Saturday, February 28, 2015

Wind machine

Beyoncé called. She wants her wind machine back.

And lord knows Prairie is NOT interested in it.

Yesterday the winds kicked up here in the desert which didn't wreak too much havoc in the big rings, but down where is baby Ammys play - things got... Interesting. Though at least the poor judge watching 100 2' trips had something more interesting to watch.

Prair was convinced that te far end of the ring was not to be trusted, and in our first two trips - that concern caused some trouble. First round I could barely get her down the diagonal to our first single (away) and she swapped leads about 42 times in the process (bonus points for tempis? No?)

Second round we demonstrated lovely half passes away from the fence line, though our jumps and lines were surprisingly decent.

(Looks Shockingly like last year)

Third round the wind died down for a well timed 90 seconds and we managed a clean round for a 2nd (out of 26). Fourth round was also pretty clean and we got another 2nd even with a small scamper at the far end.

We won the hack and that was enough for reserve of the 2' windy-ammy division.

Earlier in the week Prair did an excellent job with N managing to grab a few low ribbons (out of 40) and a blue in the hack (those expensive aluminum shoes are earning their keep..)

Today we ride a 2'3" hunter and eq divisions so we'll see how that goes.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Monday, February 23, 2015

Winning the War (with youtiube) Thermal V videos

So this entire process is a tad absurd, but I have finally extracted a couple of short videos from my phone.  True to baby-hunter form, they are hideously boring, but there's a mare, some palm trees and some wee-baby-jumps, which are all splendid in my book...

A couple of the lines were closer to 2'6" and some were closer to 2'.  What's cool is Prair is feeling better and easier over the bigger (lol) jumps than the smaller ones.  This time last year she was definitely a bit more anxious or uncomfortable the bigger (lol) the jumps got.  I'm hoping this means we might actually get to campaign a Pre-Green season but that's a chick that I definitely don't want to count before it hatches...

So here we are for our first round of our 2'6" Hunter on Sunday.  Great first trip of the day, only real bobble was Prair getting slightly spooked by something (goblins?) at the far end of the ring, but otherwise the mistakes were mine.  I didn't quite move up in the lines enough so we were a bit long getting out of them, but Prair handled it well.  Also, even though we got our right lead changes, they are a tad rough (especially the last one).

Second round I measured the lines better, and our right lead changes were a tad better, but we built a bit more in the ends (especially by the gate).  I need to keep me hip closed a tad longer over the fences and release a bit more to help that I think.  But again - good mare!

Our third round (same course as the first) was great, and we actually landed our right lead at the end so that was a big win.  Everything else is about the same - which is waaaaay more consistency than we've ever had, so that's really, really fun.

Finally, The Boy has officially stopped recording flat classes so I'm lacking evidence of how Prair's going there. I'll maybe make him video one next week so I have some reference point for where she's at in terms of frame and self carriage these days, but I can extrapolate from how she's going over fences for now...

Mare is off today and enjoying a hand walk, schooling tomorrow then I think a 2'6" division with N on Wednesday and Thursday before we start back up on Friday!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Thermal Week V - Knocking the Rust Off

Well, it's in the books.  We had a great (and busy weekend) and we all survived.  Maybe a tad more sleep deprived than at previous shows, but all together not so bad..
Heart Melt.
Friday, Prairie started with two rounds at 2' with N - which went well.  We thought it was worth it since Prair didn't do any pro days and if nothing else I wanted N to know how she was feeling in the ring. The first round Prair was a tad nervous, so N added in the lines, which I think was the correct decision.  Second round they did the strides, and Prair looked fab.  They nabbed a 4th in a huge class. 

Then I got on for a 2' Hunter Division.  We had 4 courses and a flat.  The first round was GLORIOUS.  Just absolutely glorious.  I was ready for some anxiety and rushing, but Prair just felt lovely.  Her back is strong enough now that she can carry a much higher balance and I'm learning that if I really stay forward over the tack and keep my hip closed - Prair stays more confident. 

