Thursday, May 30, 2013

Field Trip - Lesson

Hauled the big mare down south for a lesson yesterday.  Again I opted to have S take the ride.  I am eager to ride with our favorite trainer again, but I also seem to learn a lot from auditing S's rides and it's enjoyable to watch the mare go, especially in such a good learning situation.

Prairie was a really good girl.  Whatever anxiety she had about the trailer a few months ago seems to be totally gone.  Both times loading she didn't even pause on the ramp, just up and in like a seasoned pro.  (I like this feature).

We swapped bits and took her in a full cheek slow twist, which is what S has been using the past week.  Honestly, she doesn't seem very different in the snaffle to me.  It is a bit harder to get her un-inverted (that should be a word), but she is a tad more respectful of a metal mouthpiece than the happy mouth pelham.

I guess it's interesting to know that it's sort of a Potato/Po-tah-to situation right now.  I think that's a step in the right direction?

Anyway, the warm-up was uneventful.  Prair stayed quiet (by Prair standards) and the most time was spent cantering a cavaletti trying to get deep and close and encourage a rounder, bouncier canter stride.

I think this is something we nail at home, but for some reason it was tricky yesterday.  After several minutes in both directions S and Prair started some course work. 

But before they started popping over things N had them experiment with a few different frames, and discussing the impact of each frame on Prair's way of going.  They ranged from collected and fairly up in the bridle (up by hunter standards.. I'd wager it was a nice first level frame by dressage standards..) all the way to stretchy and on the buckle.

Oscillating between them was pretty fascinating and made it really easy to see when Prairie tends to brace through her back and start to evade.  After a few repetitions of up, up, up and low, low, low they settling in a nice, soft (very) huntery frame and Prair's ears were flopping happily all over the place.  (I think that's an exercise I will try to replicate at home..)

Anyway, they popped over a few fences, continuing to look for a slightly deep distance and striving to maintain relaxation (by way of adding circles between fences).

All in all it went well. S focused on really relaxing her aids in the last stride before the fence and Prairie responded well.

The only consistently sticky wicket was that Prair seemed hell-bent on always (always) swapping off her left lead to her right in the 4 stride.  Super odd since she usually prefers her left lead?  A few of the swaps were definitely an attempt to make a longer distance but I didn't like it.  I hope she's not sore somewhere..

Quick clip of some of the jumps.  Still a bit rushy into the corners, but the mare is starting to slow down between fences! (starting..)

All in all a great outing.  We chatted logistics for the upcoming show, confirmed some logistics and go ourselves home safely in a torrential downpour.  Not a bad Wednesday!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Long, Lazy Weekend

When a bridge collapsed on our main north/south interstate, The Boy and I opted not to fight traffic for a weekend getaway and just hung around the house for our long weekend. 

Not so secretly it was nice to have 3 days with nothing on the calendar (aside from the barn) and I relished the chance to get errands done, tack cleaned and some couch time in. 

Saturday I had a great school on Prairie over some jumps.  I don't remember what we did to warm up, but we ended with a 15 minutes (!?) canter set figure-eighting over two jumps using the whole outdoor. 

My thoughts from that little exercise are this:

- omg ow my legs.
- Prair is getting her changes without freaking out (most of the time)
- omg ow my calves
- I felt comfortable asking her to take the long spot and she didn't freak out.
- omg ow everything.
- settling into a rhythm and just and cantering and jumping and cantering and jumping is really, really fun. (i sorta miss xc)

It was a super fabulous ride.  Afterward I walked the mare around the property on a loose rein and reveled in her laziness and cooperation.

When I got home I streamed some of the Devon show and had fun watching the Junior Jumper something.  I don't spend a ton of time watching the Jumper ring but it astounds me how much ugly riding there is.  And not in terms of perfect Eq, but just ugly riding.  It's like the more athletic a horse is, the less trained it appears to be and the more erratic/terrifying some of the rounds are.

Exhibit A was watching the jump off where o3 of the 5 riders eliminated themselves, 2 of them by falling off in between jumps.  How does that happen?

(The Boy watched NASCAR while I watched ponies.  Worked well since the commentary was drivel for both)
Anyway.  Sunday was house errands (booooring) and no barn.  Mare got the day off.  But Monday I was back out there in the pouring rain and inspired to put out the Dressage tack for the first time in.... months?

I meant to take a picture to document said feat, but I forgot.

S and I have been talking about putting Prair back in a snaffle to see how she is, but I haven't bothered changing bits on her brown bridle yet.  Black Dressage saddle made it easy to grab a black dressage bridle which was still outfitted with the Boucher, so I went with that.

Prair warmed up fabulously.  If anything, all the two-point and jumping has really gotten my calf on Prairie (and my knee off), which translated really nicely to my longer stirrup length.  Between the deeper seat on the Hastilow and a tighter leg, I actually enjoyed my sitting trot work and felt more effective in it for the first time in a while.  

I sorta just doodled around the whole ride, meaning that I didn't really do anything over and over again but just kept changing it up and playing.  I did want to concentrate on our lengthening/collecting in both the trot and canter so there was lots of that, but mixed in with lots of walk or halt transitions.

Prair was a little strong/stiff to begin with, but by the end we were doing three loop serpentines with simple changes through the walk, zig zag leg yields and even a few flying changes all without her trying to invert or throw a fit.  It felt pretty glorious at moments.

I finished with some trot lengthenings and after the first few rushy-downhill attempts I really sat up, half halted the mare nearly to a stop then felt her lift her shoulder and  fly.  It was fun.  It was short since we were in the teeny tiny indoor, but it was fun.

