.  Why she still reverts to ugly jump-launching over the gate I don't quite know.

Here's a video of how she finished:

The mare got a nice bath afterward, her legs scrubbed and hand grazed while she dried in the sun.

We made the decision to aim for a B show next weekend to see where we are.  It's at the same facility where we finished up last year, so it shouldn't be scary for Prair.  I think I'm going to let S take her in a division or two and I might add a flat class just for me but I'm not sure.  It's less about getting "us" out and more about seeing how the mare is and how solid she is when given a closer to perfect ride than I'm capable of.

Don't hold me to it - but my focus this season is on Prairie developing confidence and having positive outings.  I think that might mean S gets more rides than me, but I'm OK with that.  I'd rather Prairie get supportive, productive rides than go careening around  at mach 5 with me.  Even if that's sorta fun too.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

A New Plan for Pia

Last week I brought up the ongoing struggle to keep Pia happy, and I've been working hard with my support systems (this includes Supermom, friends, wine, vets and whiskey) for inspiration with regard of what to try next.

No one would claim that the move back to a traditional barn has been good for Pia.  She has some positive moments and seems to want to be a good girl, but her anxiety and stress just get the best of her (almost all of the time).

I pulled the trigger on the GastroGard and ordered a 28 day pack.  That was one of those moments where in my head I thought, "$30 isn't horrid.  That's not very expensive."  Then I did the math and thought that $1,000/month sounded a lot more horrid adn quite a bit more expensive. 

Just one more way my brain tricks me into spending money. $30 a day? how about $1.25 an hour? Now that's downright affordable...


The GastroGard is en route.  It should be here today, but it might still be buried in a snowdrift somewhere.

The other aspect of the plan - which was a much more difficult decision to make - is to move Pia away from my current barn.  The primary consideration is obviously her happiness/mental health, but a secondary consideration is that her bills are just way too high for a situation that doesn't work for her or me.

Turns out we have a fabulous option in a good long time friend - the very same who cared for and loved on Star at her facility for the last sixteen years.  I trust her knowledge and capabilities (obviously) and she even has a cute little mini-herdlette that Pia can run around with.

P did seem much happier out at Summer Camp - and I think a lot of that had to do with her socialization as well as the larger space to roam.  Hopefully this move with get her halfway back to that scenario at a fraction of the cost...

Anyway, I gave my 30 day notice for Pia over the weekend so there's no rush in moving her for a few weeks.  I also want to see firsthand what (if any) impact the GastroGard has on her so she won't be going anywhere until I can observe at least half of her dosing regiment.

I don't think I can permanently foist the mare on my friend, but it will be a good test scenario to see if a drastic change in environment is enough to alter her happy factor.  I'm excited to have a plan. And I'm also excited to relinquish some of the guilt in not being able to make it work where we are.  

Fingers Crossed.  
A seemingly much happier P-ster back at summer camp.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Show Season Scheduling, or scheduling a season of shows?

Showing a season of schedules?  I can't really tell what order that's supposed to be in, but there are a lot of shows that I am interested in this season but they all seem to be scheduled next to, on top of or under each other, which when combined with a personal calendar makes it very difficult to come up with a game plan.  If I pick my favorites I end up with two sets of three weeks with back to back to back outings, then then months of nothingness.  Obviously not ideal so I need to get a bit more creative in my planning.  I tried looking back to my 2013 goals for guidance, but they don't really solve any major questions...

As a refresher here are Prairie's 2013 goals.  I'm omitting Pia because right now her show fund is empty due to a 28 day order of Gastro Gard that's currently stuck in the east coast blizzard.

- Attend at least one recognized dressage show in 2013.
Okay, Right.  Doable.  I found two recognized dressage shows that would check the first box.  They are at a facility I like and fairly close to home.  Should be possible. 

- Break 70% at Training Level and 65% at First Level.  Also, show First Level 3
Dressage scores... will need some dressage shows to collect those. Right now I have 10 potential dressage shows.  We will not be attending them all.  But I think we'll open the season with Training 3 and FL1...  I'm not talking about FL3 yet.  It still scares me.

- Get our changes 80% of the time 
 Changes. Bah. Who knows. Don't care.  Doesn't impact show scheduling except that I don't need to be chasing the A circuit before they are at least 80%. 

