Friday, 18 October 2013

The Long Absence

As I mentioned in my last post, I'm about to leave town for two weeks for some stupid course I have to take. As you can tell, I'm not bitter at all.

I literally ambushed one of the ladies from the barn the other day while I was running down the hall from my office in high heels (because my work life can sometimes border on The Devil Wears Prada - minus the Prada), who graciously said she would check in on my pony while I was away. I will be home next weekend to ride (yes, I'm literally driving all the way back for two nights just so I can ride), but here's hoping we don't have an emergency while I'm away.

At first I considered getting someone to ride or work him while I was away, but considering my track record over the last couple weeks - what's the difference between two days of rides and four? So he's just going to get a vacation instead. He'll love it.

As for me, if you don't hear from me, it's because I was either too busy or literally had nothing to talk about. I am going to pop into my old barn while I'm away, though, and visit with my old instructor and barn friends. That should at least help to dull the pain I will experience from this course sucking two good weeks of riding away from me. 

Like I said, totally not bitter.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Bad Luck

I'm having a streak of bad luck lately, in my work life, my real life, and also my horse life. It just seems like its one thing after another, and I have no idea what I did to piss off the universe.

In my horse life, Walker is lame. It's a new lameness - not the same from last week when he had the cut leg. This week I fear that he is lame because of his impromptu event horse moment on the trail.

Perhaps lame is a strong word. He's stiff, very stiff, but only at the walk. He jogs fine and he seems fine at the canter. Well, he was a little jolty at the canter on the lunge line, but he was loping which is always a little jolty anyway.  Really, it doesn't matter unless he doesn't get better.

On Tuesday I hopped on and walked him for a good 25 minutes straight, 5 minutes at the jog, and then "cooled down" at the walk thinking he might work himself out of it. He did, but only slightly. He was still hobbling a little. I threw him on the lunge line Wednesday but he was the same.

The one good thing is that he's not so lame/stiff that's it's overly noticeable to anyone but me. My barn manager didn't notice when she turned him out earlier in the week. I haven't told her to keep him in just yet because, for one thing it has been raining anyway, and for another, I think it might be good for him to stretch his legs.

We shall see.

The other bad luck thing that happened to me was my lesson this week. You may recall that last week I missed because of work and the next two weeks I'm out of town. My barn owner got confused and told my instructor that I was gone for the last three weeks of October instead of the last two. So now I will have missed a month of lessons come November.

And the two-point challenge... Well, one needs to have a horse to ride, and it also helps when you're in the same city as that horse. Sigh. Maybe I'll get the rest of my times in on the weekend.

Monday, 14 October 2013

Preventative First Aid

When Walker got kicked in the leg last week and then went lame, I had one of those impromptu updates of the first aid tool box I keep in my car.

I added this to my kit last week - neat stuff
It got me to thinking that in an emergency, I'm generally quite set. I've got lots of stuff for cuts and swelling and the vet's phone number for big emergencies. But what about the day to day stuff?

Our pre-ride routine is fairly simple. I groom. I tack. Sometimes I do our massage therapist-recommended stretches. If I'm feeling particularly plucky, I even put his Professional Choice boots on (but I'm not consistent with those babies).

Our post-ride ritual is even worse. I untack. I pick his feet. And I give kisses.

I know there is a whole world out there of BoT and Sore No More and linaments and cold hosing and standing wraps that I really have not been indoctrinated into. I have some friends who have a good show routine going but many people I know are like me - pretty sparse on their day to day care.

So I'm curious. What are your daily rituals? How do you take care of your horse's long term health and soundness? What do you do pre-ride and post-ride, and how do you apply the various treatments that you do (wraps? gels? on the legs? on the back? etc)

I'm also a big fan of "folk remedies". The kind of things old cowboys swear by. As long as they're safe of course. For instance, one of the ladies at the barn fed her horse garlic the other day. Keeps the flies away. And wouldn't you know it, they won't go anywhere near her. But she also stinks!

A Trail Ride for Two

On Sunday, after moping around all morning, I went out to the barn.  I decided that it was a lovely day and Walker and I should just hack.

