Monday, February 29, 2016

Windsor Video Spam

It was a bustling day at the barn on Saturday, and I took full advantage of everyone being around and managed to snag some videos of my lesson. 

We didn't do anything remarkably new, or perfect - but it felt like a great example of what we are doing most of the time these days.  Not our finest work, but not our worst and all in all - an improvement from where we've been.

This post is a video dump.  I'm lacking a creative voice this morning and they mostly speak for themselves - so feel free to peruse or ignore as your interest waxes or wanes. 

Trot work - in the contest quest to get (and keep) that darn right hind, we are playing a bit with (shallow) head to wall leg yields.  These are hard for me.  Winds gets a bit tight if we're too close to the wall, and.. that happens a lot.

However, when we do get that hind leg, his trot lifts and we get nice and straight.  We've also been practicing this by circling with haunches out, then pushing into a lengthening.  It feels productive and Winds is really starting to get the idea.

Over fences we warmed up over a tiny cross rail/oxer thing.  This has been a really helpful warm up for me since I have to ride the corner, but I have a bit more time to get straight and get forward to the fence.  My struggle is trying to be supportive and ride the hind leg while letting Winds poke his nose.  I really like a nice little short neck that I can fiddle with (oops). Again, I'm thinking about pushing his hips left (baby leg yield) and that really helps my ride.

(we are riding with our big chestnut friend who is maybe our barn favorite.  Such a good (huge) dude)

Then we moved on to small course.  The entire time I've had Windsor, whenever we have a line set home off our right lead I have the HARDEST time getting up to it. I get stuck in the corner and end up chipping in.  This is a problem.  I know I'll have more space at the shows but I'd rather fix the problem of getting bogged down in the corner and not stepping through. 

I'm getting better at it - and it involves a lot of me actively not using my outside rein to control the shoulder in the corner.... It's very counterintuitive to me.  I have always turned with a lot of outside rein - and especially so with Prair.  That big ol shoulder needed to be contained.  But with Windsor, the same amount of outside rein results in him sucking back and getting very vertical in his step rather than continuing on his track... (and then we get into trouble).

Here I maybe needed a tad more outside rein (whoops) but it's a balancing act I haven't nailed yet.

Also, you'll see us almost leave a stride out.  We've been working hard to get Winds moving up the lines, and I always anticipate landing and asking him to step out.  Guess I didn't need to here... (blush)

Here's our (re) approach to our boogie monster line.  When I ride this it feels like I'm pedal to the metal out of the corner, but clearly it hardly looks like it...

Again, I'm shocked/happy that we are getting up the lines, and it's hard not to choke him back to avoid the tight out since getting him to land and step out is goal #1 right now....

All in all a great lesson and I'm feeling pretty good with where we are at now that we're four weeks from our first show tougher!

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Love It or List It

The push and pull of crazy-horse-girl emotions vs adult-responsibility with regard to Prair continue to wage war in my brain.

The oscillations are still a bit wild - but it seems like I am settling more and more on the idea of marketing Prairie as a broodmare.

Staring at her (most likely) retirement from any sort of significant work- I wish more than ever that a) horses were cheaper or b) we had that cute little farm with a couple empty stalls.

Either of those scenarios would make is so, so, so easy to keep Prair without any consideration.  But lacking either of those particular realities, it's hard for me to feel good about keeping Prair as a pasture puff when I know that I want to pursue my goals with Windsor and also with our real life human kiddo too.

So I have been doing a lot of thinking. 

I've started perusing a few broodmare groups on FB, and one casual comment in response to a want ad actually garnered several inquiries which served to  remind me that Prairie's bloodlines are rather desirable - especially with her history of carrying one foal and a successful ET for another..

I am not a breeder.  I don't really know a lot of breeders, and I definitely have never rehomed one of my own horses with the sole purpose of "broodmare." 

That is to say, I am not super educated about how this process works, what makes a top notch broodmare vs a retired old nag that doesn't have any other jobs left to do...

I do know that if I do let Prair go to a new home I will be ridiculously picky about it, and I'd rather keep her on the payroll for a while and feel fabulous about where she goes, than move her out to the highest/fastest bidder. 

