Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Walker's new bestie

I haven't had much of a chance to post recently but I thought I would let everyone know about Walker's new best friend.

In the great hullabaloo of my instructors barn shutting down, my instructor needed a place for her retiree. There happened to be a spot at Walker's barn so she ended up moving him there.

Enter Kobi. The 25 year old ex-eventing OTTB with one eye.


Slightly creepy but you get used to it.

Walker was completely intrigued from day one.  Of course, he didn't want to wait for the new horse to acclimatize. He insisted on being best friends immediately. 


He actually went to great lengths to get to Kobi on the other side of the fence. I wish I had caught all of it on camera. He was trying to rip Kobi's blanket off and everything. So we only waited one day to put them together.

Walker thinks that Kobi is great. Despite being older, he has a ton of energy and can gallop circles around my little slow quarter horse. But Walker still wants to be the boss of course and Kobi still lets him. It also works great for Kayden because now Walker doesn't insist that he play with him. Which is fine for the poor old guy.

It has been awhile since Walker has had a friend he loves so much. The two of them are as thick as thieves. 

Every pony should be so lucky to have such a friend (or minion, depending on how you see it)

Semi-wordless

My barn owner found Walker lying sprawled out in the field a week or two ago.

He wasn't eating grass.

Her first reaction?  He must be dead.

"Oh hey!"
Not dead.
This pretty much says all you need to know about my horse.  And my barn owner really.

Dear Santa

Walker and my cat Chester wrote their Christmas letters to Santa this weekend.  I think most of all, they would each be very excited with treats.  They are a food oriented lot.

Don't judge me.  You know your horse has a wish list too!
On Black Friday, I got some great deals for Walker.  Greenhawk was having a 15% off sale so I popped by to pick up his supplements in bulk.  I've been buying the 1kg package, but I was able to order a 5kg.  It's already cheaper to buy it in bulk and the sale applied as well.  

I also grabbed Walker a stable blanket which was on clearance in his size for $60.  I now feel much more content about our Winter options.  We can combine a few blankets and he'll be plenty toasty.

All in all, I saved about $90 at the sale which makes me one very happy shopper.

The cat is a realist.
And I now have a PO Box in Maine.  Oh, Smartpak.  You thought you could avoid shipping to Canada.  Little did you know that we Canadians will go to great lengths for good deals!

Getting a PO Box was probably the worst thing to happen to my bank account in a long time.  The options are endless now!

Sigh

Just when I thought things couldn't get worse...

They got worse.

I thought that I would have until probably the Spring to decide on whether or not I was going to follow my instructor to wherever she was going to go, but she just texted me the other day and told me that she is starting lessons at the new barn immediately.  She said that there will still be some horses at the current barn, but if I wanted to ensure a proper horse for me, it would probably be better if I went to the new place.  And everyone in my lesson is gone too...

Oh, and the new place isn't 40 minutes away, it's an hour away.

And lessons are going to be more expensive.

So now my lessons are ending earlier, getting more expensive, and moving somewhere ever farther away then I originally thought.

Fantastic.


I feel especially bad for the boarders, and my new friend who just barely bought a new horse.  She told me that if she had thought that the barn was going to close, she never would have bought this horse.  

I do have a few options, but none of them are really desirable.  My instructor can offer me lessons until the end of the month at the current barn, as I already mentioned, or else I can go to the barn that is an hour away whenever I want for the increased price.  Lessons would be on Sundays, which as far as I can tell would pretty much be the entire afternoon by the time you drove and tacked and lessoned.  I might try it every so often but I work on Sundays sometimes and I'm not always around on the weekends.  I can't commit to every Sunday.

Another option, which really intrigues me, is riding her retired eventer Koby.  Koby just moved to Walker's barn as a retirement home.  He is a 25 year old OTTB who has one eye, but he is apparently still rideable.  He seems like a handful (since this guy was her big time eventer once).  Also, until I met Koby, I have actually never met an OTTB in person, believe it or not.  Needless to say, he is a little more full of it than my QH.  Unfortunately, my current barn doesn't have an arena - indoor or outdoor - so our lessons would be in the paddock.  They would also have to be on weekends because it gets dark on weekdays long before I leave the office.  So I have filed the idea in the back of my mind for future consideration.

Unfortunately, this transition period is even more difficult because it's Winter.  All these options are outdoor arenas.  The ground keeps freezing and thawing and then freezing again to ice.  The footing will simply not always be suitable. It's hard to drive long distances in snow storms and the short days limit lesson times.

Winter sucks.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Imbalance for Balance

This past week it rained and snowed and we were unable to ride.  We had a lesson anyway, which can be a nice thing - to be able to focus on our riding without horses.

My instructor had us do a number of exercises in the barn to help us simulate the feelings we should have while riding.

For instance, we practiced walking the catwalk of the barn aisle.  As amusing as this became (especially with our sole male lesson goer full-on strutting), the idea was actually to show us a couple things.  First, it showed us how our horses should be moving - with stretched out limbs, not short choppy strides.  Second, it simulated the feeling we should have in our lower backs and hips - the swinging, figure eight movement that we often force or resist while riding.

Another exercise we did was a contact one.  One person wore the bridle (this was picture-worthy, but alas, I have no proof) with the headstall around our necks and our hands on the bit.  The second person got into riding position behind and drove the first person.  This also went downhill. Think fake horse race down the aisle.

Anyway, the point was also twofold.  The horse had to react to the rider - slow down if contact got too heavy and speed up if contact got too light, or of course, turn if it was uneven.  This was difficult as the horse and frustrating as the rider because it really showed our unevenness.  The horse was also blind since we weren't facing the rider.

