Friday, 27 June 2014

New Cowboy Boots

I caved and bought the ugly square toe newer style cowboy boots my barn owner adores.

Why would you buy something that you don't like, you ask.  That is a great question.  A question which my friend and my mother and everyone else, including the tack store clerk asked me right as I pulled out the VISA.

In truth, the boots I liked were pretty much the Ariat version of the Justin boots that I have, which my friend also pointed out to me.  Even I could see the stupidity in buying a brand new version of the same boots I already have.

So I bought the other kind.

Do not get me wrong.  They are a lovely boot.  Much comfier for the foot.  Better grip.  Better fit than the ones I have.  The colour and design is even quite nice.  I bet they are a dream to ride in.

But god that toe.  That square toe.

I try.  But it is hard.
So now I am at the point where I wear them around the house in my pajamas and try to accustom myself to them.  I am excited to ride in them because, like I said, I think they will be really lovely once I do, and maybe with time, I will grow to love this square toe boot and never look back.  I usually take some time to warm up to things.
At least the design is nice
And frankly, I think the square toe boot looks great on most people I have seen them on.  So I really just have to convince myself that they look good on me.

And I kind of want a new Western saddle before I ride in them, so that is a bit of a hiccup.  Both financially and practically since, you know, I ride dressage now.  Do not judge me. :P

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Nostalgic Summer

There is something about the season of Summer that is so nostalgic.  Whenever the sun is shining and it's really warm, you just can't help but be taken back to the good old days when you lived for the outdoors and you ran until you were sunburnt, bug bitten, and covered in scrapes and bruises.  

Being a grown up and working through the summer is probably the worst thing in the world.  You just never get to take advantage of summer the way it was meant to be taken advantage of.  Because I am on vacation right now, I decided on Monday to visit my friend, A, and meet her new horse Axle.  

And I can say with a full heart that it was absolutely the most perfect summer day I have had in a very long time.  And I have the sunburn and the bug bites to prove it!

First of all, Axle is a four year old QH.  I was not 100% on board with A getting a four year old when she got him a couple months ago because she had to sell her perfectly good, already fully trained, perfectly amazing mare to acquire him.  

She has been telling me ever since she got him that he is just the calmest, sweetest, non-four year old four year old she's ever met, and frankly I didn't believe her.  I mean, he's four.  No four year old is that perfect.  But after meeting him Monday, I can say that I wholeheartedly agree.  He's got manners and a mind, that's for sure.

He's a smart little bugger too.  I gave him a bit of a lesson on
The Program and he picked it up really fast.
He had been on stall rest all week, we took him out, lunged him for ten seconds, he bucked once, and then we rode him on a trail ride with absolutely no hiccups.  I mean, my professionally trained bombproof QH would probably have a little more to say about that than this guy!

A is currently house sitting for someone and we had the house and the barn and the arena all to ourselves.  We went for a 2 hour trail ride and galloped her horse on the marsh.  It was by far one of the most thrilling things I've done on horseback in a long time.  Needless to say, speed really isn't Walker's thing.  

A is a barrel racer, and she has actually been a little concerned about Axle's reluctance to gallop.  Apparently the key to that is to lock him up for a week, bring him to a wide open space, and let the other horse gallop home without him.  Let me tell you that I have never moved so fast in my life as on the back of that little four year old who thought his buddy was leaving him out there.  Although we gave the other horse a good 40 feet head start, Axle easily passed him.  

A was so excited that she made me switch horses with her (since I was riding Axle) just so that she could gallop him too.  

Because of Walker's soundness issues, the trail has become a scary place for me.  I'm always nervous that he is going to hurt himself because he can barely manage to work in the arena without going lame.  Riding these two horses was just a breath of fresh air as they breezed themselves over that uneven ground with no care in the world. 

It was one of those moments where you have to get off your horse's back because his legs are going a mile a minute, the sun is shining, you're out in this secluded field, and you just want to put both arms out and fly.

It was perfect.

Saturday, 21 June 2014

I guess I need new boots

Saturday our barn had its fun show.  I'm both really happy and really disappointed that I didn't enter it.

I'm really happy since Walker was semi-lame earlier this week and I would have risked further lameness if I had shown.  He also got his massage Friday night and wouldn't have been able to be ridden Saturday anyway.  Plus, given his constant stiffness and the fact that we have been working on other things, we weren't 100% ready for this show anyway.

