Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Let him freeze!

Remember when I worried princess might get cold in the transition from the Winter shell I have for him and the Winter blanket?

Remember when I spent the last of my Christmas bonus to buy him a new liner to keep him nice and cozy?


Since I only put it on him Christmas Eve, and I know for a fact that he didn't get outside until Friday because of the power, I can easily narrow it down to how long it took him to destroy it:

Less than a day outside with the other horses.  

They somehow managed to rip the liner off him without taking off his Winter blanket (impressive, really), and destroy it past the point of salvageable.

I found it buried under 30 cm of freshly laid snow.

He can freeze for all I care!

Friday, 27 December 2013

2013 in Review

Everyone else is doing their year in review so I decided to do one too.  Brace yourself, folks.  Time to relive the roller coaster.


I began to take real live jumping lessons on my real live non-jumping horse.  We also participated in a Western Pleasure clinic, which was more Walker's style.  Of course, he reared with the clinician on him.  Never say he doesn't put on a show.


I continued to dabble in jumping.  I asked Walker to jump a two foot vertical.  He obliged, then promptly said "never again".  This would ironically end up being the case.  

I left for Italy.


I return from my trip to Italy.  Walker and I celebrate our one year anniversary.  All hell breaks loose.

Walker gets sick with the cold.  Then he swells up to the size of a balloon and becomes anemic.  


Walker is sick.  I am sad.  I go to the barn two times a day to administer meds.  He ends up having to go to the vet clinic for two weeks.  


Walker is out of the vet clinic and on the mend, despite having lost a scary amount of weight.  We move to our new home.  He becomes a jerk about oral medicine because we shoved it down his throat for weeks on end.  He vows never to trust another human around his mouth ever again.

He then goes lame.  We find out that he has mild navicular changes and that I should probably never jump him again.  Walker is thrilled with this last part.


Walker is sound-ish again.  I put him back to work.  His first time on the end of the lunge line, he decides to roll with my saddle on.  I suppose I'd have to crack my back too if I had been cooped up for four months.

I also begin discussions with the vet and farrier to fix my horse's feet.  It isn't going well at this point.


Walker is still on and off lame and generally uncomfortable.  I make the mistake of siding with the vet over the farrier and will revisit this decision months later.  Walker also starts getting regular massages.  And he's getting fatter.

I debate switching barns but decide against it in the end.


I still can't get over my mother's impeccable timing at catching
Walker in this state of pure disdain.
Walker fools me with some good days.  We start to get back to work.  He doth protest.


I decide we're going to do dressage.  So I buy a dressage saddle.


Two point-ober.  Walker is lame for a good portion of it.  And I am gone for the other half of it.  I still somehow manage to get five minutes.  

Although Walker is still getting beat up in the field, he finds himself a new girlfriend.


No Stirrup November.  I revisit my farrier's suggestion to put elevated pads on the baby.  Instant comfort, or at least seems to be.  Walker starts to feel rejuvenated by the cool Winter air.  I have a lot of bad rides, but hey, I'm riding.


Suddenly my work life explodes as does the weather.  I am rarely able to get to the barn.  Walker goes on another unplanned vacation, but at least he's sound for this one.  You know, other than running like a maniac through the snow and giving himself an ouchie.  But we don't count those anymore.

Apparently 2014 is the year of the horse.  Let's hope that's true, folks.

Thursday, 26 December 2013

Mother Nature's Final Play

These are the trees after some of it melted
In a last ditch effort to put the cherry on top of a horrible year, Mother Nature has brought in so much freezing rain, that the whole town in which my barn is located has no power.  And the power company doesn't expect to get power out there until the end of the week.  Which means that thousands of people spent Christmas in the dark.

Including my horse.

Which of course means no water.

The barn manager spent the first two days of the power outage lugging buckets back and forth from a river down the road.  I thought this was very Laura Ingalls Wilder of her, but apparently, it is quite the procedure.

The river is over a drop, so they throw a giant barrel over with a rope, which then fills up, and it takes two of them to pull it back over the side.  They put it in the back of the tractor, and fill a bunch of other barrels the same way.  Apparently they have to do this 3-4 times a day.