About the point I insisted on cantering my fake horse down the aisle, my instructor took over being the horse and me and my partner got to see how bad we really were for contact.  I learned that I am way too heavy in the hands (which I already knew).  She kept backing up into me before we ever got started, and I realized that I am probably about 10x too heavy.

Of course, we are all uneven too.  And I learned that in order to fix those imbalances, we had to be imbalanced.  This last point really threw us all for a loop but it made more sense when she showed us.

For instance, I am stiffer and less fluid in my left hand, so she made me pick up a noticeably stronger contact with my right.  To me, it didn't feel balanced at all, but as the horse, she felt more comfortable.

Similarly, when we practiced standing on the ground in riding position, she had me almost bend more to the right.  My right knee blocked out my right toe, but I could still see my left toe.  She said that it might feel like I was bending to the right, but from face on, I was actually more straight in the lower legs.  In other words, when I'm riding, my left side is more stiff and to compensate, I need to put more weight into the right.

For me, I think the most useful portion was the contact part.  I knew that I was heavy, but I didn't realize that I was that heavy.  Especially considering that I was less heavy in our fake situation than I normally am when I ride.  It left a lot to think about.

Wordless

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Battle of the Disciplines

I believe that there is not enough appreciation among horse people for each other's disciplines.

At this point, I feel like I have had exposure to quite a lot of them.  I have ridden Western Pleasure with Walker.  I have ridden with both a Hunter and an Eventer trainer, the latter of whom also focused a lot on Dressage.  One previous instructor of mine was a Reiner and another was a Cow Penner.  I have a friend that barrel races.  I have ridden her racer, watched her shows, and talked for long hours about the discipline.

Baby, I have seen it all.

And guess what?  You are all right.

Velvety noses: the equestrian symbol of love

The entire time I have been riding - both when I rode as a kid and when I started again as an adult - there was a serious hate-on between barns, between instructors, between disciplines.  I'm not just talking English vs Western here.  No.  There's a lot of Western Pleasure vs Barrel Racing, Eventers vs Hunters, etc etc etc.

My friend is currently in a bad situation where she moved her barrel racer to a WP barn.  She is excited to learn some WP training techniques because she thinks they will be beneficial for her new four year old.  That being said, she's a barrel racer and has no intentions of showing WP any time soon.

There is an instructor at her barn who is all over her.  And I mean, crazy all over her.  She pretty much told her the other day that everything she did was wrong, she was going to ruin her horse, and she would be better off not riding.

Yeah.  I kid you not.  Needless to say, my friend is no longer interested in learning anything about WP.

And sadly enough, this is not uncommon for me.  Many of the barns in my area have a full on hate for eachother.  They think the others are nuts, and since I have ridden or had exposure with quite a few of them, I am perpetually told how lucky I am to have escaped from my last barn/instructor/discipline.

As I have mentioned time and time again, I am really enjoying my current lessons, especially the lunge lessons.  They have really showed me what it will take to ride Dressage/Eventing and the way my body needs to move to do it.

It makes perfect sense.  And you know what else?  I'll be damned if I do that on Walker.

That just won't work for him.  End of story.  No more discussion.  He wasn't trained that way.  He doesn't move that way.  He shouldn't have to.  Maybe some horses could make that change, but he's not one of them.

And furthermore, the way I ride Walker is not wrong.  When he's on - when we're on - he moves beautifully.  He can collect.  He can use his body just as nicely as the horses do in my English class, and we accomplish those goals in a completely different way.  And he looks different for it.

Similarly, my friend has time and again explained to me the grueling training that she does for barrel racing. No.  She doesn't just hop on her horse like some yahoo and take off at dangerous speeds around barrels, health and safety be damned.  She works hard.  She trains her horse just like anyone else.

The things I learn from my Eventing instructor make perfect sense.  They make perfect sense for Eventing.  But the things I have learned from my other trainers make perfect sense for those disciplines too.  There is not one right way or wrong way to do things.

Seriously, folks.  The outside world thinks we're crazy enough.  We should really be having eachother's backs.
Just a WP QH and a old pro Dressage Queen hanging out together.
Take a page from their books, kids.  We can all get along.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Born Under an Unlucky Star

I have believed for awhile now that there are cosmic forces at play which do their best to make sure I can not have, ride, or enjoy horses.

But now Walker is going to make a full(-ish) recovery and lessons have been going fantastic.  In fact, I feel like I've learned more about position and the correct use of my body in the last month of lessons than I ever have .

However, one thing I have decided is that Walker's English days are done.  All that I'm learning from my current lessons are counter intuitive to the way I need to ride Walker.  He just won't have any of it, and that's perfectly acceptable.  He enjoys Western, and I think that together we are going to try some new ventures - not just WP, but maybe some trail, and he's going to do therapeutic riding.  Besides the fact that although he is improving, I still don't believe that he will ever be able to show too competitively without risking his soundness.

This is fine though because of my current lesson program.  My instructor is great.  She is cheap.  She gives me opportunities galore.  They are a barn family in no way I have ever seen it before, and they were welcoming me into their family before I even rode there.  They go to clinics together, shows together, and they hang out together on the weekends.

And now the barn is closing.


Yep.  The barn owner has decided he is going to shut it down come next November.  But given that Winter is a horrible time of year and they would like to show next year, my instructor is on the mad hunt for a new facility now that will accomodate all of her lesson horses and all of the boarders who want to stay in the family.

I mean, no big deal, right.  She just has to find a completely empty barn in Atlantic Canada for about 15+ horses.

Anyway, surprisingly enough, she found two barns, one which is big enough for all the boarders and one where she can put her lesson horses.  Both barns are about 40 minutes away.