I'm really disappointed because I watched the Western Pleasure Senior class (W/J and W/J/L) and thought, "Damn. I could have done that."  Sometimes those things are a shot in the dark.  Sometimes the class will be filled with seniors who really know their stuff and have horses that really know their stuff and make you and your horse who hasn't worked on his WP in 2 years look like a fool.  And sometimes the class has only a couple participants with horses who are really just bopping along and you think, "Yeah.  Walker could have been a competitor in there even without a ton of preparation."  Saturday was the latter.  Not to say that those people weren't good - just that we wouldn't have made a complete fool of ourselves had we participated.

Live and learn.  If anything, the two shows I have had the opportunity to participate in and have passed on were both shows I should have done in hindsight.  My perfectionist personality has a hard time grasping the concept that we could just do it as a learning  or fun experience.  It's not the Olympics after all.

However, I was at the show all day.  I helped out at the canteen and just chilled out in the sunshine, which looked a lot like this:

Hard at work sitting in the canteen and eating all the homemade cookies
I may also be on the hunt for new cowboy boots.  My barn owner has shamed me into wanting to buy new ones.  Obviously, in a Western barn, cowboy boots are the ultimate expression of fashion, and his exact words were, "God, Natalie, at least you could wear a pair of boots from this century."

Yeah.  That's fair.  I'm pretty sure I actually did get my last boots in the last century.  They're a little old fashioned and a bit rough around the edges, kind of like me.  Naturally, I love them.

So they could use a little TLC...
I'm willing to check out the new styles, even some fun colours, but I'll be damned if I throw out the old ones!  Classic never dies!

The Weaknesses in Our Training

My friend's new young horse has a stifle injury right now, and while we don't think it's serious, it really got me thinking about strengthening Walker's stifle.

Lately I've been really trying to attack the holes in Walker's physical fitness.  It is impossible for him to perform the way I want him to if he isn't strong enough, and I think that sometimes I forget that I have to completely rebuild all those muscles that existed before he got sick.

On Friday I decided to do some hill work and work over caveletti at the walk in order to strengthen his stifle, and I was really impressed with how he took to it.  Besides the fact that he did not want to leave the other horses and go up and down hills a billion times, I could really feel him using himself better.  When we would turn to go up the hill, he would immediately round up onto the bit as he used his butt.

Because he was so unimpressed with this plan of mine, we only went up and down my chosen hill about 5 times because every time we got back to the top, we had to have a "conversation" about how he was going to keep doing this exercise and not return to his friends.

Five times wasn't really long enough for me so I set up a few caveletti in the arena when we got back and walked over those as well.  Walker successfully managed to kick each and everyone of them with his back legs.  We will get it.

The other big thing I'm working on is Walker's stiffness.  Riding Walker these days is akin to riding an ironing board.  And now it is starting to affect other things, like picking up the incorrect lead, not wanting to do circles, ignoring my inside leg, etc.

Obviously I have simply been counteracting this with a ton of bending and circle exercises, but I also got the princess a massage Friday night.  Unfortunately, he was a little lame/sore from all the hill work (which was on gravel - i.e. the devil to Walker's toesies) but I think I'm going to get him regular body work this time instead of on an "as needed" basis.

So today the princess got a day off.  Lucky devil.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Call to the Bar

I apologize for disappearing for a few days, but I was busy getting called to the bar.  And no, I said bar call, not bar crawl.  

It means that after endless years of education and debt and one very long year of articling, I am officially a lawyer.

I should be more excited but I'm actually just really tired.

Striking a pose in my sexy lawyer garb on the street
Anyway, in more important news, Walker was a lunatic when I lunged him on Tuesday, and he was unsurprisingly lame today.

It was a lot like someone replaced my quarter horse with an Arabian.  He cantered for 30 minutes on the end of the lunge line with no stop and he was really on edge.  I wasn't feeling that good from the endless travelling I have been doing, so I didn't plan to ride anyway.  It's a good thing I didn't because I'm sure he would have put me in the dust.

So today I went out to the barn and he was lame.  He seemed sore in his stall, but he is always sore in his stall.

So I walked him down the hall.  He seemed sore but he is always a little ouchy on the concrete.

So I lunged him in the arena for a few minutes.  He seemed a little off but he is always a little stiff at first.

So I tacked him up, hopped on, and nope, he was lame.  For realz.

Apparently the ten million signs pointing me in that direction were just not enough.  The universe had to let me go drag out all my tack and get him into the arena before it could finally convince me that my mind wasn't playing tricks on me.

Oh well.  It gave me the opportunity to clean out a bag I drag back and forth to the barn and just spend some quality time with my main man.

He did this to himself.  No word of lie.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Blog Hop: Fess Up To Your Mistakes

So this one from L is making a few of us cringe, I imagine.  This blog hop is all about fessing up to the horse care mistakes we've made.