I called it a day at that, brought a very impatient Gus in from out of the rain and tucked everyone in with their dinners. 

I was home in time to stream the Pony Jumper Classic and day dream about a barn full of feisty jumper ponies.

I also decided that I should really attempt a combined test or two with Prairie some time.  I mean.  She can jump 3' no prob, and should nail a Novice level test... why not!  I just need to find one that we can actually get to...

Friday, May 24, 2013

Gus the Guinea Pig

I finally managed to get myself to the barn for enough time to apply Gus' first IontoPatch.  I suppose really it was more like "I finally had enough time to get all my shit together" instead of sprinting into the barn, sprinting into the saddle and then sprinting away again.

I actually picked up some rice bran.... made some baggies.... groomed the pig monsters... looked decent for a lesson on Prairie...  (four jumps on a circle... not so bad!)... cleaned Gus up... etc.

Aside from the last 10 minutes of our lesson taking place in some sort of apocalyptic downpour the ride was good.  Nothing massively of note to report.

Next up was Gus.  He managed to get (soaking) wet during said downpour and instructions for the patch had "dry application site thoroughly" italicized, bolded and practically puffy-painted on the instructions.


It also said "clip but don't shave the application site"

The only thing Gus doesn't do with a smile on his Gus face is get clipped.  In fact, the only caveat we received when we took on Gus was a proclamation to never, ever, under any circumstances try to clip a Gus, lest a plague of a thousand somethings be unleashed. 

But of course S and I took one peek at his furry fetlocks and thought, "baaahhhhh, how bad can he be."

So S got out her clippers and at the first sign of the power cord Gus dragon snorted, shifted backwards and prepared to escape. 

S lifted the (still off) clippers to his beak and he literally jumped straight up, snorted and politely asked if he could be dismissed.

I said no, and we started tempting him with carrots. 

Gus is highly motivated by carrots and was willing to take two steps forward and bite a carrot before retreating back again (and hiding behind me). 

Realizing that we probably weren't going to solve this issue in a day, we worked Gus up to accepting a carrot that was touching the clippers before deciding that we wouldn't be following "step one" of the IontoPatch instructions.

Step two was to add the drugs to the absorbent pads of the patch.  My vet left me with two hypodermic syringes loaded with 3cc's of each drug.  After double checking which drug was which charge about a million times I attempted to apply the Dex.  What really happened was I squirted dex everywhere but the pad and cursed loudly. 

"Step 2: while filling the pad with medicine, avoid saturating the outer 3mm of the pad in order to maintain adhesive properties"

I tried to carefully fill the pad staying within the 3mm boundary but that all went to shit too and the dex was pretty much everywhere. 

Meanwhile, S was taking some scissors to Gus' fetlock in an attempt to remove some of the yak hair in an attempt to "prep" the site.  Pretty sure the folks at Matrix Therapy products won't be asking us to film a "how to" video anytime soon...

Finally we both figured things were as good as they were gonna get so we threw the patch on, put some vetwrap over it and started the clock.

Gus really wasn't too sure what was going on. but he was absolutely sure he was still supposed to be getting carrots. 
Grumpy Gus-Face
Not satisfied with only one experiment for the day I busted out the Equi-Flex Sleeve that was a total impulse buy from Schneider's when I was ordering Prair an new fly sheet for the season....  I liked the idea of  the sleeve being breathable and cooler than a full standing wrap while still providing some compression.

It seemed like a worthwhile endeavor and since Gus' hind legs are consistently windpuffy, I thought he'd enjoy testing them out.  Obviously I ordered them in the most obnoxious color possible so it looked like Gus was rocking some seriously amazing leg warmers. 
Pop that hip.
 I'm not gonna lie, they were a pain in the ass to get on.  The packaging suggests putting the hoof in a plastic bag so the sleeve doesn't snag on the hoof/shoe/whatever which is a balancing act in itself.  It was a similar tug-o-war as yanking on those stretchy bell boots which I've always loathed dealing with. 

Once over the hoof though, the sleeves were super easy to adjust and they stayed up really nicely.  I checked on Gus every half hour or so and there was no shifting/slouching/twisting on the sleeves. 

I think I'll try to rip them on and off a few more times before I decide how much I really like them.  It is definitely faster/easier for me to just throw on a standing wrap, but I'd be less nervous about these guys staying on unsupervised, or in a small turnout situation.  In theory you can leave them on for up to 3 days.

That concluded all of the torture for Gus yesterday.  He got lots of extra pats and kisses and we'll see if we see any difference from the first patch application. 

As for Prair - the shoes went back on.  She jogged sound when we pulled them, which had me tempted to leave them off, but her hoof wall looked healthy, and when we trimmed back the insane amount of hoof she spat out in four and a half weeks, her heels were right where I wanted, and I was happy with the overall condition of her feet.

I do think I'll consider pulling shoes again in July after a couple of the shows are done and our only big event that's left is on grass... Otherwise, in September they are gone-zo.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Shoes on...Shoes off?... Bah, I don't know

Prairie is scheduled for a trim later today.  This would be her second (short) cycle with shoes on and I'm flip flopping like a floppy-flip-flopper as to whether or not I want to keep shoes on for the summer.

Part of me wants control of her tootsies back.  Especially when I see her spitting hoof out at such a high rate that even a 5 week cycle leaves her heels getting longer and more forward than I would like...