- Attend at least FOUR overnight Hunter Shows. 
Just have to pick 4.  Right now I have like 11 possibilities that are mostly local. All but one are B or C shows which makes the outings slightly more affordable while we are still learning the ropes.

- Move Up to 3' Adult Hunters
 3' division.  Shouldn't be a problem.  The height isn't anyway.  Just a matter of when we get our changes pulled together so we don't look like absolute fools..  Not that looking foolish has ever stopped us before.

So yeah.  Consulting the goals leaves me about where I stared in terms of total scheduling chaos.  In an attempt to create organization where there was none, I printed out some monthly calendars and attempted a color coded show calendar.  Sadly I forgot what color went with what discipline or what facility and I ended up creating a very colorful, albeit not very helpful packet.  Usually a color coded calendar solves anything.  or at least it's never failed me before. bah.

For the moment I am going to send my options to my trainer.  Let her tell me what shows she can support me at, and then I'll start narrowing it down.  Obviously I'm not going to 20 shows this summer so choices will be made.

I'm just not quite sure how or when yet.   

If only I remembered what the green pen was supposed to mean...

Monday, February 11, 2013

Baucher Over Fences

First off, I confirmed that the impulse-buy-myler is in fact legal for dressage.  The level 1 (and I think 2?) mouthpieces are dressage legal, as are the little copper inlays.  I can only imagine that there is some sort of corporate Bit Lobby that occurs (not unlike in Washington) with brand name manufacturers greasing the palms of the USEF.  I also imagine that this underhanded lobbying is significantly less intriguing, sexy or scandalous than what occurs on The Hill. 

Either way, nice to know it's legal.

Sunday I sneaked in a lesson concurrent with the other trainer at our barn and a couple of her students.  This meant that we got to ride outside (yay sunshine!) as well as work over a full course since we had both more hands to set fences and more space to set fences in. 

It wasn't the most "productive" lesson in the sense of really drilling any one exercise or loud coaching from S, but it was productive in the sense that it pushed some of Prairie's comfort zones in that she had to a) work outside, b) jump in the scary end, c) jump a line headed home, d) warm up with four other horses and their not so technical pilots.. and e) stand around and wait during other riders' rounds.

All independent challenges for her (and me) so there was plenty to "do."

Prair was a bit anxious during her warm up.  I proactively tried to space her away from other horses and kept our cantering to smaller circles and serpentines with simple changes.  She felt a bit braced and spooky, but never busted through the bit. 

After about 10 minutes she started to relax and I had glimpses of the same relaxation and soft jaw that I got with our first ride in the baucher.

While the other lesson continued to flat, S had me start popping over a vertical, first at the trot both directions and then at the canter.  Nothing exciting to report form that aside from the fact that when I was on the right rein, Prairie managed to land on her right lead.  That was exciting.

Finally we started taking turns with the other students in stringing together small courses.  Prairie was 80% good, with the bad parts having mostly to do with some unbalanced landings and anxiety over lead changes.

The weird thing yesterday was, for the first time ever, Prairie preferred her right lead. 

Historically Prairie swaps to her left lead inside a line (even if she enters on her right lead) and almost always lands on her left, even on a diagonal, or with a sharp change of direction.  I almost always have to throw in a simple change to return to the right lead. 

But yesterday, it was all right lead, all the time.  Well, ok.. most of the time.

Every time we jumped a vertical on the diagonal changing from Left to Right - she changed leads over the fence.  Every time we jumped a line on our right lead she maintained the correct lead and came out on her right lead... and every time we jumped a single fence off the right lead she landed on her right lead.

I was thrilled to get the change of lead over our diagonal fences, but less thrilled that Prairie started swapping from left to right when were inside lines going to the left.  (new trick).  She even came out of a couple lines on the right (but wrong) lead which was massively confusing and new.

The silver lining there is that Prairie offered clean changes back to the left lead without any prompting so that redeemed her initial fault (mostly). 

I started focusing on trying to hold the left lead in lines and only had success if I really thought (and rode) like I was going to jump the first fence on a circle instead of carrying on straight through the line.  This managed to give us the correct lead, but also lost our straightness. Bah. 

There were also a few freakouts on a diagonal fence (L to R) where Prairie got her lead change, then FREAKED OUT as we cantered away anticipating a terrible horrid lead change request.  Which obviously never came since she already had the correct lead.  I never quite worked through that since we went around for a small course, got all of our leads over fences or with a quick change and I opted to call it a day rather than confront the anxiety. 