As soon as I drop back or open my hip, Prair gets a tad braced and wants to scoot.  So forward it is.  My thighs are very aware of the difference....

Our second round, both of our changes to the right lead were late, which is a ghost of Christmas past, but the jumps and lines were lovely so I was thrilled.  Our final round we fixed the changes and did ok again. 

I don't know if it's because everyone is starting off the second half of the circuit in conservative divisions or what, but the caliber of horses was NUTS.  Totally gorgeous movers, with pretty jumps and auto changes.  Last year I wasn't so swarmed by gorgeous ponies, but the increased competition is sort of fun. 

Our first round was good enough for a 4th (out of 25), and our last round managed a 6th.  The late changes were a big enough mistake to keep us out of the ribbons in such good company for the two middle trips, but that's okay.  We managed a 4th in the under saddle which was a compliment given who was in the ring and the fact that Prair thought she was being chased by a herd of wildebeest. 
All in all, I finished the day impressed with how chill the mare was.  We're walking to and from the barn (which is in BFN) on the buckle and relaxed.  She's so much more comfortable it's insane.  I'm especially pleased given the fact that she's been living in a stall and an indoor since July.

Saturday we had two divisions - a 2'3" Hunter and a 2' Eq.  The 2'3" Hunter is not very memorable (no videos since The Boy was camped at the barn with the baby..) but I remember struggling with our leads again.  We had three courses, the first two we were out of the ribbons but we won the last round out of 22.  The hack was a tad brutal, but again - 4th. 
Picking out her pony
Mare had a good break before our Eq, which ran late in the afternoon and most of the 2/2'6" riders opted to go home and sit by the pool or drink wine rather than stick around.  7 of us did though (stupid..) and rode (another) 3 rounds and hacked.  Prair was aces the first round and we won.  The second round we got stuck in our change which freaked the mare out then I pulled her up before our next fence to reorganize.  Somehow, we still pinned 4th (lol) if that's any indication how much everyone else wished they had opted for the wine/pool option... We recovered for our last round and squeaked out a 2nd, but got a frustrating 3rd on the flat. 

Now normally I'm the first to acknowledge that there is always someone better than me on the flat, but seriously - I'm pretty sure I won that class.  Prair was a star and even though the judge was a tad odd (called for lengthenings in a 2' class????) I was confused by the pinning.  I did get on her bad side when as we entered the ring I pulled my number to the outside and she snapped at me saying "DO NOT DO THAT."  I apologized and said I thought they preferred it, and she said "ABOSULTELY NOT, IT'S OBNOXIOUS"


Not sure how you recover from that, but whatevs.  The 3rd kept us Reserve, though I was a little grumpy that the 4 point difference is what lost us the cooler.  wah.  No matter though, still super impressed with how we're going.

The Baby got Guacamole (and my phone) I got a margarita the size of my torso.
Today, we wrapped the week with one final division at 2'6".  If youtube ever figures it out I'll post videos, but right now I'm in a losing battle... so no promises. The first round was great and Prair was smooth with her changes.  We were a little behind the pace so our six stride lines were a tada stretchy, but that's a new problem that I'm ok with for the time being.  We still managed 4th in a field of 18.  The second two rounds were about the same and we missed the ribbons in one - nabbed 3rd in the other.

Prair was her best in the hack and she really stayed relaxed and calm the entire time.  I was able to float the reins without losing her shape and she felt lovely - so I was a tad surprised to pin 6th, but in talking with N - I wonder how much of it is due to her big, heavy egg bar steel shoes.  I sorta feel like she's trying to float in ski boots while everyone else is in ballet slippers.  She's definitely not quite as flat in the knee, but all in all she feels 100% more relaxed and happy in her work... oh and sound.  She feels sound, so I don't really care about the hacks.  (slight lie, I miss winning them, but I'm ok with it). 

Oksy, sorry for the boring recap, next week I'm really going to try to post daily so I have slightly more interesting observations than "line.. diagonal... ,line... missed change... line" But for now I'm tired, and the glass (cough, bottle) of wine I'm nursing isn't exactly making my thoughts more cogent.