What does this mean for me?  It essentially means my lessons are done.  They have decided to move any day now.  Within the next few months hopefully, but you never know.

Riding at the new barn would mean two things.  One, that I would no longer be riding with the people I ride with because almost every single one of them have their own horse.  They would be at the boarder barn.  That means I would ride with the children.  And when I say children, I mean kids under the age of 12.

Two, riding lessons on a weekday would be out of the question.  I realize that a lot of you travel that distance, if not more to the barn, but I would never make it.  I work late almost every day and I find it a hassle as it is to get to the barn that is 10 minutes away.  Riding lessons on the weekend would be possible but infrequent at best.  I'm simply not around every weekend.  Sometimes I'm working, sometimes I'm travelling, sometimes I'm just playing catch-up on the week.  And that is the time I always use to go visit my horse.

My instructor has offered to teach me lessons on Walker, but of course he can't be jumped and I'm fairly adamant that I'm going to let him be a Western horse for multiple reasons which range from his unsuitability for English to his soundness (and my desire to keep him that way).

So that, as they say, is that.

I will try my best to join her lesson program at the new barn, but I am not too optimistic.  My other options for lessons are also relatively undesirable (non-English barns or else barns that are too far away or else instructors who need me to have my own horse who can do those things).  So I guess I better enjoy the time I have, which isn't much.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Lesson Recap: My body doesn't move like that

Last week, we got to jump, which was the first time I've jumped in almost all year!  Which I really just realized as I was trying to hold some sort of semblance of two point over crossrails.

We started out with just poles, went up to crossrails, and after knocking them down and looking like a lunatic, we went back down to poles until we could be trusted to keep our heads on straight and go back up to crossrails.

Mostly I think I was just thinking too hard, trying not only to get my two point, but to do my two point properly - the way we've been working on with our leg position.

It was good to jump again though, even if I did it in the dark on the back of a 16-year old Canadian whose stomach was maybe the size of a round bale.


This week we did another lunge lesson, and although it is nice to jump, I am finding the lunge lessons amazing.  I'm learning so much about my body position not just in the saddle, but outside.

For instance, my instructor mentioned that I seem to twist my left leg out making my left side less strong and causing a shooting pain in my hip when I sit correctly.  But of course this makes perfect sense because I actually walk with my left leg twisted out.

This week I had a serious revelation about the length of my stirrups, which have pretty much been wrong for two and a half years.  I've always been fine with the length in a Western saddle, but when I was taught the proper length of the stirrups for an English saddle (ankle height or above ankle, depending), I was lifting my legs up a bit to find where my ankles should be.

Which means that this whole time, my stirrups have been too short because I wasn't properly letting my legs fall down long.  Talk about a world of difference when I was actually able to stretch my leg to the proper position.  Mind.  Blown.


I am starting to get a little nervous about Winter though.  For one thing, I almost froze to death on Monday.  I was clearly unprepared for the weather.  It was that kind of cold where you just want to lay down in a snow pile and die - you know, not to be dramatic.  Anyway, it is dark all night now and soon the ground will freeze.  There's no indoor arena and I don't know what our options are going to be.  Hopefully she has something planned.  

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Miracles Abound

The vet came out on Wednesday to take follow-up x-rays of Walker's right front foot.

And she was overwhelmed by the change in him.

His toe length has improved, his sole thickness, and his feet in general.  After she examined the x-rays, she told me that a large portion of the coffin bone has actually regenerated.  We always knew that a little bit of it would, but apparently the results are outstanding.

So outstanding, in fact, that her prognosis has completely changed.

Three months ago, she told me that I would be lucky to get light work out of Walker for the rest of his life if I intended to keep him sound.

This time around, she tells me that she thinks I may be able to put him back into full work come Spring.  Full work!  I didn't even think that was going to be an option!

Just to be sure, we are going to give him the Winter off as planned and re-x-ray him again in the Spring.  If his feet still look good, we are going to come up with a fitness schedule and bring him back into shape.

Needless to say I'm very very happy with these results.  And so thankful that I decided to move him when I did.  At our last barn, he managed to deteriorate in under 6 months, and at our current barn, we were able to undo all that damage in about 2 months.  If I wasn't before, I am now a firm believer that environment can mean the world of difference for a horse's health.


The vet's only complaint: Walker has put on about 50 lbs.  Haha.  He is now on a diet.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Walker and the Electric Fence

In one of Walker's pastures there is a shed.  The shed is next to the barn which is attached to a cellar.

To keep the horses away from the shed, the barn, and the cellar, my barn owner has put up an electric fence.

The electric fence runs from the wooden fence, around the shed, around the cellar, along the edge of the barn and back to the wooden fence.

The space between the electric fence and the shed/cellar/barn is about 3 feet, maybe 4 in some places.

The electric fence itself is about 3 to 3.5 feet tall.

One day, my barn owner came home and saw Walker standing very still.  The closer she got, she realized that he was standing between the electric fence and the barn.

She scrambled to turn off the electric fence, searched my horse for the telltale marks of a struggle with electricity, and then followed the electric line to find where he had mangled the fence and brought it down.

But he hadn't.

The electric fence was completely in tact.

Because of the small space between the fence and the barn/cellar/shed, he could not have leaped the fence.  Plus, let's be honest, there is no way he could leap 3 feet anyway.

My only guess (other than magic or a canny newfound ability to take down and reassemble a fenceline) is that he rolled under the fence.

Picture this for a second.  There is barely enough room between the electric fence and the shed, but he is damned if he is going to be told that he can't be over there.  He would literally have had to drop to his knees, clutch his legs to his chest tight so as not to kick the low hanging wire and roll like an army soldier under this fence so as not to get electrocuted.