But the other part of me is worried about keeping her comfortable through the show season with varied footing that I can't predict or control.

I'm not concerned about having a barefoot horse in the Hunter Ring and getting dinged for her not looking traditional.

I'm also not concerned about being a bad self-trimmer and caving to shoes if she needs them to stay consistently comfy all summer long.

But I most definitely am concerned about which path gives me the best chance of keeping her sound, happy and healthy while hauling her all over the place.
Ahh if only they were as affordable as some Chucks...
If we didn't have much on the calendar I'm pretty sure I'm 90% positive (how's that for a statement) that I would pull the front shoes off today (hinds are still bare).  At home I've got some nice dry pastures, some gravel pastures and good arena footing where I can get her transitioned back to barefoot comfortably and I can feel good about maximizing her heel support.

Buuuuut there's the nagging voice in my head that says it's going to rain for another month, make my mare's feet all mushy and then I'll throw her on some sand/concrete ring and ask her to jump all nice and pretty and everything will go down in flames.

I've been debating this for a couple weeks now and am no closer to a decision than I was when I started.

My farrier is pretty reasonable and while I know he will tend toward "shoes."  I'm hoping he can help me with some insight.  Maybe while her shoes are off today we'll jog her and see how sensitive she is and go from there. 

Bah.  I don't know.

Shoes on..... shoes off.... shoes on??? shoes off...... 

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Back in the Tack

Yesterday I actually got myself back in the tack for the first time since our show two weeks ago (eeesh, time flies).

I was a *tad* apprehensive since the mare had fire coming out of her eyeballs/eats/nose, due in part to having the last two days off and then topped off by a twenty degree drop in temperature. 

Oh goodie.

We headed to the outdoor and while S and I chatted and caught up, Prair was oddly content to walk on a looped rein and stayed pretty calm. 

She amped up a bit when we got to work but felt a-maaaaa-zinnggggg which I suppose is one side effect of staying out of the way and letting a pro tune your horse up for 14 straight days... Prair felt light, swingy and her shoulder was more mobile than I've ever felt it.  The slightest hint of extra outside rein and she shifted in, inside leg and rein and she shifted out  (whoa).

We worked in a trot pole on our large circle and focused on adding to it (lol) as opposed to letting her lengthen or reach over it.  then we repeated the exercise at the canter (omg, lovely) both directions.

At this point the gerbils figured out that we were maybe going to gallop all over the place and started to awake from their slumber.  Prair also decided that the construction was extremely interesting and scary and started throwing in little scoots here and there. 

Her scoots were 1/2 to one stride long and easy to contain but still, not appreciated.  Then S said "let's work counter canter and ask for a lead change back to true canter down the long side"

I popped Prair into a collected(ish) canter and started our counter canter circle.  I gotta say, she felt fabulous.  Her haunches were mobile, she was gathered up underneath herself and very balanced.  When I straightened her and asked for the change, it was crisp, clean and without drama (!!).

because I just really like this picture.  and she's cantering.
We repeated the other direction a few times and then S added a second change (back to counter canter) at the end of our longside. 

I was convinced this was lunacy and probably impossible, but my professionally tuned, only slightly insane mare was totally capable.

I would have been GRINNING ear to ear if I wasn't so concerned with preventing spooks and scoots. 

Eventually we popped over a small cross rail (in counter canter) and then asked for a relaxed change prior to the corner. 

This was a little less controlled, but ultimately successful and not so bad given the gerbils accelerating in her brain. 

Given my time off (and the mare's) we called it good with that.  I was impressed with how rideable Prair was and how fabulous she felt.  I'm getting more and more impressed with how quickly she's learning and accepting her job. 

Out for a hack today, probably some jump lessons later in the week and then who knows. 

Monday, May 20, 2013

Gus' New Legs (Ionto Patch & MCT)

Sorry for the extended break.  Life got... well, lifelike and I've been everywhere but the barn. 

While I was everywhere (but the barn) Gus' new toys came in that will (hopefully) help us manage his Right Front a bit better and maybe even make some progress. 

While I've been gone, S has been helping to slowly get Gus up to wearing his BoT standing wraps overnight.  He appears to be a bit more comfortable traveling left and has stopped bobbing his head like a totally sad, lame horse. (yay).

The next step is to start the first treatment (of a three week course) of phoresing serapin and dex into the right front. 

To do this we're using a little piece of magic from Matrix Therapy Products called the Ionto Patch STAT.

The Ionto Patch is basically a trans-dermal method of delivering drugs (like a nicotine patch) so that the drugs are dispersed more evenly over an area (like a tendon) than if you were to inject. 

Apparently this process works best with certain tissues, and those tissues are - tendon, tendon sheath, fascia and bursa - perfect for Gussie's little situation. 
The semi-brilliance of the Ionto Patch is that rather than just passively absorbing into the skin (like a nicotine patch), the pad has a self contained battery while allows the Patch to be charged (either positively or negatively). 

This is where my (one) psycho-pharmacology class from college fails me and I rely entirely on what my vet says. 

Apparently most drugs have either a positive or negative ionic charge to them.  This charge means that they can be pushed or pulled by another charged object (think magnets).  The Ionto Patch works by repelling the medicine out of the patch with a like charge.  Just like when you used to chase magnets around with a similarly charged end of another magnet.

Essentially, you fill the pad with 1cc of a (-) drug, and the other side of the pad with 1cc of a (+) drug, fix it to their leg and then turn it on.  The negative drug, in this case dex (Dexamethasone Sodium Phosphate), is repelled from the pad by a like (negative) charge.  This helps speed absorption rates and prevents unused drugs from staying in the patch itself.