All in all a good jump school.  Less obvious "benefit" from the baucher, but I think Prairie was still comfortable with it.  If nothing else we certainly didn't have a negative  reaction.  She seems to prefer fixed cheek snaffles in general (she has a mullen eggbutt, KK D ring, and twisted D ring that she uses regularly).  Loose rings seem to make her nervous...

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Just Baucher-ing Around

I tried a new bit on Prairie today and so far... So good.
I've considered trying a Baucher on her for a while. It's a thought that's popped in and out of my head usually during particularly heavy or stiff rides but my brain consistently moves onto other pressing issues such as what type of taco I should have for lunch or when the last time I checked tackoftheday was....
Ergo, I always forgot to ask around for an extra baucher to borrow or to keep an eye peeled for one on sale (not for lack of perusing sale sites for other un-necessities..). But, while picking up some rice bran (and bags of treats) last week I saw that the feed store had all of their Myler bits on sale and they happened to have the Myler Baucher in Prair's size.

I wasn't especially considering a Myler bit, but it was in front of me and I had an empty hand so I snapped it up and checked out.
The bit sat in my locker for a couple days making today the first time I actually gave it a try. My thinking was that Prairie seems to really like the Pelham and responds well to the poll pressure but gets a little claustrophobic in it if she gets really strong or freaked out.
The Baucher seemed like a good middle ground, and worth trying.
Prairie had a quiet eye so I expected a good, solid hack, but as soon as I took up the contact I really liked what I felt.
P2 was soft, lifted in her shoulder and loose through her jaw. I rode outside, so there were a few opportunities for Prairie to spook at the scary end, zoom around and get heavy/long down the long sides- but she never did
Prairie had one small scoot in response to a bunny in the grass, but she hit the bit, sucked back and relaxed faster than normal.. So that was a good test - none of the Pelham panic I've felt I similar situations.
The rest of the ride was great. We worked some shoulder in, haunches in, zig-zag leg yields and canter transitions. All we lovely encouraging me to quit after about 25 minutes with big pats and some of the treats I remembered to buy.
Tomorrow I think I'll try the Baucher over fences and hope for a similar result.
Fingers crossed!! Anyone else ever played with the Myler?

  1. - Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Friday, February 8, 2013


I usually don't keep a hawk's eye on much with blogger, but I happened to notice that not only am I on my 500th post (lord that's a lot of rambling), but the blog also passed 100,000 page views and found a 100th follower (which is a lot of ramblings being read...)

I'll echo nearly every other "milestone post" I've read and say that when I started this little diary of my horsey life I had no idea that I would enjoy the process so much - much less have it expand into such a forum.  But boy am I ever glad I did.  Staying current on the blog has given me an outlet to process successes, failures and frustrations that I've never really consistently had before.  Plus it's probably helped redirect at least some of the horse related ranting away from my charming husband and non-horsey friends...  I've started numerous "diaries" over the years and all but the one I keep whenever I travel have fizzled.

There's something about the blog community that energizes my efforts to write and I am so thankful for it.  I am thankful to have such a random record of what I've done with the girls as well as having all my readers to listen, comment and offer differing perspectives.  It's become something I rely on and look forward to when I find myself up against a wall (literally or emotionally) with the horses and need to vent or hear ideas.

So a sincere thanks to everyone for somehow not being bored to tears.  Thanks for clicking, thanks for commenting and thanks for helping to keep me writing.  It's a blast.

With that, I'll just post a link to my very first post almost three years ago when I dove back into the horse world head first.  After re-reading it myself, I'm happy to say that I'm just as energized by the horses (and the blog!) as I was on March 2, 2010.

So here's to the next 500 ramblings- may they include more smiles, shows, successes (and lead changes) and fewer falls, frustrations, failures (and vets!) though I won't complain about ratio of those things as they've come to me thus far.



Thursday, February 7, 2013

P2 Lesson and Good Vet Karma

Holy lord yesterday was moderately exhausting - and shockingly so when I consider the fact that I didn't actually ride anyone/thing.

I hauled P2 down for her Hunter lesson yesterday (which always ends up being more dressage-y than my dressage lessons... ) planning on giving S the ride while I stood in the middle of the ring watching and taking bad video.   I was oddly excited to watch Prairie from the ground and connect it to my own rides.