My horse is a ninja.


But honestly, to this day, we have no idea how he did it.

Friday, 17 October 2014

Lesson Recap: A Dancer or a Rider

Apparently Winter is going to be about pain.

On Monday we focused on our leg position again, and surprise surprise, I have not magically gotten back into shape in only two lessons.

I know.  You are surprised as well.

We had a lunge lesson where two of us shared a horse.  One girl lunged while the other rode, and we did walk/trot and posting at the walk/trot while focusing on this magical elusive position I am incapable of achieving.

We talked a lot about separating our upper body from our lower body.  Later in the barn, my instructor made us all get into our riding positions on the concrete and practice trying to knock each other over.

Yes.  This is what I am paying for, folks.


The goal of the exercise was to maintain the balance in the lower half of the body but be able to go with the flow, as it were, when someone rammed our upper bodies.  As it turns out, no matter how many times you push me in the back, even when I know it's coming, I will fall over.

Finally, we practiced contact.  With a lead rope and a friend.  We each held a looped lead rope and practiced seesawing and moving all over the place at different rhythms and trying to get the other person to lose contact or stop resisting.  What was really interesting was that after we did this with eac hother, we had to do it with our instructor so that we could feel what our contact should feel like.

It was definitely thought provoking.  I kind of wish I had someone who I could do this with regularly.  Like all the cool kids do, I'm sure.

We talked a lot about using our muscles and separating different parts of our body.  Then my instructor said that frankly, what it comes down to, is that in order to be competitive in something physical like riding, you simply need to train your body in that one particular way.  In her words: "You can either be a dancer or a rider.  Not both."

So the moral of the story?  There's still a chance for my ballerina career.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Putting Horse Stuff To Everyday Use

I am ashamed to say that the state of my storage room (or my home tack room, as I like to think of it) has deteriorated a little since moving Walker.  My new barn owners are still trying to get everything settled at the barn so I haven't really moved any of Walker's stuff in.  This means that it currently lives in three places: the trunk of my car, the back seat of my car, and my home tack room.

It may or may not be a little disorganized:


But the other day I was searching for something (and by the other day, I of course mean 3 weeks ago because that's how long this post has been half-written and forgetten) and found this Higher Standards package I ordered way back.


So of course I had to put it to good use!  But since I have nothing horsey left to clean (you can only clean clean tack so many times), I decided to clean some of my high heels.


And I used the Viva Carlos scent to boot!  It was my first time using it and I love it.

Looking Past Freedom

Work has been crazy lately.  We're talking 50-60 hour weeks kind of crazy (and I'm not entirely sure that even catches all the time).  There used to be a time that I went and saw Walker 6 days a week even when he was lame and unrideable.  Now I'm lucky to see him once a week.

This depresses me to no end, most of all because I knew it would happen.  I once said that if I didn't buy a second horse (or lease a second horse, or take 10,000 lessons a week) before I started work as a bona fide lawyer (instead of just the articling clerk), I wouldn't have time afterwards.

Why?  Because lawyering is time consuming, and it's difficult to break away from that unless you already have some sort of routine established.  Articling can be time consuming too, but when I was doing that, I was riding so I had no problem getting to ride, if that makes any sense.

This also means that I just can't keep up with blogs as well as I used to.  Either I have nothing to post or I have no time to read or write one.  I apologize to everyone who keeps getting my comments two weeks after the posts have been up.  I'm still getting to them.  It's just a bit of a time delay.

It also makes me sad because my money situation has not improved.  I am sad to tell you that I'm still not a millionaire and so I can't even devise a way to get more riding in.  Luckily for me, my riding instructor is fantastic and she pretty much just lets me crash random lessons and show up at odd times if I need to.  She is perfectly prepared to let me pay like $20 to just grab a horse on the weekend with some of the girls at her barn and go on a random trail ride.  So at least there's that.

Unfortunately, there is this great opportunity for a clinic coming up at the end of the month but I of course don't have the money and can't guarantee that I have the time.

So whatever balance I used to have, I need to get back.

Some days I kind of feel like this picture of Walker: like someone has left the door open and I'm still looking out the window for my escape route.

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Return

I have returned to horseback riding lessons.

And actually, my trainer beat me to it.  She asked me to return, which was pretty flattering.  She wanted some more "advanced" riders to work with so she could update her instructor certification.  While I laughed and reminded her that I was nowhere near advanced, it was still nice of her to think of me.

I was already planning to return to riding this month so it was good timing.

I started my lessons this past Tuesday and because it's two seconds from Winter here in Canada, we are switching to basics mode.  We spent the entire lesson pretty much learning how to ride from scratch.  L has made her Winter goal to get all of her riders to have perfect seat and leg position.

So she made us find the perfect seat position and slowly work our way up to cantering (mostly walking and trotting though) keeping that position.  Every time we lost it, we had to start from scratch at the halt.

I halted a lot.

Here's how she said to find it:

  1. Take your feet out of the stirrups and lift your knees so that both of you seat bones connect with the saddle.
  2. Slowly drop your knees and bring your legs back until you lose contact with the seat bones.  Bring your legs forward just slightly to re-establish contact.  
  3. Now rotate your thighs in towards the thigh block.  
  4. Bend your knees slightly.  You heels should now be perfectly in line with your shoulders and should gently be able to slip into your stirrups (if they're at the right length).
  5. If you're me, you need the extra step to tell you not to shove your heels down at practically a 90 degree angle.
The inside of your legs are for going forward and the outside are for lifting (into the post).  She called us out perpetually if our toes were sticking out because that meant that we had lost our position and were using the wrong parts of our calves.