In our scenario, the + drug will be sarapin for pain relief. 

The other fun goodie we got from Matrix is a small Microcurrent Therapy patch.   In theory microcurrent helps stimulate Type 1 Collagen production (not type 3 which is scar tissue) and can assist in the healing of strains and tears in tendons and ligaments.  It's been shown to reduce pain in older injuries and even have impact on (very small) hairline fractures.  Basically it helps to increase circulation. 
Applications of the MCT patch...
Like the Ionto patch, these MCT patches have self-contained batteries.  The MCT patches can be reapplied again and again until their batteries run out (which is after 250-400 of use). 

I'm under direction to administer the Drugs with the Ionto Patch, then follow up with the MCT. 

Since the Ionto Patch takes 4 hours to fun its course I need to find a good day where I can hang out at the barn and witness the entire process.  The instructions seem easy enough but Something about trying to stick battery operated patches to a lower limb sounds like it may be slightly trickier than I'd like it to be.

Has anyone used these things? Very interested to see what the impact is. 

Monday, May 13, 2013

Gus and the Very Bad, Terrible, No Good Birthday Weekend

Poor Gus.  He did not have the Sweet Sixteen Party he was planning for.  Instead he had three days of poking prodding and feeling crummy. 

But let's back up.  The weekend started off with Promise (capital P).  M2 had thoughtfully gotten Gussie a nice box of birthday goodies (complete with a Vet Wrap bow) to usher him into the next year of Gus-filled-life. 
vet wrap!
Birthday Loot

Sadly this was as good as it got for the poor old man.

Friday my favorite vet came out to do Prairie's teeth (good god that girl grows fangs quickly..) and give Gus his birthday bodywork.  But Gus had some inflammation on his pesky Right Front (the site of the old DDFT injury) and when I jogged him out the vet made a frowny face that said "what the hell happened in the last 6 weeks."

Gus was obviously more lame on his right front (though his hind end seemed to be moving better, small win?) and we had no great reason for it.  The only change in his routine has been slightly less work since S has been busy with shows and has consequently missed a few of her regular lessons.  Gus doesn't seem to mind though, he just sunbathes in his paddock and proceeds to get as filthy as possible all the time.

The only other environmental change is a "heat wave" (by Seattle standards) that sent temps rocketing into the 70's (and even the low 80's) for about 10 days.  (we are wimps).

We chatted randomly for a bit, talked about how some horses just get puffy when the weather warms up and then got to business with the Thermal Imaging Camera.  I love that thing.  I know it's not a magic wand but it is just so interesting to see what clues it can give you about things. 

Things that seem great, Gus' medial/lateral balance on all 4 hooves.  Gus' hocks, Gus's back and Gus's big cute beak. 

The interesting finding was that the puffy right front was colder than the (less) puffy left front.  Vet lady dialed up the sensitivity and we looked closer at the Right Front and were able to see the scar tissue that has formed around the Annular Ligament.  It appears as though the Annular Ligament functions essentially as a tourniquet on Gus's Right Front (instead of a supportive structure) and totally chokes off blood flow to that lower limb. 
See Annular Ligament Here
Ultimately we decided that we will end up treating it with some shockwave to try and break up some of the scar tissue and regain some mobility, but since it was late and we didn't want to sedate the old man, we just applied some cold laser for the edema and Gus was very (very) pleased about that.  This horse loves any massage/acupuncture/treatment on that fetlock.  He stops mugging for treats and just snoozes whenever you do anything with it.

The laser got rid of the swelling very quickly and going forward he will work up to wearing his BoT stable wraps at night between now and the shockwave treatment.  Vet is also having me order some really cool trans-dermal patches for some meds in the meantime but I'll write more on those later. 

We re-jogged the man and he seemed to be moving better so hopefully reducing the swelling helped his comfort level.

Gus finished up the day with a flu shot (up the nose) and we called it a night. 

Saturday I hobbled myself out to the barn to check on Gus and see how his RF looked "the morning after."  The answer was pretty good.  One of his Adult Lessoners had just brought him in from pasture and both legs looked nice and tight (by Gus standards). 

What didn't look normal by Gus standars was his demeanor.  Usually Gus is fairly.... active in the cross ties. He isn't naughty, but he shifts around a lot and tends to use his head as a battering ram in an attempt to knock any loose treats out of your pockets/brain/body.  But Saturday Gus was just standing quietly and his head was calm and not at all being used as a battering ram. 

Red Flag. 

We took his temp and he was a toasty 103.7 which immediately explained the lethargy.  I shoved 2g of bute down his gullet, gave him a nice cold hosing and put him in his stall.  Approximately 90 minutes later his temp was normal and he was fussy and hunting for treats.  Poor guy.

He got his BoT wraps put back on for the afternoon and all was well except for this:

Yup.  Hind hoof, last of the acrylic filler busting off his heel and threatening to totally remove itself which would leave a 1/2" gap between hoof and shoe.  No Bueno.  I hopped on the phone with my farrier and he promised to be out Sunday afternoon for the repair and a reset. 

It is always something with this horse.

Sunday I got a text from S saying Gus' temp was still normal (yay!) but his right hind was all puffed up. 

Seriously horse!?

I zoomed out, wrapped all four legs, and waited for the farrier to fix at least one of our problems.  Gus was definitely back to his charming, mischievous self which made the shoeing process less than ideal. 