Somehow I got stuck at the office in the morning so I got to the barn all of 8 minutes before I wanted to be loaded P2 up which was going to cut into my beautification time considerably.  What I didn't count on was aside from my own delay, another delay of chatting with S and another client about whether or not a mare needed to go back to the big hospital for a joint infection issue.

I gladly offered to haul and to cancel P2's lesson if necessary but we ended up opting to first haul out for Prairie's lesson, then come back, do a mare switch-a-roo and haul up to the vet.  The vet pony wasn't in a "dire" situation but after a week of hospitalization, followed by three weeks of stall rest and meds, the swelling wasn't where it should be so it was back to the hospital for a check up..

Let it be known that I always, always volunteer to take other horses to the vet.  For one thing, I think it's nice.  If I were freaking out about my horse and didn't have a rig, not worrying about how I was getting somewhere would be one stressful consideration off my list.  For another thing I think that going out of your way to haul other horses to the hospital builds my good vet karma.  I feel like one way or another you make emergency trips with horses and I'd rather spend all my trips on someone else's horse :)  Plus there is the added bonus of fostering a relationship with the vets and their techs before you're there with your own beastie.

Anyway, so that was an easy decision, but the haul ended up happening in rush hour which made for a long, obnoxious drive but I'm glad we got the mare there without any issues.

But back to P2's lesson -

After a sub-par grooming effort (I hate hate hate hauling horses anywhere without being spotless) P2 gave up her cow-ish trailer behavior from last week and happily marched right on without protest.  She hauled calmly, unloaded fabulously and warmed up like she was at home.  It's nice to see that after being someplace 3 or 4 times she let's go of 99% of her drama llama behavior.  Good feature.

Anyway, S got put right to work on some lateral stuff, our typical warm-up of shoulder/haunch in, some half passing etc.

Then we dove a little deeper into Prair's half-passes.  We started zig-zagging them, at first half passing from the rail to the quarterline and back with a focus on keeping Prairie super soft and supple in the change of bend and direction.  By the end Prairie was moving three strides to the right, switching the bend, three strides to the left, switch, 3 strides right, switch, etc.  It took some work but I think it ended up being a very productive exercise.

What I liked about it is that it addresses the issue of keeping control of P2's shoulders and haunches in a change of direction.  That's often where we get braced (both her and I) and we look connection.  Additionally, it was an exercise that Prairie could succeed at so she was able to stay calm, and work on something tough without hitting a spiral of frustration.

In watching from the ground I could also really see what I feel when I'm on her in terms of our sticky points.  Specifically when I work on it I can pretty easily scoop Prair's left hind up underneath her, but I have a harder time with her RH.  I'm constantly putting her in shoulder fore or leg yielding her haunch out to get the "feel" of that step under.  What's difficult is even when it feels like she is trailing with that RH if I look in the mirrors... she's straight.  Argh.  So something is up with that hip/stifle/something and I can't tell if it's a weakness issue, a discomfort or pain issue or possible just an evasion.

I snapped some video from the zig-zag half pass work that is ok.  It's from the beginning of the exercise which shows more resistance and tension from Prair, but my phone ran out of space by the time it got a bit smoother (whoops).

Then the rest of the lesson (which ended up being like 90 minutes long - extra glad I wasn't the one being tortured) worked on the canter.  More counter canter, more zig zagging in the half pass (without a change of lead... so really more of a half pass in, leg yield out..) and finally some work on changes.

I can say without a doubt that Prairie gets tense and inverted when she loses her balance.  Or if she anticipates loosing her balance - such as when she goes into a tight turn, hits a distance to a jump oddly, or thinks she has to change leads.  All hard things for her to carry herself properly through so she tenses, throws her shoulder and runs away from the issue.

Even though she's not bolting around the arena as often, there is a distinct loss of connection and control of P2's front half when she enters this mode.  With her changes she gets nervous, tenses, blows through your "new" outside rein and scrambles around.  On the most compact horse this would make a clean change tricky, but on Prairie-the-Brontosaurus it's down right impossible.  So step one is trying to maintain a soft, balanced stride.  We did figure out that P2 cues her canter mostly off her outside leg.  This is not surprising because that's how I ride.  But S cues mostly off her inside leg.  Which has probably been contributing to her ongoing confusion, scrambling and issues with her changes.  Not the primary issue, but still a small "a ha."