As I mentioned in L's blog, I think Walker is lucky to be alive half the time.  Once I know things, I never forget, but as with all things, there is a learning curve.  I became intimately aware of medical care especially when Walker was sick for 9 months, and I suspect that my big mistake lies somewhere in there, considering how it snowballed out of control.

Walker getting initially sick was not my fault since it went through the barn much to everyone's chagrin.

Walker getting a dirty shot was partially my fault.  I didn't give him the shot that caused him to get an infection, but that is because I have a phobia of needles.  If I had just manned up and did it myself or even supervised the shots, maybe it would never have happened.  Instead, in my extreme fear, I relied on other people, one of whom clearly made a mistake.

When Walker went really lame after being on stall rest for pretty much 6 months, that was 100% my fault.  I decided to take my horse, who had been locked up for half a year, who had just moved to a brand new barn, who was due to get his feet checked, and turn him loose in the indoor arena.  Genius.  Pure genius.

And thus began our next 3 months of lameness which continues to plague us to this day.  There may have been underlying issues there, but I aggravated them, no doubt.

Other than that horrible stretch of time, Walker's health has been pretty hunky dory, and although he seems dirty ALL THE TIME, I'd say he's generally well cared for and pampered like the princess he thinks he is.

Runaway Horse

I had a great ride with Walker today.  Not because he was good - more the opposite.  He was bad and we were able to work through it.

I expected him to feel a little defiant after a couple days off so we had a fairly extensive lunging session where we had it out as per the usual.

Because it was so warm outside, it did not take long to wear him out, and he was sweating bullets by the time I got on.  

At this point, a couple other riders joined us and Walker didn't put a foot out of place other than a couple attempts.  We were able to get some cantering done, as opposed to last week when we spent the whole time fighting, and so I only rode for a short time to praise him.

Unfortunately, he was sweaty, gross, and exhausted, so he was relatively sluggish and wouldn't go on the bit for long.  I am fine with this because the outdoors presents entirely different problems for us.  My main goal is to get him to be a conscientious citizen first and we'll work on all the rest later.  

I'm pretty happy with his overall improvement these past couple weeks, although he obviously continues to have meltdowns about how much he does not want to work outside (or at all).

Afterwards, I gave him a quick bath and took him out to graze.  He loves this one particular patch of grass which is not fenced in and since it was the middle of the afternoon, I decided to unclip his lead line and sprawl out in the grass beside him.  

This was all working relatively well until a truck pulling a trailer came barreling down the driveway (much too fast, given that it is a barn).  Walker took one look at the truck and galloped off around the barn with me chasing him like a lunatic.

Yeah, yeah, I know.  Bad life choices all around.

Luckily for me, Walker did exactly what I expected him to do.  He ran from one patch of grass to the next and continued grazing.  Once he established that the truck was in fact a truck and not a horse-eating monster, all was well in his horsey brain again.

I intelligently decided to clip the lead line back on and we went back to our patch of grass where we soaked up some sunshine.  I would have taken pictures, but we were too busy enjoying summer.

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Lame and in Pain

No.  I don't mean Walker. I mean me.

I somehow managed to hurt my leg a couple days ago.  I thought it was fine, but then I realized that it wasn't.  I am having a hard time walking without limping and it hurts when I stretch or twist it in certain ways.

So naturally I have been going to the barn anyway.

Then on Friday, I am at the barn, limping down the aisle like a trooper toward my lame pony (the irony), when I hear an eighteen wheeler pull into the barn.  It turns out that the feed guy was there to drop off feed and had no idea what to do and where to put it and nobody was at the barn to meet him.

So then I helped him unload about 50 bags of feed each weighing 50 lbs.  I mean, who needs a gym when you can just randomly do barn chores.

The next day I realize that I hurt my back and shoulder so now not only am I still limping, but I'm finding it hard to lift my right arm.

So I go to the barn.

And Walker is not lame.  I am thrilled, but there are kids doing tests in the indoor arena.  Out we go to the outdoor arena which is thick with mud.

Walker decides that because I can barely put my heel down or lift the saddle onto his back, he should be a jerk for 40 minutes straight. We spent the entire time fighting about whether or not it was mandatory that he in fact keep all four feet in the arena.  I'd like to say that I won, but I think in reality I only chose to stop the ride in a 5 minute portion where I was winning.

Because the ground outside the outdoor arena is hard and tends to result in him being lame.  I could tell even by the way he gingerly pranced back to the barn that he was going to be lame today, so I'm not even going to bother trying to lunge him.  I couldn't ride him today anyway.

So I will bute him, bute myself, and we will both have a couch day.