Also less than ideal is that Gus has crushed what heel we built up with the acrylics right back down to nothing.  His feet are horrid.  Even on a 4 week trim cycle (this was 3.5 weeks) he doesn't grow real hoof, but still distorts forward a ton.  There's nothing to "back off" to help his heels get under neath him, but his toe just runs out and those poor hind feet continue to break back.  It's a tricky situation and I'm hoping that as his diet and care has changed, hopefully he'll start growing more/better hoof, but in the mean time we're dealing with crumbly, crappy neglected crap that won't do anything remotely helpful. 

Eventually we opted to fit Gus with some pads.  I hate pads.  I feel like they don't encourage new healthy hoof structure but Gus' feet are so bad he needs some heel support now.  So he's rocking two degree pads with a one degree wedge shoe for a total of 3 degrees of lift.  He walked off much happier and hopefully that will help his overall healthy-Gus-factor.

The farrier finished up around 5, which left just enough time for a super fun shingles-sponge-bath before a fabulous Mommy's Day dinner with M2. 


What a weekend.  Hopefully Gus got it all out of his (very cute) system. 

ps - S has been riding Prair and she is being perfect.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Conformation Shot - 2013

While Prair still had her braids in last week, I tried to snap a Conformation shot to compare to April 2012.  I clearly lack Supermom's camera skills as every pic turned out blurry (whoops) but it's good enough to get a sense...


April 2012
No massive changes, but both her belly and back have come up - and her neck has really filled in (especially where it ties into her shoulder)... She looks so much more mature to me! although I do love that dark purpley-black shine from last year... I guess that's what 3 hour/day turnout will get you.

Fun changes!

Friday, May 10, 2013

3' Derby Rides

S's Victory Gallop (they got to actually canter)
S unquestionable gets slightly more polished, prettier rides from Prair than I do, which is one reason why I wanted to post the videos from Prair's 3'-3'6" Derby rides.  I'm sure I have other reasons, but without caffiene my shingles brain is lacking functionality...

In terms of the rides themselves, S had her work cut out for her since both rounds came at the end of the day when Prair was just starting to decide that she wasn't sure she wanted to play nicely for another 2 minutes. 

I think she had a slightly more responsive mare on Saturday for the first round on Saturday.  Sunday Prairie looked a little like she had run cross country, she was just tired and a little cranky and less adjustable than normal. 

Round 1 Sat: (crappy phone video)

And Round 2 (handy) from Sunday (better camera)
Remember this was pretty much right after my crappy Eq round on the mare.  She was definitely building through the day and I think S got a pretty good ride out of her considering...

(note I was trying to wrangle S's foster dog who wines horridly if she gets more then 5' away)

The mare has a few more manners to learn before she's able to take all the high/tight options at this height, but I'm very pleased with how she did for her first time showing over 3'6" fences (expecially because we never ride that height at home).

Can't wait for the next one!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Birthday Gus!

Gus gets to celebrate (again) his special day since USEF claims its actually today. 

So the big guy is officially 16 and wearing it well. The next time I sneak out to the barn, he's getting a sweet 16 party. Who knows. MTV might even show up for it. 

What a good boy. 
So glad he is around to kiss and pet and introduce people to riding.  He deserves many, many carrots. 

Supposedly he'll be getting some birthday bodywork tomorrow - such a spoiled boy. 

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Sunday Conclusions

First off, my writing/living/socializing skills are moderately comprimsed as I've figured out I have Shingles (ps, I'm not a 82 year old man) and my whole head space is a little wasted and cloudy.  Consider that some sort of warning/caveat for a horribly written post.... 

(oh, and of course I have a husband who's never had chickenpox, so this could be an epically cranky/itchy household in no time...)

Sunday!  Sunday was supposed to "go really quick" since there were no flat classes left and each division had only one course remaining. 

The ponies ran ahead of schedule which prompted a slight panic from a logistics standpoint but in true horse show fashion, we went from running ahead to an hour late in no time.  Ugh

So the poor mare had to stand around for longer than I wanted but it was warm and sunny and we still weren't complaining about that.  The schedule was a little funky because we were scheduled to ride our second round of the derby prior to our Pre-Adult courses which, aside from behing the opposite order I would have prefered, also meant I had to warm up, walk the course, ride the course, then sit around before re-booting for our normal rounds. 

My biggest focus was nothing more than shortening my reins by at least a foot.  S yells at me about this all the time, but I never quite accomplish holding a shorter rein.  but after looking through all of Supermom's great pics from Saturday I shuddered and vowed to figure it out.  I do think that part of my long rein problem is that when Prair is telescoping her brontosaurus neck there is no "one" correct length and I end up with my hands in my lap.  But when she's soft and steady it's easier for me to put my hands where they should be... Ugh.  retraining old habits.  I hate it... but anyway...

We warmed up well, and Prair felt even mellower than she had been on Saturday.  We didn't do much but I did at least canter enough fences to establish a rythym and steady my eye.

The Handy round looked FUN.  We had a halt, trot fence and a few options that had some super fun opportunities for some handy turns.  S and I came up with a plan, including an unpoplur start off the right lead and I was totally excited. 

We went in reverse rder of go, and since I was fourth I got to watch  3 other riders go before me.  I think the video tells the correct story so please watch this first (it's short), but man, best start to a course ever.

Ummmmmm WHAT. 

Off Course!???? NO.  I've never gone off course in 20 years of showing! not once!