This may all seem like common sense, but it was actually pretty mindblowing in practice.  I have been in pain now for two days having used the actual muscles I should be using.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Walker's Maybe New Career

Walker is doing phenomenally at the new barn.  In the oft-repeated words of my barn owner: "Are you sure he's lame?" Well, I guess that's a fair comment when he runs like this.

But the truth of the matter is that he still finds hard ground very uncomfortable, and I'll be curious to see how he feels once Winter sweeps in (next month?  next week? tomorrow?) and freezes the ground.

I think it's safe to say that although our riding partnership is not at an end, he is definitely going to need to scale back the hard work in the future.

So where does that leave him?  On the prowl for something productive to do.  Because a Walker without work, is a Walker who needs a reality check.

Enter Walker's Careerpath 4.0 (because I consider WP, loping crossrails and "creative dressage" to be careers 1 through 3).

Walker is going to be a therapeutic riding horse.

Probably.

My barn owner is really involved with therapeutic riding, and let me tell you, it is not just a pony ride.  They do a ton of different exercises with the children to get them working on their motor skills as well as mental skills, etc.  She is building a new facility on her property which will be 100% devoted to therapeutic riding.

This means she needs horses.  And what kind of horses does she need?  Bombproof ones.

She tells me that they do everything from walk across bridges, through obstacle courses, under things hung from the ceiling, throw basketballs at horses - you name it.  But she also expects these children to work as hard as any rider.  They follow the Canadian paraequestrian riding program and she teaches them dressage specifically.

But she also has one little boy who has limited capacity in one of his hands.  She thinks he would benefit from a Western saddle and a horse that can neck rein, which her current English therapeutic riding horse cannot do without a meltdown.

Apparently, while I have been listening to her explanations of the program and contemplating Walker's potential use there, she has been thinking the same thing.  She has been watching him and thinks that he just might be suitable.

Here's why:

  1. You could totally throw a basketball at him.  You can walk him under, over, through, into anything.  He is afraid of nothing.  It's almost amazing how bombproof he is.
  2. He LOVES kids.  And he has always been uncharacteristically well behaved around them.  He can sense that he has to be gentle and so he is.  Yesterday he was waiting for supper and saw a child playing across the street.  The next thing I know, he is cantering across the pasture so he could stand on the other side of the fence and watch her.  He loves kids because he loves to be adored.
  3. He is a Western horse who can neckrein.  He is perfect for this kid who requires that.  Besides that, he has an extremely easy jog which would make him an ideal candidate for teaching kids to trot (she has some kids who do rising trot!) but who are unable to ride a bouncier horse.  And being the laziest beast on the planet, he will never run away with anyone. 
The best part about it is that my barn owner makes sure to work closely with the horses to make sure that they are suitable for the activities they are asking of them, and if there are certain things they can't do, she just uses another horse.  It would be a great opportunity to give Walker something to do and it is something that would not put much strain on his feet.

So he is going to have the Winter off as planned, and come Spring, if my barn owner still thinks that he is suitable, we may have a new adventure to discuss.

Other Pursuits

In my time away from riding, I have been pursuing some other activities to keep me busy until I can get back into a lesson program.  Here are some of the highlights:

Reading

At the beginning of 2014, I vowed that I would read one book a week for a total of 50 weeks (because it took me two weeks to come up with this plan).  Although I had a lengthy two months off in the middle of the summer, I somehow managed to get 5 books behind.

I am currently reading book 31, and although I will probably post my entire list of books read sometime at the end of this year, for now I will let you know some of my favourites that I have read so far this year, in the order that I read them:

  1. Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
  2. The Dead in their Vaulted Arches by Alan Bradley
  3. Mercy Among the Children by David Adams Richards
  4. Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town by Stephen Leacock
  5. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
TV

Yeah.  I probably should not admit to the fact that I have been binge-watching tv like it's going out of style, but hey, everyone needs to live outside of reality once in a while.

Here are some of the shows I've been catching up on:
  1. Sons of Anarchy
  2. Friday Night Lights
  3. Arrow
I am beyond excited for Fall premieres. 

Boxing

I have taken up boxing.  And it is hard.  I highly recommend it to anyone who is looking for a good full body workout.  I'm hoping that it will be a great way to get me back into shape for riding.  

I've already learned that my weaknesses are almost entirely horse-related.  Legs and core?  Relatively solid thanks in large part to riding.  Arms?  Not so much.

Besides, sometimes a girl just needs to punch something.

Monday, 8 September 2014

Watch my lame horse run

My new barn owner has told me that Walker is a bad influence on Kayden.

Apparently, sometime around 4:00, he stops whatever he is doing and insists that it is now supper time.

To get attention, he canters/gallops circles around whatever field he is until he has worked up the 27 year old horse and my barn owner rushes over to give them supper.

It only took once to discover that this was the Best. Plan.  Ever.

On the weekend, I got to see it all in action.  Except to make matters worst, Kayden's owner brought him into the barn to tack up for a ride.

Walker went ballistic.

At one point, I thought he was going to try to jump a 6 foot fence.

He tore up the ground so bad that I had to spend 45 minutes traipsing through the field covering all the holes.

This would be disturbing to me if I didn't already know that I am exactly the same way.

video

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Things I enjoy about not riding my horse

Does it make me a bad mom to say that - while I am obviously utterly heartbroken that I cannot ride Walker and, for all I know, may never ride him again - I also really enjoy not riding him?

When I got my Walker-diagnosis, I intended to jump into lessons immediately and be ready when or if he came back into work.  Instead, because of many reasons, I took August off, not just from Walker, but from horses.