Friday, 6 June 2014

The Wow and the Blah

In some ways, our rides this week have been rather boring.  They have been a whole lot of blah with weird, unexpected moments of wow.

Monday was our first day in the saddle after my shopping trip and the first day of what I'm hoping is about to be Walker's month of intensive training.

I had just went and watched a horse show on the weekend and had grand visions of things I was going to do with my horse.  I watched a ton of kids get bucked, reared and thrown off in many epic fashions, and I thought, "Hey, I could probably do that in a horse show" and set off home to see if maybe we could prepare for one of the fun shows this summer. (Don't hold your breath.  I'm working on it).

Needless to say my grand ambitions started with a reality check.  Walker was actually behaving all week, but I just didn't feel like we were connecting, and not just through the back, if you know what I mean.

Then, on Monday, I did some rein backs and this is where the magic happened.  He started rounding his back more than I've ever experienced before, so much so that I literally felt two feet higher off the ground.  I decided to take advantage of this feeling and ask for a canter immediately.

And lovely.  Just lovely.  Not just a connected departure, but a full out collected departure.  His whole front end literally lifted up as he pushed off the ground, and although he did not have the stamina to maintain it for more than one full stride, he gave me several of these wonderful departures during each of my rides throughout the week.  I would rein back, ask for the departure, canter for 3 strides and stop so that I could encourage quality canter instead of just forwardness.

Unfortunately, I could not get the same feeling with the trot no matter how hard I tried, but hey, it's just one more trick to slip into my back pocket.

Showing off his mad ground tying skillz
Then on Thursday, I decided to ride in the outdoor arena and lo and behold, he was pretty good.  He didn't put a foot out of the arena once (ok, so he put it out once, but tripping and falling out of the arena doesn't count!).

We managed to canter circles without him running off a cliff even though all the other jerk horses were outside watching and calling to us.  They were literally all lined up along the edge of their pastures which is very close to the arena, but Walker didn't give them the time of day.  I was so proud at his wonderful behaviour, that I stopped the ride after 30 minutes on a good note and let him go back outside with his buddies.

I mean really.  I left him like this and wandered down the hall and he just stayed
put with the door to freedom open behind him
Unfortunately, he was lame today so thus ends my intensive training streak until he is feeling better.

Monday, 2 June 2014

Blog Hop: Let's Make a Baby

L's current blog hop is all about breeding your horse to whichever stud you want, and imagining he is a she, of course.  That part is relatively crucial.

To be perfectly honest, I have no sweet clue.

There are a lot of good qualities to recommend Walker.  Good brain.  Good looks.  Great jog.  Pretty trot (when he wants to).  Has a nice lope (when he wants to).  Canter is probably not so great, but as a WP horse, he has a lot of things to recommend him.

He also has some great QH breeding in him already, like Hotrodders Jet Set, of whom he is practically a carbon copy.  I mean really:

He also has a few other horses in his background that I'm a big fan of, like Zips Chocolate Chip.

So if I was looking for a horse that would complement Walker's qualities, I'm not sure who it would be.  I'd want another QH obviously.  While it would be tempting to pick one of those hunt seat style ponies because it's more my style, it seems like a waste to have a pretty good WP horse and not try to make a better one.  Even if mostly play dressage pony these days.

So in true indecisive fashion, I googled "good western pleasure studs", and on the list was One Hot Krymsun.  Frankly I really can't believe I never thought of him, since I have done a clinic with the man who raised and trained this horse, who at this point I believe has sired 115 World Champion and Reserve Champions (the horse, not the man).

But honestly, I don't think I have the nerves for breeding.

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Leather Care

As I was sitting in my hotel room clutching my new bridle to my chest lovingly pondering important equestrian matters, I started to worry that I am not being diligent enough with my leather care.

I left this cryptic blog post note to myself as a reminder to get you lovely folks to weigh in:
"Soap. Condition, oil.
How often?  What use"
So because even I was like, "Uh, what is this?" when I got back, let me expand that thought a little.

What do you do with a bridle/boots when you first get it?  Do you feel the need to clean it?  Condition it?  Oil it?  Treat it with anything magical?  And if so, what products do you use?

How often do you do these things?  What is your regular care routine for your leather products?

I have a bit of a shameful routine myself right now, but now that I have pretty, expensive things, I really need to up my game.  And also try to salvage my old, pretty, expensive things.

I did buy this though, since I figured that it couldn't hurt to have a product made by the same brand as the bridle:

Unfortunately, Tredstep doesn't make leather cleaning products.  I will tell you now that I am that person.  The person who buys all the things.  Branding is never so effective as with the ignorant and gullible.