Anyway, we ended up setting some poles to help with the change and Prairie really tried hard.

My sense with Prair and her changes is that she isn't being obstinate or naughty, but that she really isn't quite sure what to do with her feet to accomplish a clean swap without getting all tripped up.  She tries, and her anticipation let's me know that she knows she's supposed to change, but she just isn't quite through enough to get it done cleanly.  When she does get a good change, she gets that omg-mom-I-did-it-aren't-I-good spring to her step and head shake.

Basically you just come across the arena like a figure-eight but ask for supreme straightness before the poles and then exaggerate the bend as you round the corner.  Ideally you put one full stride between poles.

This exercise was actually really good for Prairie since the two poles gave her two good opportunities to get her hinds swapped.  She gets the lead up front consistently, it's just that balance and push form behind that's tricky... and also keeping that shoulder corralled.

When she got 4 changes in a row through the poles we called it a day and let the mare walk and rest.  She was dripping in sweat, but didn't give up even at the end.  S was also dripping and I remained thankful for my role as observer for the day :) it was a good lesson to see from the ground. 

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The things I do to save $50...

Given: Horses are expensive.  Expensive might not be the right word... perpetual money vacuums? black holes of 401ks and all things "saving"?  Whatever the correct terminology is I know we all agree that unless you are moderately mindful(/obsessive) about controlling costs they get out of hand rapidly.  That's why I usually opt to not sign up for "extras" at my boarding barn or try to do somethings myself to offset cost.

(Anyone choosing to remember how much money I blew on boots last week is encouraged not to mention it at this moment)

One of the a la carte items at our current barn is trailer parking.  Parking my trailer at the barn is an extra $50 a month.  I was so horrified at the brashness of this charge when we moved in that I firmly put my foot down and refused to keep my trailer on site.  My company is 5 minutes from my house (sorta between the barn and home) and has a 4 acre yard filled with pipe, valves and fittings, surely I'd be able to stuff a trailer back there somewhere without having to pay for it.

Turns out space was at a premium at the shop too, so I had to forfeit my parking spot for the trailer, but god dammit, for $50 a month I'll do it.

Usually I'd say this arrangement works well.  The trailer gets parked for free, I have keys to the yard so I can get at it anytime I want... mostly.  That is to say I can get at it anytime the rest of the parking lots isn't full since I don't have enough room to hitch up if everyone is still at work.  The Boy remedied this situation by making a forklift attachment that allows a forklift to zip in, grab the trailer and pull it out someplace with more room.... This is a brilliant solution for week day horse trips aside from the fact that I try to... not hide necessarily, but be mindful of how obvious it is that I am off playing hookie with the horses instead of sitting at my desk - and asking a warehouse guy to stop his work to "fetch me my trailer" doesn't come off so fabulous sometimes.

This means that I usually try to pick up the trailer after hours and park the rig in front of my house so that I can just zip home, drop my car off and zoom off to the barn. 

Since Prairie has a lesson off site today, last night I made my attempt to "go grab the trailer real quick" which I approximated to take about 20 minutes (5 minutes to work, 5 minutes to hitch up, 10ish minutes home (there's always traffic headed back toward the city).

20 minutes, no big deal, I ran out of the house without taking the dog out to pee or giving myself a snack.  Both decisions ended up being a mistake.

 I hopped in the truck, saw that I only had 1/4 of a tank and pulled off for fuel.  But the only station near my house with diesel is always crazy busy and the fact that this particular station only has one pump with diesel makes maneuvering to it a bit tricky - especially when said pump is occupied by Prius. But after a delay and some serious backing skillz the truck slurped up a full tank.

Then I saw that there was an accident on the freeway that was impacting the (literally) 300 yards of road that I needed to get to work.  So I changed plans and went the back way... which usually adds about 5 minutes to the trip but this time the detour added 20. 

Finally at work, I pulled up to the back gate and saw that it was locked - good, that means everyone's out of the parking lot, but bad because I had forgotten my work keys at home (which was back through the traffic hell).  There was one lonely car parked outside the gate and some lights still on in the office, so I hopped out of the truck, pounded on the doors for 5 minutes hoping to garner attention but failed miserably.  Just as I was resigning myself to crisscrossing traffic again I saw a side gate still unlocked and snuck into the yard. 