Here's what I was thinking for those first 3 lovely fences:

Nice canter transition, she's soft, I like this... outside leg, counterbend, keep the right lead YAY nice fence, okay fence two, steady, back her off a tiny bit, YAY nice fence.  Wow this is the softest she's ever felt in the show ring, hmmm why did S want me to start my turn at that red standard? I'm already lined up with my third fence... nice distance. Oh.  Wrong fence.  Maybe I'll just rollback and keep going... No? damn.

Off course!  so sad, I was really looking forward to riding that round.  I was also looking forward to not DQing myself in my first derby.  (face::smack).  Mayve now that I have shingles I can blame it on that??? No excuses.

The hilarious part is that even though I recorded no score in the second round somehow I still didn't finish last.  I guess there were a few folks who stayed in the 30's both rounds so we landed 6th and still got to participate in the Victory "Gallop" which was executed at the trot.  very fun.
"victory!" (of sorts)
Ugh, anyway... then it was on to the last two rides.  First the Hunter round which I didn't really warm up for.  Prair felt good, but not quite as patient as she had for the start of the Handy round... I definitely felt it build though the course and couldn't quite get her back 100% between fences.

The bieggest bobble was my quasi-rollback to the red line, you'll see it... it doesn't look very relaxed or flowing.

I was pretty happy with the round and we pinned 2nd, but I could tell that Prairie was unraveling.


When we went back in for our Eq round she was cooked.  Her jaw was tight and she was not interested in my half halts or suggestions of pace...

I gave her a bad ride for our rollback and she made it known by pulling a rail (which she rarely does).  The rest was okay, but after out last fence (away from home with a long landing) Prair totally suht down and although it doesn't really look like she's running away with me - make no mistake, she was.

I waited till I was under the judge and hopefully out of sight before totally wrestling with her but I legit didn't think we were going to ever stop cantering.  Twit. 

Whacking the rail in our rollback... she popped that leg RIGHT up..

Picking up pace....

Favorite shot of the day.. the skinny and last fence of the Eq course

We lost our shot at a perfect "30" for our Eq division but still pinned 3rd, which was enough to snag Champion.  Additionally, our 1st, two 2nds and 3rd in our hunter division was enough for Reserve. (!!)

Two tri-colors was unexpected and totally awesome.  The only (slight) sadness was when the show office announced that while they had coolers for Hunter Champions (but not our faux Pre-Green win) Eq champions would get a sweatshirt.  I was assured it would be a really, really, cool sweatshirt, but WAH. 

I know, I know.. not really a problem, but I was so excited! and the sweatshirt really wasn't as cool as promised (duh).  I'm tempted to cut out the "Equitation Champion" part and safety pin it to a cooler I already own.  That would be classy right??

It was a great show.  Prair totally held it together, we had our best rounds to date and came home with more loot than one should be allowed.

Additionally it was lots of firsts:

My first Championship ever (that I've ridden... even if there's no cooler)
My first Reserve Ch. in a Hunter division!
My first Derby (or half of one)
My first time going off course... (oops)
My first... NECK RIBBON (even if I didn't really deserve it)

Mostly all good things, and even the off course was good in the sense that I was zoned out thinking about how good Prair was being as opposed to missing a fence because I couldn't turn her or because I was so mad at her or something else less flattering. 

S's Handy round to come tomorrow.. I still need to get that video off my camera. 

I'll take it.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Show Rundown (Fri/Sat)

I'm rolling Friday & Saturday into one post because I only have photos from Saturday and I feel like posting photos. 
Like this one. 


Much like Thursday, professional obligations got in the way of my ideal show schedule and I found myself downtown giving a quick presentation at 9:30, which was about when S and Prairie were schedule to start their Pre-Green Division.  I was pretty sure I could talk for 15 minutes, fly out of the meeting room and sprint back to the showgrounds in time for their Under Saddle class. 

I nearly gave up hope when the meeting delayed an extra 20 minutes, but then S sent a text that the show was running Junior Hunters before the Pre-Greens which bought me some time. 

I'm sure I looked like a crazy person while I paced neurotically waiting for the valet to retrieve my car from whatever neighboring country they parked it in, but they finally showed up and I zoomed off.  I jogged up to the show ring (trousers, silk blouse, absurdly non-horse-appropriate-footwear) to find S and Prair snoozing ringside waiting for their flat class. 

The pride to hear they had won both rounds over fences was only slightly mitigated by the fact that there was only one other horse in the division.  Prair went on to win her flat class doing what she does best, and clinched a faux Champion since they wouldn't call it champion without a third horse (damn). I wouldn't really have cared about that much except for the fact that this show has cute COOLERS for the Champions and I really wanted one.  Seems like winning a cooler is some sort of rite of passage for Prair becoming a real Hunter... but it's about the experience not the coolers...

Anyway, between Prair's wins (which each came with a $20 gift cert to my fav local tack shop) and S's early Reserve Ch. in the Baby Greens with the Big Guy we were off to a great start.  


Saturday came bright and early and I got to the show in time to watch the pony from our barn go in her Short Stirrup Division.  God I love ponies.  There were some cute ponies doing their thang which sometimes included finishing their courses but usually including some sort of pony shenanigans.

Prair had snoozed like a good girl and was totally calm when I pulled her out to walk around and grab some grass.  Supermom made the trek to come braid the big girl up all pretty and also snapped some all of the pretty pictures to follow.  I'm definitely a little bit spoiled having such talented friends who for some reason help us out so much. It's even nicer when they take exceptionally flattering photos and delete all the ones with double chins or weird faces.