To sum up, I'm over the moon.  It's so fun to feel like your horse is enjoying their job and to be at the point where I'm worried about a single change and not running out of the arena feels like a victory.  Hell, after 6 months of rehab, just feeling good and sound is something to celebrate. 

Week V down, back soon with Week VI.

Go Prair.

The Boy has been busy taking baby pics instead of Prair pics.. so here's another.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

We've Arrived! (all four of us)

Everyone has officially made it to the Desert.  Prair's been enjoying the sun for almost a full week, but The Boy, the Baby and I finally joined her today. 

Dad's trunk ready for another season!

It is already abundantly clear to me that baby + horse show is going to make for a very different experience than anything we've done before. 

After a (relatively) uneventful flight and a (relatively) uneventful drive to the show grounds, We drove around like morons for 30 minutes trying to find the barn which was much easier to find when I finally stopped looking for it where we were last year.  In my defense I clearly remember a conversation (not sure with who or when) that we were stabled in the same spot.  Not true.  We are literally the farthest stalls from the Hunter rings. 


I might lose weight jogging back and forth, but probably not since today I just drove us around the show grounds from spot to spot in the car with the AC on.  Ambitious, right?


let the show selfies begin.

Supposedly she was ACES the first few days schooling.  Calm, totally settled, unflappable, in N's words a "total pro."  But yesterday she flipped a switch and decided she couldn't deal with anything.  So, instead of having N show her in an open division Yesterday and Today, she just put in some schooling rounds and called it good.

I was expecting a repeat performance of yesterdays tantrum when N took Prair out to school, but apparently the calm, happy mare showed back up.  She looked great.  Which you'll have to take my word for because true to form I have no evidence.  I'd say I was "busy taking care of the baby" but that's a lie, because The Boy had the kiddo, and was off procuring hamburgers for us while I watched Prair. 

She did well in the warm up area, and pretty well in the ticketed schooling ring.  There were a few other horses which either could have made her more stressed, or made her happier since she wasn't alone.  Who knows.  But she did look great, and N said she felt more relaxed than she ever has at a show.

So.  Tomorrow.  N will do two warmup rounds and then in theory I'll show a 2' division (WOO!) right after. 

Time to knock that rust off!

There's definitely a photo bomb happening in this pic - just not sure who's doing it

Also, as a footnote, one of the great benefits of showing at Thermal is that there are actually lots of really good restaurants around.  You aren't relegated to Applebees and Outback for dinners after the show.  BUT, I was so paranoid about an overtired, just flew on a plane and drove in a car and hasn't really napped baby - that we chickened out and went to Red Robin for dinner. 

Underwhelming salad, but proudly we didn't have the worst behaved kid there.  So that's a blue ribbon for the babe right there!

Go team!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

All Packed (I think..)

Had one final confidence-boosting lesson this morning, where maybe it wasn't our most brilliant (in terms of impulsion, sensitivity, etc) work, but it was steady and dare I say... hunter-esque.  Prair was grinding her teeth a tad more than normal which I don't love (I always wonder what she's deciding to object to and why...) but she was calm and focused and we had some of our best canter-pole on a circle work EVER.

How boring does that sound?  Somewhere my teenager, eventer-self just rolled her adolescent eyes and died a little.

But whatever, I'm old(er) now and when we can canter a pole in stride and in balance without having to work too hard - well that is cause for celebration these days.

After the victorious canter-pole-ing, we jumped a small course and managed to do quite well.  I was supposed to being adding a stride in the line, which we did most of the time.. so it wasn't without bobbles...

But even when there were bobbles, Prair stayed tuned in and we were able to recover quickly and move on to our next fence.

All in all, it left me feeling pretty good about attacking the 2' Ring in Thermal.

Then I packed.  Much like last year my goal is always to pack as much crap into my trunk as possible so I have less crap to carry on the plane with me.  I am a carryon only type girl, which is hard enough when you are schlepping a helmet and garment bag and boots, but I think that would be damn near impossible with a baby and all the baby gear in tow as well. 