Here are a few things I love about not riding my horse or any horse:

Time.

I have some.  In fact, I have lots of it.  Oodles of it.  

I never realized just how much time I actually spent riding and at the barn.  Now, even if I come home late from work, there are still hours - HOURS - left in the evening.

I can read more.  Bake more.  Walk more.  Learn more.  

Do more.



Money.

I have some.

Even though Walker is sick, I somehow am in the clear better than when I was riding.

Why?  Well, I also got a raise and moved Walker to a cheaper barn.

But I also don't buy magical tack that I expect to make Walker a glorious warmblood stallion or myself Ian Miller.

I haven't spent money on lessons.  I haven't spent money on equine massages or new gloves or horsey magazines.

I don't spend money because when your horse is lounging in a field and you're lounging on the couch, there's really no reason to shell out except for the day to day, unavoidable expenses.

And finally:

Quality Time With My Main Man.

Now that Walker needs minimal supervision from me (and I do mean, minimal), I can actually enjoy him.

I can stand in the sunshine in his beautiful field and just chill out with him.  And he will munch his grass or trot over to me or nuzzle my hair.

There's no rush to wipe away grime that he no longer attracts, or rush to tack, ride, untack, repeat so that I can get home to eat, sleep, repeat.


Don't get me wrong, I miss it.  Of course, I miss it.  

But not riding is kind of like a cheat day on a diet.  You know you're going to go back to the diet the next day, so for the meantime, you might as well wash your deep fried fish and chips down with beer.

It's kind of fun being lazy.

Like moths to a flame

No, this isn't a story about a barn fire.  

But this is a story about a fire and the cutest little dog there ever was.

The apartment building next to mind caught fire this past weekend.  I have never been so close to a fire before, and let me tell you, it was a scary experience.

I got home from the barn and saw some smoke coming out a window.  It was big enough that I knew something was on fire, but small enough that I assume it was a minor kitchen fire that someone was in the process of putting out.

But before I could go into my apartment building, I heard people screaming and I ran over to see what was going on.

In the course of 10-15 minutes, the fire went from being just a bit of smoke to flames shooting out the window and eating the siding off the building.

At this point, only one lone policeman was there.  One lady was hysterical, utterly hysterical, running around the building screaming that she was losing all her belongings.  Meanwhile, another girl was screaming because her dog was still inside.

So one brave young guy tried to run into the building to get the dog, but there was so much smoke that he only made it to the bottom of the stairs before being forced to come back out.

So the next thing I see, he is on the shoulders of the one policeman.  He punches out the window to the apartment, climbs through, and passes the dog out to the policeman before leaping out himself, all while flames are shooting out the back of the building.

It was seriously impressive and brave.

And of course for a good cause.  Because wouldn't you save this face?


No, I didn't kidnap the puppy.  Although I wanted to.  I let the girl take the dog into my apartment and calm down while the fire continued to rage on outside.



By the time the firemen got there, there was so much smoke that I could barely find my way the 15 feet back to my own apartment building and seriously thought that I was going to have to save the cat and evacuate.



Anyway, this whole experience has really got me to thinking.  

One, that fires are scary.  

Two, that I should probably check my fire alarm since apparently these apartment buildings go up like matches.  

And three, I need a puppy.

I WANT HIM

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Same Love

Walker has found a new boyfriend.

He believes that all love is equal.

That is all.

Monday, 25 August 2014

Stud Muffin

No.  This post is not actually about Walker, who does, in fact, think he's a stud muffin.

This post is about the Fair near my house.  I went home last weekend to visit and the Fair was going on.  It's a full-blown agricultural fair and I love it.  They have some light horse stuff - barrel racing, pole bending, games - but most of the horse stuff is draft horse stuff - four in hand, six in hand, horse hauling, etc.

Anyway, apparently one day, a five-year old Percheron stud got loose from his stall.

And went on a breeding rampage, breeding four mares.

They had to block him in one of the barns, and from the people who were telling me this story, it sounded like a war in there as they tried to catch him.

Apparently they went after him with shovels and everything they could to get him away from the other horses (read: mares) who were freaking out, not to mention all the people (some of which were probably un-horsey, innocent spectators) who at this point were trapped in the barn with him.

Picture it: a giant (and I mean giant) five year old Percheron stud galloping through a barn full of straight stalls with confined mares and idiot spectators dodging the bone-crushing hooves of a trapped stallion.

Never a dull moment with horses.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Paradise

Walker and I are both loving the new barn.  It is doing everything for him that I thought it would.  He is more comfortable on the soft grass, and his feet - those feet that the vet said would never be anything but dry and chipping from inflammation - are now suddenly smooth.

Most importantly of all, Walker's happiness has shot through the roof.  He is back to the happy-go-lucky horse who loves life.  Towards the end at my last barn, he would stand still in his stall with his head in a corner and he would stand still in the pasture without moving.

Here, he is back to bouncing around, causing mayhem and mischief, and loving life.  My barn owner - the saint - has left his window knocked out until winter because it gives him such great joy to poke his head out.

Supermodel pose
I also don't worry about him running around on the grass because it is literally that soft.  I mean, it is the softest ground I've ever seen.  I can now understand why my barn owner won't put them in some of the fields if it is raining because even when it's dry, it's still super moist.

As for me, I feel almost zero need to go to the barn, which in its own way is a good thing.  Of course I still go out to check on him, but for the first time since I've had him, I don't feel like I need to.  

He is getting excellent care by someone who is as observant as a hawk, and with the pads on his feet, I don't even really need to pick them out.  Because he's 100% off work for a few months, there's absolutely nothing I can do, and there's nothing I feel like I need to do other than chill out in the sunshine in a beautiful field with my horse.