And to make matters worse, I wasn't around to help, which makes me feel really really really bad.  I already feel like I don't fit in much at the barn, which can usually be remedied at any barn with some good old fashioned free manual labour, but it being Christmas, I went home to visit family.

Anyway, after about two days of that, the barn owner went out and got a generator.  Now all the horses have their automatic water back, but nothing else.  Apparently they have to keep all the horses inside because the only thing keeping the pipes from freezing is the body heat of 25 horses.

So Walker is living like Dracula in the pitch black barn.

At least Santa found him.  I hope he found all of you too!

Monday, 23 December 2013

Walker's Vacation After his Vacation

I write the bar on January 11th, and despite constant encouragement from the Law Society that we should start studying for it like six months ahead of time, few of us did, of course.  Ain't nobody got time for that.

That means that I'm entering a 2-3 week hibernation where I somehow have to manage to read like 75 200-page statutes and make sense of it all in time to sit down for an eight-hour exam.  

Oh joy.

So now I'm in the process of filling out my three week schedule to try and figure out how I'm going to find the time for all of this.  Luckily, my firm has given me two weeks off to study and I took a couple days around Christmas to make it three.  Of course, Christmas is going to eat up almost a week of those three weeks, so I'm really just back to two.

Starting to fill in my weeks.
The x's are days I am unable to study :S

The point of this digression is to say that Walker might be getting himself a little extended vacation, which is ironic since he just had an extended vacation, following closely on the heels of his on and off again lameness vacation, which followed on the heels of his six months sick vacation.

Horse mom of the year award.

I will still be working him as much as possible but it might be more lunging than actual riding.  I'll have to see how everything goes.  Right now, she ain't lookin' good.

Bring on 2014!

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Winter Shoes

Walker turned up lame again.  I'm not overly concerned about it because with all the snow we have gotten, I have no doubt that he probably frolicked a little too hard, if you know what I mean.

However, it got me to thinking about his shoes.  Normally I pull his shoes in the Winter and give his feet a breather.  Now that he is wearing the elevated pads, I guess I'm going to have to leave shoes on.  I'm nervous that the clumsiest horse on the planet is going to slip on the ice and hurt himself or that this lameness bout is going to be recurring.

Does anyone keep shoes on their horses in the Winter?  Someone who lives in a place that actually gets a Winter...

I know that some people put cork shoes on, but I'm just curious.  I called my farrier and left him a message about it, since Walker is due to get the toes trimmed anyway.  I'll be curious to hear what he suggests.

I'm also nervous because we just got a bunch of freezing rain and everything is a sheet of ice.  Literally.  Nothing is more fun than scraping two inches of ice off your car.

Saturday, 21 December 2013

A Fairytale

Once upon a time there was a girl with a pony. Not a magic pony or a special pony - although the pony was magic and special to her.

Although the girl was busy studying to be a lawyer, the girl got to see her pony at least 5-6 times a week.

Then the girl got a career and she began to shovel manure of a different kind.

All of a sudden the evil villain known as Real Life stole time away from the girl (time she had to bill for, of course) and the girl could no longer see her magic, special pony.

The girl worked long and hard, no end in sight, while the little pony frolicked and soon forgot about the girl who brought him apples she couldn't afford.

One horrible week, the girl worked until 10 p.m. almost every night.  Real Life, ever cunning, teamed up with Mother Nature to bring in three huge snowstorms that blanketed the ground with treacherous ice and snow, and together, Real Life and Mother Nature made sure that the girl could not see her pony for a week and a half.

The girl was distraught.  In the whole time she had been with the pony, she had never gone this long without seeing him.

Finally, Friday came the second week, and the girl thought, perhaps too hopeful, that there may be an end in sight.  She had three weeks off to study for the bar, but in reality she knew she would rather spend that time with her magic, special pony.

Mother Nature, spiteful and cruel, brought in another storm, freezing rain this time, but the girl would not be deterred.  She holed up in her apartment all night long feigning defeat, and on Saturday, when Mother Nature, satisfied with her sabotage, slunk off to tell Real Life, the girl whipped out of her apartment, into her car, and out to the barn...