So the trunk has all my tack, all my show clothes, a few of baby's toys, all my toiletries that won't pass TSA's absurd 3oz BS and a big jar of treats for the mare to munch on while we are there. 

Oh, and the gastrogard, and the perfect prep and the earplugs.  Don't. Forget. The. Earplugs.

Prair wouldn't mind if I forgot the earplugs, she's more concerned about me forgetting her treats.

This is the "More Treats" face.
So we're mostly ready to go.  Wraps are rolled, shipping halter is ready, show halter is polished, and Brookledge (bless them) showed up a day early with their rig so we could load equipment and maximize space.  If all goes according to plan there should be four box stalls available and hopefully Prair will qualify for one of those based on size.

reason #567 I like Brookledge - they show up EARLY
Horses set off after breakfast tomorrow, which means I spent the next 6 days organizing myself and baby before we get to go play in the sunshine together.  With sunscreen.  Lots and lots of sunscreen.

Go Team.

The Ultrasound - post script

Talked to vet this am, and the comparison to our December ultrasound images is even better than I thought. 

I was assuming (hoping) that essentially the tendon would look the same, but that the inflammation would prove to be new from the last 6 weeks of relatively heavy work. 

Turns out the inflammation was actually present in the same amount/areas in December so it doesn't appear to be a response to the increased workload.

Also, icing on cake?  The DDFT itself continues to look more organized and more healed than in December

So that's a big 'ol

I feel even more confident heading to Thermal knowing that working Prair 5-6 days a week- with a lot of jumping (in terms of reps, not difficulty) is still allowing her DDFT to continue healing.  Makes the months (and months... and months) of stall rest and walking seem like a great investment.

Obviously nothing is guaranteed, but it's always encouraging to see that our current strategy is (currently) working. 

Big. Sigh. Of. Relief.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The Ultrasound.

Today was d-day in terms of Prair's rehab and our theoretical plans for Thermal.  She's been feeling great under saddle which is wonderful, but in the back of my head there was still a 10% chance that our ultrasound would reveal some horrid new lesion or massive hole in a tendon. 

I mean, there's always a chance right? 

And with horses if it can go wrong, it probably already did... and something else bad happened too.  It's just a good rule of thumb.

So, my expectations have been really guarded.  Really, really guarded.

The short version is that all is well.

The slightly longer version is that all is relatively well.

And the irritating long version is that really we don't know yet.  (which maybe is the infuriating answer for all soft tissue issues.. no smart vet ever wants to declare a tendon "totally healed," and I get that).

But, what we saw is mostly good.  No new lesions, no new roughened edges, which is what we were most concerned about potentially seeing.  What we did see is the same small area of a roughened edge (if the cross-section of the DDFT is a clock, its a little squiggly looking from 3 to 6).  What was new was a bit more inflammation in the tendon sheath and possibly some edema. Nothing huge, not enough that if this was Prair's first exam that my vet would want to inject it, but enough to notice and we're pretty sure it wasn't there before (we're not totally sure because the older films weren't loaded on her laptop, so we have to wait a few more hours for a proper side by side). 

I'm almost certain the inflammation is new though.  I have Prair's previous ultrasound seared into my brain, and I do not recall any discussion of inflammation of the tendon sheath - though it's possible it was there and just wasn't the most significant item to discuss... who knows.  Not me... yet.

Clinically though she's sound,  very sound on the lunge, and more even than she was at our last exam.  She flexed a tad positive on both forelimbs (specifically in the fetlock), which raised a few questions, but when she lunged sound on the hard pack, the vet's concern evaporated.  If she was uncomfortable on the hard pack, we'd be more alarmed, and she would have wanted to inject the coffins to alleviate it, but we avoided that.

All other flexions looked great.  Hocks, stifles.. all clear.  even her back palpated well, so all in all Prair's in comfier place than she was at this time last year.