Fortunately, I decided to start by giving him a quick warm-up in the indoor arena since he had been quite fresh on Saturday night.  At one point at the walk on Saturday, I dropped a stirrup by accident, and in the wriggling I was doing trying to get my foot back in, he interpreted this as "she must want me to canter like a maniac".  Sigh.  Then later in the evening, he had another one of those stupid spooky moments where he freaked out at his own shadow.  His own shadow!  And man, that shadow thing will chase you wherever you go.  It took a while to remind him he had a brain.  I mean, what are they feeding him!?  I can only imagine someone has switched out his Fat and Fibre for the Stupid Spooky Supplement.

Maybe I need a vacation
Anyway, Sunday during our warm-up, we also had a couple arguments.  I was wearing spurs, and he was quite insulted by that.  Our "quick little warm-up" turned into a full 40 minute ride of workin' it, but then we finally got on our trail ride.

We went just the two of us,* and he was a bit spooky.  Luckily, he remembered that he is usually the smartest horse on the planet so when he "spooked", he would just stop until I asked him to go forward again.  I wanted to go into the woods to where this nice little field was.

Unfortunately, the woods part has a pretty steep hill.  On the way back, he kept wanting to trot down it, and I kept wanting him to walk since I could just imagine the King of the Forehand toppling down the hill head first.  Anyway, he decided that my plan was a stupid one and took off at a canter.

There comes a point in every trail rider's life where they think: should I do a one-rein stop on this steep hill and narrow path that will probably result in us either slamming into a tree or rolling down this hill sideways, or should I simply let my non-jumping horse continue cantering downhill towards that big log in our way even though he can barely manage a crossrail?  I went with number two.  We survived the jump, and then Walker thought, "Hey.  I'm in control" and kept cantering down the path while low-lying branches whipped me in the face.  So I did a one-rein stop into a tree.

The rest of the trail ride was quite nice.

*Disclaimer: I know that it is unsafe to go on a trail ride alone.  I'm not a big fan of "rules".  Don't do this at home, kids!  For reasons enumerated in this post.

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Thanksgiving Weekend

It's Thanksgiving weekend here in Canada.  Or at least, for some people.  While I initially had a snarky and bitter blog written about why I am missing the holiday, I will give the Cole's notes version instead.  I have to work this weekend, and while I'm able to work from home with my laptop, the nature of the work meant that I really had to get as much done as possible before going home.  I wasn't able to get it done in time, and so I couldn't go home.  And because I couldn't go home, my cousin and his girlfriend couldn't go home either because they needed me to pick them up.  Thanksgiving ruined.  For me and pretty much my entire family since we cut the party in half.

While I'm sure some of you want to say, "This is the plight of the working gal", I have a few other choice words for it.  Let's just say that under other circumstances, it would be fine.  I am no stranger to working late or on the weekends, but it is just one of many in a long string of abuses.  I feel a showdown in my future.

Anyway, I managed to make it out to the barn Friday night to check Walker's leg.  Luckily he is no longer lame, and the swelling has gone down.

Saturday, after working in my pajamas on the couch, I drug my lazy butt out to the barn.  I originally intended to give Walker the weekend off since I intended to be at my parent's home.  But when it started to look more and more like I wasn't going to make it, I figured I might as well two-point it up.

I ended up getting 3:07 this week, but I was hurting very quickly after about a minute and a half. I must have been on uppers earlier in the week when I was two-pointing around with no problems *choosing* to take the lowest of my three times for my baseline. The pain! The only reason I made it to three minutes is because I'm crazy competitive and was determined to improve - even though Walker decided to take those three minutes and try to scrape me against a wall. He can do a lot of damage in three minutes!

There should be some special award for people whose horses take advantage of them during the two-point challenge.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013


I'm having a particularly hard time with scheduling lately. I'm averaging maybe 3-4 days a week instead of my usual 5-6. 

Thursdays no one can ride because the arena is rented out. Mondays I'm used to giving Walker off, and I can't seem to get it out of my head. Wednesdays I try to ride him after my lesson but that's always a hit and a miss depending on how tired I am. The rest of the week is subject to life getting in the way.

And lately I'm just exhausted. All. The. Time.

I really need to get myself going in a groove again. 

Tonight I unfortunately had to stay late for work and missed my lesson.  This is especially upsetting because I have to miss the last two week's lessons in October too.  However, it turned out to be a blessing in disguise.  If I had went to my lesson, I probably would have skipped riding Walker because I had been feeling a little under the weather earlier in the day.  If I had skipped riding, I never would have taken him out of his stall and found out he was lame.

