Friday, June 19, 2015

My "Accident" - Part 1

"I dont ever want to feel, like I did that day. Take me to the place I love, take me all the way."- Red Hot Chili Peppers



I came off Hola hard and broke 4 bones in my back and have since decided that maybe riding Hola wasnt such a good idea afterall... of course that didnt stop me from contemplating, (before I was even out of the ER) just who should be riding Hola.

Before we get to that...

What happened?

Hola spooked. She went from facing East to facing West approx ten feet away before I could so much as blink an eye. I made the mistake of trying to hang on even though my ass was no longer touching the saddle and I was instead clinging to her right side. FYI- clinging to a very green horse is a bad idea. In that moment I had magically transformed from her trusted leader to a giant, horse-eating cougar. She blew sideways, away from me. I didnt have far to fall.

Whenever I tell someone the cause of my injury their first question inevitably seems to be, "How tall is your horse!?" My face turns pink and cough something like *ehem* fourteen...ah... one...ish *cough* But then someone made the point that in fact her height could have played a role in the severity of my injury because I didnt have time to adjust. I came off sooooo fast and soooo hard and it was such a short distance to the ground that I hit harder than if I came off a tall horse...

Yah, I'm going to go with that. *shushes argument* 

So I hit the ground, which was very hard packed crusher dust (like cement). I am pretty sure, given where I fell and the direction she blew that she intentionally tried not to step on me, for which I am grateful. Something about the way I fell, and the way that it hurt had me pause for just a second before I tried to stand up. I look at my feet and wiggled my toes. They moved so I stood up and thought... a naughty word. 

"Oh. Okay, that hurts." I said. "Owe. I'm okay. I'm okay. I'm okay. Owe." 

Then I did the cowgirl thing... I tried to walk it off. I thought surely just breathe through the worst of the pain and it will ease up in a minute. Brush it off. I've hit the ground enough times, I know that usually the adrenaline will kick in and it will stop hurting so bad...until a few hours later at least. I called for Laurie to go and grab Hola and drive her around in some circles. Laurie looked at my face and seemed concerned about leaving me but she went and caught up Hola and began working her. I tried to focus on that but I suddenly realized that I was going to be sick. And maybe pass out. I remember telling myself to suck it up but I couldnt get any air. "I've just knocked the wind out of myself' I thought, 'Relax and I will get some air.'  But then I was hit with another wave of nausea that was so overwhelming, so acute I truly wished to be sick right then just to make the feeling go away. The ground would not hold still so I got down on my hands and knees.

 Laurie and her husband quickly came over and I said, "I think I need to go to the hospital." The pain was just unreal and seemed to be intensifying rather than settling down. Laurie ran to get the car and pulled it around to the barn. I kept saying, "Im going to be sick and I think I'm going to pass out." over and over because I thought surely at any moment I was going to be sick or keel over and yet I didn't. 

Clint said he was going to help me up and took me under the elbows to begin the walk to the car. I wasnt fully upright when, suddenly, I woke up. I was slummed on the ground and I had no idea where I was. I looked up and saw a lady walking towards me. The image shifted in to focus. I heard the lady say, "Did she pass out?" and then it came flooding back, the pain, the memory of my accident, where I was and that the lady was my dear friend Laurie and I was on the ground in Clints arms. "No, she just collapsed." He said. Oddly I felt the need to argue that I had, in fact, passed out. That point seemed important for some reason... maybe because for a brief moment I had felt nothing. I looked at the ground. I hadnt been sick. One humiliation less, nice. 