So, I'm in no man's land. 

But I am thinking about it.  I think I'll wallow in my own thoughts a bit longer and perhaps try a formal listing toward the end of the month - but who knows.  That could change.

As part of my thinking-not-actually-out-loud process, I did compile a short video with a variety of footage.  It's hard to make a "sale video" with footage that was never intended to be used as such -  But Prair's pretty, and I figure if people are looking at her with a breeder's eye they really don't care how horrid my eq is or how ugly part of my dressage test looks if they get a sense of who she is and what she's got to offer as a mama.....

If nothing else it's a fun summary of what she's done over the last couple of years...

The only thing I didn't include was footage of her two kiddos. 

Felt like it wasn't mine to share at this point. Though I have started to collect info on both her babies along with some video links to prove how gorgeous they are.  (Her Sir Donnerhall colt is LOVELY.  holy moly.)

Looking at his footage always flares up my own desire to keep Prairie and breed her, but without the whole a) horses cheaper and b) own farm thing, that's probably best left as a pipe dream for now...

Monday, February 22, 2016

Windsor Over Fences

no good excuse or exciting explaination for lack of blogging.  Just.... lack of blogging. :)

Windsor continues to be a saint.  I've dropped one of my lessons so that he can get a few more pro rides, and whadda ya know - all the sudden my rides are better too.  Funny how that whole Pro>ammy thing works out...

But really, If we are 5 weeks from his "hunter debut," he can use the training rides.  Rocking back at the base is still confusing to him, as is giving and lifting his inside shoulder. 

In keeping with my goals for the year - I went down to watch my trainer ride last week and I was surprised how much of a difference I could *see* in Windsor's work.  I've certainly felt it in my own rides, but since we lack regular photo evidence - my mental picture was still what I saw two months ago when I watched him get his first ride in the states.  (#beenawhile).

Basically, there was a boring flat warm up - (by boring I mean productive and steady), followed by jumping a small fence on a circle.  Followed by some course work, and finally putting a couple of the fences up to 3'3"/3'6".

There has been a big emphasis on getting him to open up his step and move up from the corners (and in between lines).  If you recall in Germany one thing we noted was that even though he was jumping beautifully over 3'6"/4' - he was on a TINY stride.  Putting 5 into a line that would walk as 4 in a 2'6" division....  He will move up if you really ask - but right now it isn't his MO. - and we'd like it to be. 

After this ride I did notice that during my own lesson he was moving up a lot easier and even starting to show me the fences a bit (especially as you start to raise them up a bit). 

It really is confusing how much better this horse is over bigger jumps.  He stays balances, perky and forward.  Anything under 3' just isn't very exciting and he just mobs around a tad tuned out.  I don't like the notion that I should skip the small stuff since the big stuff is easier - because I know he needs to learn the discipline over smaller fences, but MAN it is a tad frustrating.

Some clips over fences...

First, work on a circle -

And some finishing course work -

I love how he's working, his butt is under him and that top line is really starting to fill in!

Next we really need to get some flowers so this thing gets used to some fill!

Friday, February 12, 2016

Four Years.

I have a love/hate relationship with the Facebook "memories" feature.  Sometimes it induces a "awww, that was 3 years ago?? how fun..." response.  Other times the gentle reminders are less flattering - either showing evidence of bad decisions, or irrefutable proof that maybe not that much has changed in __ years..

Regardless, I find it impossible not to click when I get the little notification that I have FB memories to look at. 

This morning, while I was enjoying my coffee and a few minutes in bed before the Toddler took over my morning, Facebook reminded me of one of my earliest rides on Prair, exactly four years ago:

I remember this ride.  The Boy and I were getting ready to leave on our fabulous honeymoon, but he drove me down to enjoy a few lessons while Prair was still at the barn we bought her from.  I already loved her and her personality was so obvious even in those early days.

Canter transitions were a disaster (read: non-existent) and Prair was so heavy on her forehand my hands were literally bleeding at the end of the weekend... but I was excited about what the future held for us. 

I would have never guessed that we would end up in the Hunter Ring, or that we would find so much success together and that eventually, even our right lead change would be nearly effortless.