Yep.  Turns out he's lame in his left front.  I'm a little concerned because it seems like it's his knee area.  He doesn't want to bend it.  What's weird is that he was clearly kicked in his right front.  It was cut and swollen, so I had to bring the swelling down.  I would have assumed he would be lame in the right front from the kick, but it is clearly the left.  I put some stuff on the cut tonight, gave him some bute, and told the barn manager to leave him inside tomorrow.  Tomorrow if he's still lame I'll probably call the vet just to make sure everything is well.  I've never had lameness issues with him before where it was clearly a leg issue and not a foot issue.  Hopefully it's nothing to be concerned about.

In other news, I managed to give my horse bute all on my own - ghetto style.  I successfully gave him 12 cc's orally, 3 cc's ended up all over his face, and then I convinced him to lick the other 5 cc's off my hand like a dog.  It was gross but it worked!

Walker's girlfriend
Walker's girlfriend after he put her in her place

Monday, 7 October 2013

Two-Point October - Baseline and Observation

So L and Hillary's Two-Point October got off to a rough start (PS: If you aren't doing it and want to torture yourself, these are the ladies to talk to!).

I had planned to ride in the new saddle on Friday to check it out, go to the barn Saturday to time my baseline, and then start actually improving this week.  You know what they say about the best laid plans!

Well, on Friday my boss told me that I had to come to work on Sunday, and then I discovered in my agenda that I had an appointment Saturday afternoon.  "That's ok," I said to myself.  "I will wake up ridiculously early and go to the barn on Saturday morning to time my baseline."

Little did I know that there were lessons on Saturday mornings at my barn.  Well, I knew, but I thought there were just one set of lessons.  Nope.  There are two.  As in, there are lessons that go on in the outdoor and lessons that go on in the indoor.  This just goes to show how many mornings I am actually at the barn since Walker and I have been here since May.

I made it out to the barn today though and got the following baseline:

I know.  I don't believe it either.

In fact, my first baseline was 4:15 (!).  I actually did this stupid thing three times to get an accurate baseline.  First time was 4:15, second was 3:30 something, and then I got this.  

The first time Walker and I got into a mini argument mid-two point and my leg kept slipping back.  I think there is a lot to be said on quality of two-point vs time you can hold it.  For instance, I did this at all three gaits (mostly because Walker was like "what the hell is she doing - let's canter now") and noticed that my ability to two-point (and the quality of it) really changed at different gaits.  

I had the calf muscles to "hold" it but not the calf muscles to hold it pretty, if you know what I mean.  If there had been actual jumps, I probably would have fell down back into the saddle (and I did fall down several times when Clumsy McClumsy tripped and sent me half flying down his freakish long QH neck - but that's another story).  

So I think I'm going to use the shortest time because that was the time where I really focused on getting a good quality two-point instead of just holding on for the ride.

This should be a very interesting month!

PS: Everyone go check out Lauren's great contest!

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Winter Fashion

It's that time of year again. When you drag out your Winter blankets and discover that you don't have any Winter blankets. That the blanket you only used once has no fill and is just a simple shell. Gah!

So now I'm blanket shopping. I think the shell will work as a good fall blanket but I would like le petit prince to have a nice midweight too.

And of course once I've found something warm enough and in my price range, the most important feature is colour and pattern! Why must they make so many blankets in such drab colours? Even at the barn, some people were telling me that he would just get filthy anyway so who cares if it's pretty.

I care. That's who.

I want Walker to have every reason possible to strut his stuff with the mares.

Right now I'm leaning towards a Weatherbeeta, in particular, the following blanket:

Blue is our colour, after all.

Also, does anyone know how the Weatherbeetas fit?  I have heard that they run big.  Walker measures a 77 so I was going to get a 78 like I usually do, but they measure in three inch increments.  I'm starting to think that a 75 fits a horse between 75-78 inches and that a 78 would be too big.  Anyone have any experiences?

Friday, 4 October 2013

Saddle #3

Saddle #3 arrived this week.  It is a Bates Caprilli Dressage.  I'm actually glad that it is on the same system as the Collegiate exchangeable gullet because the gullet I got for the Collegiate seems to be the perfect fit for Walker.