...where her magic, special pony awaited, no worse for wear.

The End.

Friday, 13 December 2013

It's the season for... grumblings

The week in review:

1. The Missing Bridle

The lesson kids used Walker's bridle this week for their rider levels. They had to take it apart and put it back together. No one asked me if they could use it, they didn't put it back together correctly, and they didn't return it to Walker's hook. I found it on a lesson horse's hook after freaking out that it was missing.  After all, it's not cheap. No one seemed apologetic. 

2. The lesson

L couldn't make it to the lesson so she had another instructor fill in. The other instructor made me start Walker on the Program even though I never asked to put Walker on the Program, I asked to ride other horses in my lesson, and of course, it's supposed to be a jumping lesson. 45 minutes of groundwork later and 15 minutes on horseback doing only bending at the halt, and I'm a little grumbly. Even if I did want Walker on the Program, I don't like being told what programs I'm going to do with my horse. I think there are great aspects to the Program, some of which I have already decided to incorporate into my ride, but I'm not ready to start him on it yet officially (if I ever do at all). I don't respond well to being told what to do - with my horse, my time, or my money.

3. My back

It turns out that my massage therapist wasn't kidding about my back. She seriously thinks there is some compression there, and now I have to get x-rayed over the holidays. I'm trying to book an appointment with my doctor. I feel like a compressed spine may be a bit of a hindrance to my riding.

4. The Forgotten Blanket

I realized today that in all my excitement to get Walker a nice mid weight Winter blanket that I forgot to buy him something lightweight. Oops. He only has a shell on right now, but I intended to get him something with a little fill before switching to the mid weight. So I ordered him a liner to throw on under the shell. Goodbye, money.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

The Snorting Beast

I was going to videotape the snorting beast on the lunge line the other day so people could see what I mean about him peanut rolling but still moving out nice at the various gaits, and the differences in his speeds.

But then he and I needed to have a serious conversation.

Who needs exercise when you can just chase your mustang in a circle. He was determined to flip me the bird, and during one of his bucking/kicking moments, he managed to half blind me with dirt that landed in my eye.

Then, while our arena mate stepped out of the arena with her horse for a moment, I took advantage of this alone time to canter him in a nice big circle.

And then I let go of the lunge line. Yes. The prize for the stupidest horse mistake of the week goes to Natalie.

I can't even blame him for ripping it out of my hands (which he did once... a long time ago...). I simply had it. And then I didn't.

To make matters worse, I had just been in the process of scolding him for some misbehaviour so he galloped off across the arena away from his tormentor, the lunge line whipping back in the wind.

Then the game became: catch pony before he hurts himself. Of course, I'm trying to chase him without making it look like I'm chasing him so that he doesn't think I'm chasing him forward

Note to self: don't go to the barn tired.

Sunday, 8 December 2013

I think I give up...

Sporting his lightweight blanket
Today I spent an hour trying to get Walker on the bit.  Should I have drilled that for an hour (when I also spent an hour Saturday doing the same thing)?  Probably not.  Sue me.  

In the whole hour, did he go on the bit?  No.  Not once.  Not for a second.  Not at all.

I tried various versions - everything from gently and carefully asking him to go forward into the bridle to scaring the living daylights out of him so that he shot forward like a rocket.  No dice.


  1. He despises contact.  Is this my fault?  Quite possibly.  Contact is not my forte.  But he's also not used to it, although at this point, he should be since I've been trying to ride him with contact for a while
  2. He has always been a horse that goes behind the bit.  Even when I rode him WP, if I took up any amount of contact, he was always one to go behind the bit, especially at the canter.  It is a default position for him.  
  3. The "frame mentality".  So many people are obsessed with putting their horses in a frame.  I don't know what his previous owners were like, but I was definitely being taught to ride him front to back originally (by some people - not all).  Although I put an end to that, I still find that it's difficult to find people who understand what I'm looking for.  When I have people watch me and I ask, "Is he on the bit?", their response is usually, "Well, he's in a frame."  Thank you.  Not the same thing.
  4. He is a peanut roller.  He is perfectly content to walk/trot/canter all with his head to the ground, even out in the pasture.  In fact, when he is on the lunge line, this is usually when he looks the best and is using himself the best (presumably from the lovely stretch he's giving himself).  However, even on a lunge line, the minute his head comes up, you can see his whole topline collapse.  Add a rider and you can imagine the result.   
  5. He lacks impulsion.  He'll go forward, but he just often doesn't have that surge of energy.  He is, and always will be, a Sunday drive as opposed to Formula One.
So I'm frustrated and depressed.  I was also very hard on him today.  I regret that now.  I regretted it even then.