When Prair was all fluffed and buffed, we headed for warmup where the gerbils were decidedly not present.  Prair had her quietest warm up to date and I was thrilled with how she was going. 
So happy. So, so happy
The problem with perfectly timed pictures is that you can't blame your bad Eq on an awkward moment...

We were slated to ride two of our Hunter courses, one Eq course and then ride both of our flat classes.  Remembering how out of gas we were last weekend at the Schooling Show, S had us ride our courses as early as possible to give us a bit of a breather before our Flat.  It seemed like a great plan to me, though I was a little nervous since there was no warm up round for us to work the kinks out with - and so far I've always had one (which is a feature I like)
The Boy helping with last minute prep (Prair likes ear massages)
We were first in the ring for our Hunter round and it was pretty damn good.  Prair built up a little steam and we chipped out of a line (or two... or three) but otherwise we got our leads and I came out thinking we probably wouldn't pin last, which is the first time that I've ridden a hunter round and thought that. 

Apparently we really have improved because the judge agreed and put us 2nd behind a (very) cute, (very) typey hunter thing with a big butt, huge cresty neck, and adorable dapples.  I would have pinned him first too.
Last fence... lots of pace but still holding it together...
I parked Prair in the shade and watched everyone else ride their first round before going back in for our second. The second Hunter round was also good but a little more rushed.  Prair felt a bit agitated and less willing to come back to me.  We dropped a spot to 3rd which was deserved but still better than we're used to!

her hocks and tail crack me up in this.
To avoid the cranky, tuned-out-mare-syndrome for our Eq round, S had us work some counter canter and some leg yields to tune Prair back up again.  It worked fab and we had a quick, but tidy round with some very pretty rollbacks that put us first (YAY).  I was shocked to get a blue over fences. I think its our first? I can't remember, but if it isn't - it's definitely the first one I feel like we've earned...

I was grinning the whole course, even if we were in a hand gallop

The few extra minutes of downtime before flat were needed and appreciated.  When we went back in I was feeling confident and Prair felt focused, light and lovely.  The classes were mercifully short which worked in our favor.  The transitions were all called before we got too long, or too low and Prair snagged blue in the Under Saddle (woo!) and I squeezed our a blue in the Eq on the flat even though my reins were long enough to pass as long lines on a smaller pony. (double woo)
Huntering Around
 I was most proud of our canter work which stayed light and uphill the entire time.  Usually I feel Prairie start to tip to her forehand on our second lead of the Under Saddle class but this time she stayed nice and up in front of my leg without being strong.  I'd happily take that canter into a Dressage test any day.
Huge Improvement
We had about an hour break before our Derby and I honestly can't remember if I took the mare back to her stall or not.  It's possible I was in a ribbon induced haze, or that I was horrifically dehydrated (Seattle-ites roast alive in temps over 72 degrees...). 
But I couldn't complain much.  The sun was out, and I had a fabulous team on the ground with S, The Boy, Supermom and M2 all on hand to make sure that Prair and I both had plenty of treats and water to keep up going.
Supermom not pictured, as she was taking SuperPictues
Either way, I was super excited for the Baby Derby (2'6", with high options at 3') and the notion of actually getting to walk a course before riding it again.  When they finally reset the jumps and posted the course it looked like fun.  I was hoping for trickier lines, but S reminded me those would come on Sunday with the Handy Round. 
Round 1
Everything was pretty straight forward and the only interesting question was the high option for fence #2 which was a pretty skinny Skinny and a much sharper angle than suggested on the diagram.  We went for it, (though I got a little jumped out of the tack) and then also took the other high options at 5 and 8. 
Fence 3
The ride was definitely above average for us, except for fence 8, which we nearly didn't jump because I don't think Prair could clearly see her landing.  The fence itself was a big, (actually only 3') all white, airy oxer in a dappled shadow that was slightly angled at the white rails of #6 and right on top of the arena railing which was also white.  I felt her wiggle and brake about 2 strides out in a way that felt like "um, what the hell?" rather than a naughty "hell no."  I dug the spur in and we launched over from a standstill in a most unappealing fashion. but recovered to finish over the last fence moderately organized with a big smile on my face.

I think we got a 71, plus 3 for the high options so we ended with a 74 which was good enough for 4th place (out of 7) for round one.   Most of the rides were on much more polished horses (ie, no pre-greens) and the leader manged to break into the 90's with a gorgeous ride.  I'll fully admit I don't really know how the scoring "works" per say, but the numbers seemed to match the rides well and I'd say the judge got the placing order totally right.

Then the only thing left was for the course to reset (again) for the 3' Derby which S was taking Prair in (whew).

Her course was decidedly tighter with more interesting questions and larger decisions to make about the high options.  Sadly I didn't take a picture of the course, but S had a fabulous ride and took 2 of the options (one was a hellish rollback that wasn't worth one measly point) and they finished in the low 70's.  I could tell Prair was a little agitated with the last round and really wasn't interested in focusing for another 2 minutes, but S really made it look smooth and easy.  They finished 6th out of a much more competitive field of 11.
favorite shot of the day
out of the two-stride

The day finished well with baths all around (me included) and a good relaxed mindset to go into Sunday.

Sunday The Boy actually remembered our good camera so I have some video.  I think our rides on Saturday were a bit more polished, but it's still nice to have a few clips as a benchmark.  All in all I couldn't have been more pleased with Prairie's effort on Saturday.  5 course and 2 flat classes is a lot to ask of one mare, even if she is big and strong.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Made It

I wasn't sure we'd make it home alive-awake- but we did and now I'm happily sipping a corona before I promptly pass out (hopefully not still in my breeches).