I felt pretty good about the Bates actually.  It didn't seem to need a wedge to make it balanced, and the knee blocks and seat were nice and cushy.  I mean, really, in order of precedence, this is what I look for in a saddle:

1. fits pony
2. cushy for my tushy

That is the extent of my thought process.  However, more trained eyes than mine told me that it actually looked like it fit Walker and I nicely, so I will ride in it a couple more times this weekend  to see which I like better.  I can say for certain that it does not have the same buckle problem around the thighs as the Collegiate.

I also felt a little better about the flaps, but mostly because I talked to S who convinced me that the flaps fit my legs nicely.  I'm just not used to keeping my leg in that position.  On the one hand, I am.  It is almost the exact same position as riding Western, but she agrees with me that there is something so much more natural about a Western saddle.  When I ride Western I don't notice the long leg; it just feels right.  When I ride in the dressage saddle, I feel like I need to actually use all those muscles I've been ignoring for the last two years.  What a drag!

Other than that, I practiced the mini-dressage test with Walker that I did with Rory on Wednesday.  I say "mini" dressage test because I forgot the test halfway through and kind of improvised.  Our 20 metre circles weren't too bad at the trot, although they could use some work, and our canter circles could definitely use some work.  Otherwise, I was content that he seemed relatively willing.

I ignore the part where he did a lot of it in a "fast" jog.  Circles are hard!

Stirrupless Wednesday

Arrived at the barn Wednesday for my lesson to discover that L had ripped the stirrups off all the saddles. Ruh roh!

I rode Rory for the first time, who is a nice little pony, but needless to say I'm feeling the burn.

Apparently L (who manages another lesson program at another barn) takes the stirrups off all the saddles at her barn in November and doesn't put them back on until March. And you thought No Stirrup November was hard! For herself, she doesn't even have stirrups on her dressage saddle and always flats her horse stirrupless. All. Year. Long. She is my new hero.

Anyway, she turned the lesson into "Dressage Day". Actually we were going to pull Walker out but wouldn't you know it - I left my saddle at home! :(

We worked on the 20 metre circle, and I did my first real big girl dressage test. I also did my first real stirrupless posting which wasn't as hard on a horse with more bounce (Walker is too smooth...and lacks impulsion).

We also discussed my back. It turns out L has a curve in her spine too. She says that I drop my left shoulder going to the left on a circle and become less balanced. She explained that because of the curve in the spine, I have less mobility in my right shoulder so I can't drop it as easily. Ergo, shoulder stays up and circles are balanced. But to the left, I have more mobility and just collapse. This was fascinating to me because while I knew I was a leaner, I never realized it was just in one direction. Voodoo magic!

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Off Tuesday

On Tuesday, Walker and I had an off ride.  He was off and I was off.

On my part, I was having issues with the Collegiate.  I am satisfied that I am sitting in the deepest part of the saddle and think that the picture I posted simply showed a bad angle, but for whatever reason, on Tuesday I was having issues with other parts of the saddle.  I wasn't 100% convinced that it fit him as well as I thought it did on the weekend, and I was wondering if my stirrups were long enough.  I think it was just one of those nights where I was obsessing.  Thankfully, the tack shop I ordered it from has graciously allowed me to keep it longer than a week to try, and I ordered another one to compare it to.

As for Walker, I can say that for the first time in the year and a half that I've owned him, he was stupid spooky.

stupid spooky ('stu:pid 'spu:ki) adj the act of being spooky for no apparent reason at things you are not afraid of in the least.

Not to be confused with legitimately spooky:

legit spooky ('legit 'spu:ki) adj the act of being spooky because there really is something worth being afraid of.

He freaked out on several occasions.   He became irrationally weary of the immobile tractor, and twice when we were just sitting in the middle of the ring, he spooked when a horse cantered behind us.  I mean, really?  That's not like Walker at all.

Besides that, he was also really lazy.  Like really lazy.  There was no way I could get him to move out.  I don't know if he was just exhausted from his romp outside that day or if there was something else going on.  He did have a few potential wasp stings on his leg, which I thought were just bug bites at first until one of the other horses from his pasture ended up covered in hives.  Who knows.  But it was the weirdest ride we've had in a very long time.