And of course start taking lessons on another horse, which is in the works.  I actually am starting to have some faith that if I stayed here long term, I would be able to start working Walker too.  But one step at a time.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

In a Hurricane

I apologize for the radio silence this past week. It has been a whirlwind.

As I mentioned in my last post, I was planning to move Walker by the end of the month.

Well, the end of the month came about two days ago when my new barn owner's horse suddenly colicked and had to be put down.

Suddenly she had a lonely, screaming, herdbound 27 year old horse on her hands.  She called and asked if I could come early.  I said, "Yeah.  When?  Like the weekend?"  She said, "How about an hour?"

So I did.


Surprisingly, I actually found a lovely man to trailer my horse with that much notice.  Walker, being a super pro, hopped on the trailer with no fuss, hopped off the trailer with no fuss, took one look at his new digs and was like, "This will do, human."  Then he promptly threw his head in the grass and began his new life.

He could adjust in a hurricane.

He and his new barn mate, Kayden, are also starting to get along.  I was slightly nervous that Walker might try to dominate the 27 year old, even though he has been out with older horses before.  I should have known better.  Kayden squealed and stomped his feet when Walker came up to him at first, so Walker was like, "Whatever, dude."  And walked away.

As of today, they are both officially turned out in the same pasture and quite content.

My barn owner seems to like him, even though he decided to do a bit of redecorating.  The screen window was cramping his style so he punched it out to create a room with a view.


He also insists that supper be fed at exactly the time that he was fed at the old barn, which is about an hour earlier than my new barn owner is used to.  Walker, being a persistent fellow, has convinced Kayden that this is a great plan, and so the two of them stand at the gate until my barn owner takes pity and comes out early.

I've tried to impress upon my barn owner that Walker is all gelding and not to leave things too close to his stall, but he has already made that clear himself.  He has already pulled everything off his stall door every night, and he has slowly been ripping the paint off the counter nearby.

My barn owner's response: "I didn't really like the green paint anyway".

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

New Digs

Thanks everyone for your kind words about Walker.

Our big news is that we're moving, which probably doesn't come as much of a surprise to anyone really.

The vet suggested that Walker might benefit from a 7 day turnout on grass pastures with the chance to come in at night to rest.  She felt that the current 5 day turnout schedule he was on was bad for his feet, and the rock and sand pastures were not helping much either.

So I have found him the perfect place.  Like literally perfect.  It is a dream.

My new barn owner just bought this property like 2 weeks ago.  She currently has a 27 year old and a 30 year old horse, and she's looking for a third to keep them company because, as I'm sure we can all agree, three is simply the magic number.  She calls it the geriatric pony club, and that's just fine by me!

Here are the details:

She feeds whatever I want and will go get it for me.  She only works part time (at Greenhawk, no less!) so she's home most of the time to watch them.  They get fed three times a day.  She bought hay just for us, since the old boys are on hay cubes.  He gets a stall bigger than the one he has, and it has windows.

Feed buckets are for throwing across aisles
There are three grass pastures, each of which are bigger than the current big pasture he is sharing with up to eight horses.  They mow the pastures and keep them clean.  They rotate if need be so that the horses don't rip them up and cause dangerous holes.

She will put on blankets, fly masks, fly sheets, fly spray, whatever I want or need for no extra cost.

There is a trail system.  It has grass trails and is also mowed.  And it runs down to the waterfront, which she owns.

She said that if Walker gets to a point where I can ride him, I can work him in one of the pastures, but she's putting in a sand dressage ring this fall.  And she has donated one of her fields to the therapeutic riding school.  Get this.  By next fall, she is building a new six stall barn with an indoor arena.

And all for $150/month cheaper than what I currently have.

Caught in the act going for his halter to throw
So I pretty much get to move my horse to the perfect care situation, with the perfect pasture, and the chance that in the future there will be arenas and a perfect facility in case Walker gets better... or, you know, I buy a second horse...

So if nothing else has come out of this horrible lameness situation, Walker is moving to a pretty great new home which I have no doubt he will love.

Friday, 25 July 2014

One Decision Made

I have made a decision about Walker.

I am not going to be riding him or working him again for the foreseeable future, which I suspect may be forever but will for sure be at least 3 months or possibly a year (the reason for that discrepancy will be described in later posts).

He is not comfortable.  He is not improving.

I talked it over with both the farrier and the vet, and they agree with my decision.

Furthermore, the vet gave me a smidgen of hope today that I could still improve on his lameness so I'm going to work towards that goal.


The vet told me that Walker has non-septic pedal osteitis (which, for those of you who are curious, is a symptom of other issues, not a syndrome in and of itself), and while the demineralization of the bone is pretty bad, the coffin bone actually possesses the ability to fill itself back in again to a certain degree (however slight that may be).

So that means there is still a chance that I can improve on some of the lesser demineralization that has occurred in the bone, and armed with that knowledge (however misunderstood it may turn out to be), I intend do whatever I can to make that happen and to simply make him comfortable.

And I think the best chance of that is 0 work and 5 star conditions.

He got his feet done today and got his new pads put on.  I'll be curious to see if they will make any improvement in his comfort level, but I am hopeful.  He's usually pretty sore in his stall and hobbles like an old man to the door, but even though he just had his feet done today, he was much perkier when I came out to give him lovin' and an apple.

I'm also looking into a couple more changes for him which, while I'm hoping they will be good for his feet as well, will at least be good for his mental health.  I believe that just like humans, happiness is a healer in its own way.

So stay tuned because  more is on its way!