That's what's so compelling about horses to me.  The things that seem impossible or down right inconceivable can end up being second nature, and the sort of things that happen by just "thinking" them. 

I've yet to find something else in my life where that sort of transformation happens. 

Sure, relationships grow, but I've never looked at The Boy and been like "man, remember in 2007 when we could barely get through a date without fighting?? I can't believe we're Spouse-ing at Second Level now!"

It's just not a thing. 

Even more progressive aspects of life lack that same sense of accomplishment for me.  School or work... which often have an element of constant improvement (in theory).  In those areas when I've mastered something or moved on to a new skill it feels more like a foregone conclusion rather than an accomplishment. 

Maybe that's because I never had to convince a 1200lb warmblood to go to class with me or study real hard for that test...

Anyway, back to the Facebook memories... what made this one particularly poignant is that our vet managed to squeeze a visit to Prairie in this week, and the prognosis isn't exactly what I was hoping for.

The fact of the matter is that Prairie is showing about a 50% improvement in general lameness, and about a 40% improvement in her flexion on that left hind.  At first, my vet was thrilled about this and said she'd like to revisit things in another couple months. 

But my frustration came through and I asked what she expected to change from month 10 to month 13...

Which is when I saw her face fall a tad and she said that she forgot it had been that long... she was thinking this was month 6 of stall rest... not 10.

That's when things got more guarded.  At this point, another 3 months is unlikely to change things much. 

Another year? Maybe.  But then again, maybe not.

So, right now I'm busy adjusting my expectations.  Prair will likely never have a competitive career again.  Will she be sound onto he flat? Maybe.  Maybe not.  Nothing is guaranteed (is it ever), but I certainly wouldn't expect a return to a full training schedule with her.

So we enter a new phase.  We are going to (slowly) reintroduce Prair to some turnout so she can enjoy life a bit more while I evaluate what's going on.

I drilled my vet on her thoughts about breeding her (in terms of her soundness and back) and she was adamant that she wouldn't be worried about that, so that was a glimmer of good news.  At least mommy-king is still on the list of potential jobs.

But if I'm honest with myself, there's no way I could manage a baby horse and a baby person and a Windsor in my life right now. 

Today the choice feels like it is between keeping Prair as a pasture puff (and knowing she's safe and happy), or considering the idea of re-homing her as a Broodmare maybe to someone who can still hop on and stretch her legs a bit. 

Depending on the hour of the day, I waver as to which of those things I am firmly committed to.  I wish I could abracadabra myself a cute little farm where it wouldn't be a burden to retire the (ten year old) lady in grandeur and comfort.  But, alas I lack that particular resource so the issue becomes more complicated...

I know it will take me a while to feel confident in either choice, but for now - I think. And ponder. 

And I giggle a little at that picture of the two of us from Four Years Ago, and all that we've jammed into that time together.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Prair Update

There hasn't been much on the Big Mare recently... mostly because the Big Mare isn't doing much.... She is still up north, happily getting fat and enjoying her stall/run/confinement with a relatively good attitude. 

I was supposed to get up there around New Years to flex her and see if she was still three legged lame on that left hind, but due to a myriad of reasons - I didn't actually get to attempt that until yesterday.

Pair's best GoT "winter is coming" face
(note: I need new photos like whoa)

If "too busy to flex my horse" is any indication of how nuts things have been - so is the fact that I showed up to attempt said flexion without ear plugs, or (more importantly) some sort of elephant tranquilizer. 

But, we threw a chain over her nose, grabbed some treats and walked out of the barn to see what we were working with.

The answer to that (idiotic) question is - a big, dumb kite.  A huge, shorty, four legged kite that hasn't walked more than twenty feet in a straight line for more than.... 10 months.

So the information gathering was limited to say the least. 

We did get some useful information like - she wasn't flinching from palpation (yay) and she was actually willing to let me flex the leg (which she wasn't a few months ago).  So.... That's helpful info.

However, trotting off after said flexion was not actually helpful because she sorta flew around like a maniac long enough that by the time her toes touched ground again, I'm not sure we would have seen any impact from the flexion...

Recognizing that she wasn't likely to magically calm down - we did one final flexion asking her to just walk off after and that looked... normal I guess?