Lots of firsts to report on (some good some less fabulous) but all in all it was a fab show. Prair was her best self and she collected more than her fair share of ribbons (NECK RIBBONS).

The mare and I may sleep for the next 34 hours....

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Settled In and Schooling

Man. It was a bit of a flurry today but we ended up cramming everything in and getting to the show with about an hour left of schooling time in the arenas.

Prair was totally unimpressed once she realized that she had just been here, but she was even less impressed with the ghetto fab tarp-tent-stalls.

In fact, she looked a little non-plussed about the whole setup...

Trunk & Tarp land
Anyway,  S tacked up a gelding she is retraining as a Hunter and headed straight for the ring while I unpacked a few things and then followed after her with Prair.

S's gelding is another Dressage Boy who might make it in Hunter Land.  This show is a bit of a wildcard for him since he's... never jumped a line before, let alone a course or flowerboxes.  But as soon as I walked up and saw him quietly cantering around I knew that he was going to take it all in his (very) uphill, (very) giant stride.

While S worked her boy, I warmed Prair up and was thrilled that she was totally quiet and responsive.  We headed into the main ring after about 5 minutes and popped over fences without even breaking stride.  Prair was wanting to tip on her forehand a bit, but I could. not. believe. how light she was and how soft I was able to be.  I worked on moving up a bit to the fences and getting our correct strides then hopped off and let S pilot her around a bit since Prairie's first division is Friday morning in the Pre-Greens with S up.

I bumped a couple of the fences up to 3' for S to work with, but Prair didn't really notice.  They bopped around a few times, schooled some changes and then called it good.

Prair is still a little quick and certainly doesn't have the slow, round bascule that fancy hunters should, but I just love, love, love the relaxation that she's starting to show.

It's awesome.  So rewarding.
I was so thoroughly thrilled just bombing around the ring popping over fences and feeling that Prair was 100% solid under me and wasn't threatening to explode.  I like this trend :)

I snapped a quick phone video of some os S's work just to document the loveliness.  Note Big Brown Gelding's Big, Brown Nose makes a charming cameo.  He is cute.  I sorta want him.

Now it's off to bed with a handful of Advil so I don't wake up totally crippled from moving hay bales around... (what was I saying about working out again???)

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Installing the Reset Button

Today was one of those rides where I (no shit) thought that I was going to end up in/on/under/through the fence about 42 separate times.  Prair was beyond a little nutty and while I felt mostly secure in my seat, my self-preservation minded brain could see no alternative other than me getting tossed into the fence or onto the sand. 
Full. of. BEANS!
Usually this sense of ominous doom is partnered with a strong frustration for the mare and whatever nonsense-nothingness is causing such an uncalled for reaction.  Today however, I did not blame the beast.

The owners of our boarding facility are in the process of rebuilding one of the farmhouses and the construction zone just so happens to be approximately 2 strides from the outdoor arena.  Thus far I've been very impressed with Prairie's nonchalance regarding the cranes, bulldozers, loud noises and general mayhem that's emanated from the old farmhouse. 

Today however, the crew was working on framing the new house which came with irregular drops of plywood along with an army of men with nail guns blam-o-ing away in what could only be described as a Gatling Gun of noise.

Prairie was totally fine with everything except the machine gun fire of the nail guns.  This flurry of sound would happen every minute or so for about 15 seconds.  For the record this is just often enough to interrupt every circle but not often enough for the mare to get used to it. 

She was freaking out.  She actually started out okay, but  got progressively more and more concerned about the nail guns until I finally let S get up and work her through it. 

S pushed her forward and while she didn't do anything magical (or mean,) Prairie immediately started to settle.  S has the guts to keep her leg on more than I personally do in such explosive situations, and also has the balls to soften the reins and allow the mare the opportunity to make a good choice and not explode.

My personal M.O. is to think "soften soften soften, leg leg leg" while in reality I'm scrunching up the mare's neck, turning her trot into a jog and pinching with my knees.  (not exactly a textbook recipe for success).

S was only on Prairie for about ten minutes before I hopped back on and felt much better about the horse under me.  Prairie was still a little looky-loo and not 100% trustworthy, but I was calm enough to soften my hand and add leg without the mare threatening to explode vertically.  (yay).

So we got back to work.  S had set a really nice little course complete with trees and a liverpool and I had eery intention of schooling it.  I sat the trot to a few small verticals before we worked our way up to cantering through a line.  Surprisingly, Prair was soft and very responsive to my half halts.  We ended up working over a small course totally productively and without any major issues. 

I did revert to holding Prair to a miniature stride, so we were putting 7 into the 5 stride (whoopsie), but I think it was the right ride for the horse I had.  The smaller canter/lope allowed me to let go of Prairie's face and maintain a nice rhythm through a whole course and not argue about anything.

I got off wildly impressed with how well we finished.  Six months ago we wouldn't have been able to recover so completely from such a bad start.  Realistically, we would have headed for the indoor and settled for a few decent canter transitions instead of staying outside, working through the freakout and still getting a good jump school in.

I'm very (very very) grateful for Prairie's new found ability to deescalate if might be my favorite new tool.  I'm getting closer to being able to press her reset button without S's direct help - but for now I'll gladly take it when needed. 

Great last lesson before we head out for the show tomorrow.

Think positive vibes for us!

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