What's worse is that I know he can.  One beautiful day, Walker and I rode outside and he was a holy terror.  He had so much energy, and he was bound and determined that he was going to escape from the unfenced arena.  Clearly having a death wish, I decided to canter.  He surged into the bridle (with all the force and determination of a tiger), and I have never had quite as beautiful a ride in my entire life on any horse as those ten seconds.

Then he bolted out of the arena. The little jeezer.

Friday, 6 December 2013

Lesson Review

On Wednesday, I rode Murphy.  There was a bit of confusion over whether Murphy was allowed to jump since the BO says yes and the BM says no.  L decided to go with yes, since it's the BO who deals with Murphy's owner, but we kept the jumps to cross rails.  I assume that's the reason I didn't get to jump verticals this week when the other girls did, but it could also simply be that I was riding like a drunk driver.

Murphy is wiggly, for lack of a better word.  And of course, my exaggerated crest release and long reins don't add to the situation.  Or so L tells me.

One time we actually had a run out.  Complete rider error.  Murphy didn't try to run out.  He was just so squiggly going into the jump that before my brain had a chance to decide how to correct it, my leg decided to save us and push him around the jump.

Oh, yeah, and Murphy's only English saddle is a dressage saddle.  The theme of the night seemed to be: let's put the beginner jumper on a horse who may or may not be allowed to jump, in a dressage saddle, and just see how it goes.  Oh well, I'm adaptable.

line, rollback, line, diagonal, line
After the lesson, I hopped on Walker and gave him a spin.  Nothing too exciting - a little work on the bit, a couple turns around the arena, some halt/reverse/canter transitions.  He was a good boy.

After two rides in a row, my back was killing me.  Lately, I've been having serious lower back problems which are worse than my normal back problems.  It's not the usual stabbing kind of pain that I get in my upper back, but more like I had little to no control over my lower body.  My massage therapist tells me it's almost like my spine is being compressed by all the pressure on it from the riding, which I feel is more of a dramatic explanation than a medical one, but it's probably something to keep an eye on.

Tonight I'm being lazy and giving Walker the day off even though he got the day off yesterday.  Sometimes on a Friday night, a girl just needs a drink and chick flick.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

A Bit By Any Other Name

So my barn owner got stuck on the barn's roof on Sunday, and just by a stroke of fate, I showed up at the barn in time to save him.  He was cleaning snow off the roof when the ladder fell.  Just another day in Canada.

I also owe a kid a hot chocolate.  Walker thought hot chocolate was for ponies.  Either that or he was spiteful.  Since he always went on a rampage at the end of the lunge line while this same kid was lunging her horse, I doubt that we are destined to be fast friends.

I didn't make it to the barn on Monday because I had to work late, but I'm pretty happy with my ride tonight.  Walker has really been making a conscientious/begrudging effort to go on the bit lately - like for 10 seconds instead of 5, and more often than just twice a ride.  I'm tickled.

But this has led me to believe I need a new bit.  It's one thing to chew and lick at the bit.  It's a whole other thing to chomp the hell out of it for the whole 10 seconds you're on it.  I'm afraid he's going to break his teeth.

He might just need a flash or something to encourage him to close his mouth, but I am not a fan of those.  I have a hunch that the single jointed mouthpiece on his d-ring just has too much of a nutcracker effect for his liking - even though sometimes I'm putting him on the bit on a loose rein (I don't know if that matters).

I bought this big book of bits which I'm hoping will have some ideas.  I'm currently leaning to something like a french link, but I haven't read it in any detail yet.  I feel like if he's going to start cooperating with my whole "get on the bit" focus, I should probably try and make it a relatively pleasant experience for him.