Then, it started pouring.  Perfect.  So glad I opted to stay in loafers and not boots (ps, trailer parking spot is muddy).  The rain made my mirrors useless and it ended up taking me like 10 tries to line up the ball. It never takes me 10 tries.  two, max.  Very annoying.

Then as I was getting soaked doing up the hitch in the bed, I realized that while I was fumbling around trying to unhook the safety chains from the storage spot that I had 100% shoved my head/hair into the GIANT SPIDERWEB that is somehow always on one side of the trailer nose.  That prompted a total freakout-run-around-spastic episode that ate up another 10 minutes while my arachnophobic self was convinced that spiders were everywhere in my hair and coat.  If anyone was still in the office, I can assure you that display ensured no one was going to come out to say hello.

Once convinced that I was thoroughly spider free (or at least stripped of all potential spider covered clothing, I continued to hitch up the trailer (in the rain) and made it home (through traffic again) without cause for alarm.

Since most of you haven't seen my house, I live in a very typically suburban neighborhood.  I get weird looks for driving a truck around (let alone a truck and trailer) and the trees really aren't trimmed for trailer clearance so I usually smash my way through the streets.  This also means that we have no property, ergo - no place to really park a trailer.  except for a (very) small strip of pavement right in front of our gate (read, two on street parallel parking spaces).  Our street is windy and on a hill so there aren't really any places to just "pull over and park" the full rig except for the small strip of space right in front of our house.  Convenient, so long as no one else parks there while I'm getting the trailer and also assuming that my parallel parking skills aren't totally fried with nerves.

For the record, it was still pouring and my snack-less stomach was protesting loudly, and all of the delays on my trip meant I was getting home in the dark and needed to back the trailer without any helpful lights while trying to avoid my fence and several mail boxes in the process.

Normally I'd brag like WHOA about my parallel parking skills, but that is when I'm not driving a massive fricking truck and trailer.  Parallel parking trailers is something I have a husband for.  He's very, very good at it.  I.... am not.

BUT never fear, 15 minutes and a million adjustments later (also, why is Maroon 5 on every radio station.  DEATH)  I nailed the parking job, locked everything up and ran into the house for some food.  Carefully slipping off my very cute, but now very muddy loafers only to step in a puddle of dog pee as I walked in the door.

$50 a month might just be worth it... 

Monday, February 4, 2013

P stands for Patience

I've been on such a success high with P2 recently that I've been keeping one eye out for the totally-guaranteed-totally-humbling-horse-moment that is inevitably just around the corner. 

It has to be right? that's why we have horses and not robots? To keep us on our toes with obstacles be they physical or mental.. or totally ridiculous never seen before outbursts?

It's always something.

Nothing dramatic happened this weekend, but I got a healthy dose of humble pie with both girls that realistically brought me back into orbit with regard to expectations.

Prairie had a good schooling outing yesterday - but it lacked the "holy crap we're rockstars" feeling that I've been having so often with her.  In fact, I resisted the urge to smack her big giant beak several times.  She was a cow getting on the trailer, a cow tied to the trailer and a cow under saddle.  She was so braced during our jump school that I was bracing back and escalating our ride into a man vs. beast brace-off.  Which I can most assuredly say that Prairie won. 

My tension was encouraging her tension, which I responded to with more tension and by under-riding my fences.  In the span of 15 minutes we went from sorta-amped-up to a total disaster zone of trotting before each fence, me taking my leg off and pretty much slipping through every corner in an inverted ugly mess. 

Finally my frustration got the best of me and after running through a bending line like a standardbred I threw the reins, got off and gave her to S.

I still can't tell if that was a mature decision - to disengage, take a moment and regroup.

Or if I need to figure out how to do that without throwing the reins at my trainer.

I think the latter is preferable, but until I get there I'm pretty sure it was a good idea for me to get off for a minute and let S bring the mare back from outer space before I tried to work through a course again.

When I did get back on, it wasn't perfect, but I wasn't making things worse, either.  After a few minuets we ended with a nice soft course - and I gotta say, the last three fences were perfection.  Forward, soft, balanced, rhythmic, perfection.  

I'd like to say the struggle was worth those last three fences, but I'm not sure.  The last three fences were fabulously rewarding, but I hate, hate, hate fighting that hard for them. 

But Patience.  

Both in the ride, and in the bigger picture.  I need to regain my patience...