So it looks like Prair is still healing well.  She's feeling more and more even under saddle and apparently all signs point toward things being OKAY.  So we got the green light to continue at our current workload (which is pretty heavy) and jump up to 2'6". 

Admittedly we've been working a LOT and jumping a ton.  Not big, but often and that may be part of the inflammation question.  Also, it's possible that some edema is the new normal for that tendon when it's in work... Again, who knows (not me... yet).

The current plan is to go to Thermal, play low and slow (nothing over 2'6") and then see how she comes home.  We probably won't ultrasound again (unless something bad happens) but we'll do another lameness eval and see if she's any more or less uncomfortable after three weeks of horse showing. 

The one additional thing we did explore today was Prair's neck.  She's been carrying more tension on the left side, and it's been consistent enough that it seemed prudent (though not urgent) to see if there's anything going on independently there, or if tension is potentially a result of the LF issues and her attempt at guarding it...?  There have been a few horses who have had some rather serious arthritis in their necks and have benefited greatly from having them treated.. maybe it's proximity bias, but it's been on my radar and hard to rule out.

Neck ultrasound showed nothing significant at all... so that was the end of that road.

I hoped on for a lesson after all the poking and prodding and Prair was LOVELY.  Some of our best course work and easiest flying changes yet.  I think we're on a good path... I just hope we stay on it!

Tomorrow we've got one more lesson before packing our trunk and shipping south on Friday!

It looks like I was riding in a rainbow...

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

10 Days to Thermal - Status Report

I realized I haven't updated on Prair (or me) in a while, which is partially because I have no great videos or pictures of our rides, but also because I'm still crossing all my fingers and toes that all is well and rehab is on track.  Somehow not-talking-about-it seems like it might help...

The next step in maintaining our "all clear" status is another ultrasound currently scheduled for February 11th.  It's a totally proactive measure, meant to see if any of the aggravation or tissue disruption has started to return after 5 weeks of working over (small) fences again. 

That said, Prair has been feelings really (really) sound.  There is still a subtle difference between her left and right leads, but now it's feeling more like normal horse-one-sided-ness and less like "oh crap what's wrong with the left lead."

The horses are scheduled to ship in 10 days, for a three week go down in the desert and Prair's name is still on the list.  Frankly at this point we've got enough sunk costs into the show that even if we can't show over fences I'll probably still ship her for some flat classes (lol) and general experience.  The Boy has his PTO approved, and my parents have rented a house for us all to share - so showing or not - the family is headed south, so the mare might as well be there too.
doing more of this would be fun
So aside from crossing all my fingers and toes, what have we been doing?

Well, Prair has been working her little fanny off with N and just being a stellar girl.  We're carrying her frame and balance a bit higher now, which is giving us much softer, rounder jumps.  This adjustment was relatively easy for Prair, but is proving harder for me to get used to.

Our rides together have been a steady progression, dotted heavily with idiot amateur mistakes. 

The theme of the last month has been for me to ride Prair like a finished horse, not like a nervous, bolty, green bean. 

Turns out when I ride her like she knows what she's doing, she... well.... acts like she knows what she's doing. 

The problem is I have lots of bad habits and I struggle to keep them in check.


N made the observation a few weeks ago, that the softer she rides into a fence with Prair, the softer Prair lands on the other side.  Most people would file this in the "duh" category, but when you've been jumping this mare for almost two years now (whoa), and trying to mitigate her taking off after every fence, it's very hard to tell your brain to ignore the PTSD and trust that she'll be good.  "trusting that she'll be good" is exactly the sort of thing I expect to do right before I get bucked off, or taken advantage of, or stepped on, or some other sneaky thing mares like to do when you're dumb enough to "trust they will be good."

Turns out though, Prair really wants you to just "trust" her, and when I ride like I'm holding the (god damn) cube, and soften my legs like I'm riding bareback - things go much better.

These two adjustments have made our coursework completely different from a year ago when we were prepping for Thermal.  Prair's landing soft, rebalancing easily, and nearly automatic on her changes (if I hold myself accountable and keep everyone straight).  Things fall apart when I lose my Cube-Hands and go back to fiddling with her head, worrying about distances and managing the front end more than the hind end. 