She was still squiggly and excited about walking so I wouldn't put a lot of stock in it - but she did at least willingly use her leg in all walking/flying/leaping activities, which is for sure better than where we started.

But - I'm not a vet and the mare wasn't making it easy, so ultimately I called my lameness guru and she will be in the area next week so we'll get a real, certified opinion on where things are then.

Fingers crossed we see some real improvement.  Prairie is creeping up on 10 months of stall rest (good GOD) and I'm guessing that we are unlikely to see any real tissue change front his point forward. 

We are probably inching toward the point where she gets reintroduced to work to see what we can build up to - or.... she enters the world of professional mommyhood. 

Hang tight mama... D-day is coming.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Finding The Parts

A couple of weeks ago we had the vet out to do a check in on Windsor.

This was always the plan - he hasn't been off, or ouchy, or anything exciting/horrifying along those lines (well, aside from the stiffest neck in the WORLD after some shots..) but, it was basically a scheduled healthy-baby-check-up.

In my head, I know that there's no such thing with horses. 

Even if you think your baby is healthy, if you pay a vet (especially an extremely sensitive soundness vet) to look at your horse they will find something.

and in reality, I was expecting her to find something. 

Even when we were trying him, Windsor showed a desire to step off his left lead when he landed, and there was always a teeny tiny stiffness in his back that we weren't sure where it stemmed from.  He never flexed positive... nothing showed on x-rays, nothing showed in the ultrasounds... so we were reasonably certain it wasn't anything CRAZY, but still - one always holds one's breath when the vet starts poking and prodding.

What was peculiar, and honestly totally unexpected is when the vet mentioned that while he wasn't showing soreness... he almost looked a tad Neurologic in his hind end.

Cue fainting.

After I resumed consciousness from the brief, but intense panic attack - she clarified that this can be caused by any number of things, especially discomfort higher up in the limbs - and the "parked out" or loose movement can be a simple compensation not a scary, permanent state caused by an impingement or EPM or any of those scary things that I know way too much about.

The suggestion was to inject all the things.  I thought this was a little weird since I've never injected anything that didn't flex positive or wince away from palpation.. But there was enough residual panic from the whispering of neu-ro-log-ic that I agreed to do whatever it took to make it go away.

So we injected his S/I and both stifles and took a few days off and I tried not to cry myself to sleep at night.

When we resumed work (this if about two weeks ago, FYI).  Windsor felt AWESOME.  Like, how can injections possibly help this much when you weren't showing any soreness- awesome.

But I'll take it.  He's more forward (though he still trends towards slow), he's much lighter on his front end, and his lateral work - holy shit - his lateral work is miraculously easy now.

Not perfect.  But easy.  A slight half halt and some leg and he just steps up and under and doesn't even tempt me to go to my hand.  And it's amazing how much better your leg yields, shoulder ins, everything get when you don't get tricked into going to your hand...

It's lovely.  And it's not subtle.

When the vet returned to see how the injections affected him - she was also impressed at how much improvement she saw.  I can't say for certain but I've never seen her raise her eyebrows and go "wow, I guess we nailed it."

The improvement has only continued - which is really fun. 

Our flat lessons have been extremely productive, and now that Windsor is naturally sitting back a bit more all the sudden I can feel where all of his limbs are.  It's amazing how when the back lifts and softens how much more information you get from your seat.  It becomes possible to manage straightness and impulsion and each tiny little hoof without much effort.

So now, when we're working on pushing his tushy in and out on a circle, I can feel where his footfalls are.  Kind of how I can feel how my ponytail is swinging behind me when I run (assuming I ever ran). 

It doesn't feel like an extension of my own limbs (I'm not Anky), but now it at least feels like something that's actually attached to me instead of some big block that I'm bouncing along on top of. 

And that lets me relax my hips and hug my legs and actually sit on my horse.

In other words - I feel like I can ride again.

It's still a bit difficult for me to rationalize how much improvement we got when he literally didn't show any signs of discomfort (aside from a disengaged hind end..).  It goes against my experience with previous horses, and previous maintenance needs - but as new and strange as it is, the one thing that holds true is that nothing is ever the same with a new horse. 

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