Those three fences gave me another glimpse into how incredibly unbeatable this horse is going to be in any ring when we are that relaxed.... But the ride in general reminded me how far away we are from that consistency. 

With regard to P1 - I got a second helping of humble pie.  The Vet was out Friday to check on everyone and do some bodywork and Pia was in rare form. Bucking, rearing, biting, having a fit in general...  Or rather, I'd like to say she was in rare form, but over the last month or so it's become more of the norm. 

And not a good norm.  I really respect my vet and she's been working with Pia through the entire Summer Camp adventure, so she knows this horse's ups and downs.  On Friday she was sugar coating a lot of observations but general conclusion was that having Pia back in a traditional barn isn't working out great.

Her body is doing well.  No signs of the pain or tension that existed back in 2011.. but the associated attitude and behavior is 100% out in full force. 

I'm not totally sure what this means.  My vet was calling into question what mental issues might be at hand and how fixable they may or may not be.  Physically Pia is looking great, her scratches are almost totally gone, her weight is good, fitness good, all of that checks out.  From a neurological perspective, I know this horse doesn't have Wobblers.  She's foot perfect in the arena and on the trail, and she's catty as all heck.  But with regard to aggression and unpredictability, she's escalating rapidly.

All last week she was heinous under saddle, but Saturday she was a peach.  Wednesday she was okay on the ground for me, but Friday she was kicking at my head and baring her teeth at everything. 

I'm just so saddened by the fact that P hasn't been able to transition back into the real world that I'm at a bit of a loss.  I'm coming to terms with the notion that she probably can't stay where she is, but I don't know where she will go.  Summer Camp might be a possibility - but only if she can go as a resident and not as a client.  We spent a ton of cash on that place and it's not a feasible retirement option.  Traditional retirement board might be an option but only if her demeanor steadily improves when she's there.  If she stays on the path she's on now I would be concerned about her safety and the safety of those around her. 

Anyway, it's early in the thought process.  I have definitely not really thought about permanent options for her since I've been so focused on giving her a chance where we are.  But I think it's time to evaluate options.  She's not enjoying her life, and certainly no one is enjoying working with her. 

Supermom raised the issue of potential ulcers which is something we are going to explore.  Her behavior is pretty consistent with the symptoms, but the follow-up question is what's causing them.. Her constant stress and anxiety? And if so, how do we resolve that?

Bah.  Lots of questions there.  I'm also trying to stay patient with Pia and allow a fair decision process.  On one hand I feel like I've been patient for the last (almost) 3 years.  On the other hand, I know that I tend to hit emotional walls and make wild decisions.  So far these decisions have been productive for Pia (and for me mentally), but we'll see. 
Oh Piasaur, you little enigma

Friday, February 1, 2013

Six Months Later... (a video comparison)

Last night S busted out the Dressage Tests and we started our lesson by seeing where we were at with them.  Truth be told I haven't run through a test since September so even though all components of our flatwork have improved dramatically, I haven't actually bothered to string them together in quite some time.

We opted for First Level Test 1 - which I like, but the extended canter tour was challenging for us last summer (FL2 is much, much more condensed and beneficial to our issues).

This isn't a perfect side by side comparison since last night I rode in the indoor which is a generous 15mx35m - a far cry from the correct 20x60 court...

The indoor is tight, which means that last summer I could barely execute the shallow trot loops in Training 3 without coming unglued, and smooshing in trot or canter lengthenings was all but impossible.

When I rode the test last night I felt much more in control and felt that Prairie was about a million times lighter in my hand.  I wasnt' oblivious to the many flaws, and moments of tension, but it did feel better.  At the end I even had a moment of "dammit, maybe we haven't actually gained that much ground" before I bothered to look at some video from last summer and realize that we have in fact improved drastically.

So without further ado, FL1 as ridden in a miniature arena on January 31st, 2013:

And for comparison and entertainment, FL1 as ridden at a schooling show last July:

Things that I notice:

The mare is less of a freight train.
We didn't scoot!
We can come back from canter lengthenings now
We have lighter transitions!
I can keep my butt in the saddle, and aren't getting rooted out of the tack!
Prairie is stepping under herself more.  Not perfectly, and not always straight, but more.

My reins are still long. (UGH).

Pretty fun to compare the two videos!  Nice to know that even when I'm (literally) going in circles, the hard work is starting to pay off...

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