We got in a monster fight over a puny white gate last week where I could NOT find a distance to save my life and I actually pulled the mare up twice before we got over it. 



I was totally in my own head and got busy managing Prair's head and admittedly long neck, rather than riding the hind foot and really adjusting her within her stride. 

When I stopped being a moron, we did ok.

The struggle the last few weeks has been to find balance in keeping my hand quiet (and up) and my hips and thighs relaxed, without losing our impulsion and bounce.  It's a semi-consistent theme, but when I try to be soft and enjoy Prairie being relaxed, I often take it too far and end up with an underpowered, totally useless canter that gets us into trouble.

My other realization over the past couple of weeks has been that Prairie totally tattles on her rider.

Turns out, when you ride her well, get a nice distance with a good, powerful canter and don't get in the mare's way - she's lovely.  Beautifully soft and round and lovely. 

BUT if you fail on any of those counts, she will very quickly notify you of her displeasure by getting obviously tense and launching herself across the jump.  It's really easy for N to tell if I'm bracing, or fiddling, or doing any of my other bad habits as the mare amplifies all my faults. 


At least I'm getting a better sense of what it takes to keep her relaxed in her work, and she's making me a more honest and effective rider.  The shorter frame and more uphill balance is starting to feel normal, as is a quieter hand that lets my leg push to contact rather than fiddle around too much with my inside rein.  (I love that inside rein.  So much.  Such a tragic love affair..).

Basically we've got two (ish) more weeks of work at home, one more checkup to see how the LF is doing in full work, then three weeks at HITS to play around.

I'm hoping we get to at least be jumping 2-2'6" without risking the mare's soundness.  I'm slightly nervous about showing in a big, windy, outdoor since the mare truly hasn't spent time outside (aside from hand grazing) since JULY.  I'm told that if all looks good, then Prair can start being turned out again in March.  My vet is very cautious about unsupervised playtime before everything is confirmed to be healing well in full work....

So that's the Prair update.  We're doing well.  Prair's great, I'm learning how to adjust my mental approach with her and fingers and toes are still crossed that we get to do more than hack around at Thermal... 

The Boy is already strategizing how he will be snack dispenser, baby watcher, camera man and moral support at the same time... he's the best. 
Oh and seamstress, he also acts as seamstress.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Gus & His New Girl

I have been entirely delinquent in sharing Gus updates with everyone which isn't very fair since I've been lucky enough to get several myself - I'm just dropping the ball in sharing.

Or maybe a more accurate statement would be that I haven't even picked up the ball such that I might potentially drop it.  The Ball is well outside my reach and the baby always seems to be between me and the ball.

Nothing like horribly extended metaphors on a Monday!

Kisses go here
Anyway! Gus is safe and sound and adorable (as always) in his new home.  Brookledge once again delivered a quick, safe, and relatively stress free journey, and from the sounds of it, Dave the driver was about to take Gus home for himself.

Gus was a well hidden surprise for his new little girl, and as promised we have a short vid showing just how cute kids surprised with ponies really are.  She knew Gus was coming eventually.  But thought he wouldn't arrive for a few months (or what amounts to FOREVER in kid time)  This is her first meeting the big guy:

Gus has been getting lots of love and lots of snuggles.  He's dealing with a 40 degree drop in temperature with a super toasty blanket, and some snowball pads on his shoes. 

His only hiccup was a bit of more-than-normal-stiffness when he first arrived, but we think that might have been a combo of being on the truck for a few days and missing his bute.  Now that he's back to his normal routine all seems well. 

Here are a few of the pics that have been passed along, what a handsome boy he is, and more importantly, he looks happy and healthy :)

(I should have harvested some of his tail for Prairie before he left...)

Making Buddies
Gus is the best horse to be brave on


more spoiled!

treats go here

his new job
It's a real pleasure to see such a good horse in such a good place.  All of our horses should be so lucky.  And all little girls deserve a Gus!
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