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

VCBH: Chock Full of Advice

An L. Williams blog hop, folks:


What is the best advice you've ever received from a Trainer or another rider?  What is the worst advice you've received from a Trainer or another rider?

Best Advice

The best advice I have ever received from a trainer was to actually look where I was going.

It is astounding how much you see when you actually look up.

Astounding.

There is a whole world going on out there that has nothing to do with my hands or the top of Walker's neck.

Worst Advice

The worst advice I have received was see-sawing on the reins to promote collection.

Seriously thought this was the be-all end-all until years later when I was taught better.  Oh the bad advice we have to undo.

Monday, 21 July 2014

Thrush attack

Walker has serious issues with thrush.  I mean, I pick that horse's feet every day.  His pasture is crazy dry, as in, there is no grass and it is all sand.  He goes out 5 days a week and spends the majority of the day out there.

Yet I am picking thrush out of his feet like it's going out of style.  The little microbes of death are claiming squatter rights in the depths of his frog and no matter how much thrush busting liquid I use, they will not vacate.  They are simply multiplying.

I left Walker for the weekend, he didn't get turned out, but I did ask someone to pick his feet for me at least once.  She did, and when I picked his feet today, it was gross in there.  So I doused his foot with that horrible blue stuff once more because when in doubt, continue to do the same things that aren't working.

Other than that, his toes are too long.  The farrier didn't come last week as I had hoped so I'm debating keeping him in.  Between the lameness and the thrush and the long toes, we're looking at a trifecta that just screams, "More vet bills, please!"

But the farrier will be out this week.  How do I know that?  Because I assume that he will get tired of my twice daily phone calls.


Thursday, 17 July 2014

Still doing nothing

Seriously.

I kept delaying writing this post because it was time to write a new one, but I seriously have nothing to say.

Sunday I lunged my pony.

Monday I did not.

Tuesday I did not.

Wednesday I lunged my pony.  He was semi-well behaved.  He still looks sore on his right front which makes me nervous.  I am not comfortable working him or riding him until he looks more balanced.  Call me crazy, but I'd rather him be equally lame than unbalanced lame.

Today, I did not lunge my pony.

That is the roundup of the week.

I also started back to work this week after my vacation, and it has been a little hectic, as can be expected.  I'm hoping that I can get back into the groove of things and get my routine on lockdown.  Not that I have a horse to ride or anything.

For now, my Walker plans are fairly simple:

- Wait until the farrier comes and puts his new pads on.
- Track down an extra rubber stall mat for his stall (not easy to come by, apparently).
- Wait to see if there is any more improvement with all the changes put together.
- Continue to gently lunge pony every couple of days to keep the blood flowing.

Then reassess.

Rivoting stuff.  I know.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Lame Horse Dilemmas

I don't know about other people, but my number one lame horse dilemma (other than the fact that my horse is lame) is helping him recover while still keeping his attitude in check.

I decided today that I should lunge him because I felt like he needed a quick attitude adjustment.  Nothing severe.  He hasn't done anything to merit it, but I felt like a quick 15 minute lunge might get him moving a little bit while reaffirming respect.

It went about as well as expected.  Meaning, of course, that he bucked, bolted and freaked out on the lunge line when I dared suggest that he should pay attention to me.  The look he gave me was incredibly haughty, a "How dare you whip that thing in the air nowhere near my body!  Do you not who I am!"

My entire goal was to walk, trot, walk, lope for ten seconds and walk some more, but instead we had to have a mini-conversation that required a bit more cantering than I would have liked given the fact that he's supposed to be off work.

If it were a normal day, one where he wasn't lame, I wouldn't even be worried about his reaction.  It lasted for about two seconds, and in his defence, there was a pony in the arena (he has an unrational distrust/hatred of ponies - long story).

But this is the constant dilemma I face with him: give the attitude adjustment and risk going too far with his lameness, or let him get away with it.

I almost always choose the former because although Walker pushes me regularly, that's pretty much as bad as it is: he's just pushing to see what he can get away with.  He is by no means a disrespectful beast or blithering idiot.  He's just a disgruntled employee.

But still, it is a dilemma nonetheless, and one which makes it incredibly difficult to keep a chronically lame horse sound.

I always knew attitude would be our downfall.

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Doing Nothing

What do I do without Walker?  Apparently nothing.  All day.  Every day.

At first I was productive.  I thought that maybe this was an unacceptable state for my car:





I mean, you know things are bad when you can't even offer a horse person a ride.

So I cleaned and I organized and there are bins and bins inside of other bins and life is good again for my car.  (And there is no picture proof so you're just going to have to take my word for it.)

And then I started going for drives.  I drove and I drove and I looked at all the pretty ponies and farms everywhere within a one hour radius of me.  But soon that got expensive (and I am always mildly concerned that my car is going to break down on some back road since it is careening towards death status as it is).

And then I started watching movies.  Like the entire Anne of Green Gables set.  Because I was going to go to PEI this week but life got in the way.  And so what do you do when you can't go to PEI?  You watch Anne of Green Gables and swoon over Gilbert Blythe.

And then when my 614 minute long movie was over, I played a lot of 2048.


And I drank a lot.  Until this happened:

No, seriously.  I drink rum.  And it is gone.
Somewhere during this time, I even went to visit Walker.  But no work appears to be bad for Walker.  He was all "OMG! Watch me run on the spot!" and "Get the flies off me.  I am going to dance and leap sideways every three seconds until the flies get off me!".  Even though he is lame.

His ability to gracefully trot and leap about while unable to walk is astounding.

And with that, my vacation is just about done.  It's back to work on Monday and back to a world where people supposedly get by without horses every day.