While the pain came back, luckily the nausea had disappeared entirely as well as the feeling like I was going to faint. I was contemplating all of this when I heard myself ask, "What is that sound?" Is the hose on? I hear water running."
Neither Laurie or Clint answered, obviously focused on more pertinent issues. 
"What is that sound?" I repeated. "Is there a hose on? Where is the water? I hear water."
Laurie, later would recount how the 911 operator was asking questions about my condition and whether I had hit my head. "Is she making sense? asked the operator. "No. No, she isnt." Laurie responded, her tone grave.  
Only I was making sense. I was trying to find the source of this bizarre sound. It was everywhere around me but oddly not towards the barn. I could feel it buzzing in my ear, like a current behind me, to my left and to my right. On second thought it was not like water. It droned. And pulsed. I thought of the sound of high power lines. It was so acute and so bizarre it took my attention off the stabbing pain in my right hip. I have come to believe, however bizarre it may sound, that what I was hearing was actually the electric fence along the paddock rails. 

Soon, that distracting sound was replaced by the approaching wail of ambulance's siren. My first thought, when the two male paramedics arrived, was how embarrassing it was that I had this accident. I repeated this ("How embarrassing" and "Im sorry") countless times over the coming hours. I still find it embarrassing, not that I fell but that I needed that attention. Both medics were so kind. Their purposeful but relaxed and positive attitudes immediately made me feel like help had really arrived... right up until they told me that I needed to roll down on to a board. 

I had found, on my hands and knees, a little sweet spot where the pain was not quite so intense and the idea of having to get on to my back was too much to even contemplation. So they brought out the laughing gas (nitrous oxide) which unfortunately did little to make things funny( nor, unfortunately, painless) but oddly enough made me hear my own voice as a deep baritone, (it wasnt, I asked Laurie).

The nitrous oxide did cut the pain enough that I managed to roll myself on to the board and the medics got me strapped down. If I had known then that I would stay strapped to that board for the next five hours I might not have gone so willingly. Once on the gurney they began asking me questions, some to fill out the necessary paperwork and some of which were intended to test my mental faculties. Litttle would I have guessed that the question  "How old are you?" would fall in to both categories. 
"How old are you?"one paramedic asked.
"31" I quickly replied. 
I heard Laurie softly tell the medic, "She's 32."
"Damn! That's right I am 32. That has nothing to do with hitting my head, I promise! I just can never remember how old I am." I exclaimed.
"That's okay" said the medic. "When is your birthday?"
I told him. 
"Oh so you are just about 33 then." he said casually.
"Dammit! Just a minute ago I thought I was 31 and now I'm almost 33! Jeeze! I aged two years in the last two minutes. Hasn't this day been bad enough!" 
I was cutting jokes while being loaded in an ambulance. God. 
Once I was settled inside the paramedic took my blood pressure. 
"What is your blood pressure normally?" he asked. 
"115-125 over 75/80" I repled. 
"Okay." He softly said. For some reason I keyed in on this and was then dying to know what my blood pressure was but I knew that if I asked him he probably wouldn't tell me or maybe he would lie so I didnt ask but instead stressed about whether I should or shouldn't be worried and if it was indicative of a larger problem or byproduct of the pain.

 For the first few minutes I kept wiggling, trying to find a position where it would hurt less. I even went so far as to ask the medic if he could undo the straps so that I could change position. He looked at me with his kind, knowing eyes and said no that I needed to try and lay still. 
That moment was when I realized that the pain meant something. It meant that I was hurt and that I really didnt know how bad. 
I looked at the paramendic and asked, "It's just going to hurt isnt it?" 
"Yes." He said softly. 
"I just need to accept that then."
"Yes." 
"Okay."
"Breath through it," He suggested. "Like Lamaze. Deep breath, in. Aaaand out." 
I followed the breathing, which helped, but I think just accepting that I wasnt going to be able to move away from the pain and that I was going to have to ride it out was what got me in the right frame of mind.

When we arrived at the hospital my Mom, my DB, Laurie and my barn neighbor, Joan were all waiting for me. I guess Joan had run over when she saw the ambulance and decided to come to the hospital with Laurie, who had called my mom and DB. They put an IV and started fluids. I briefly met a doctor who said that he I needed to hang tight while he got me in for an MRI. Until then I needed to stay as still as possible and they would give me some morphine to help with the pain. A nurse came in and gave me a small amount of morphine, saying that we had to wait and see how I reacted before administering anything more. That first shot of morphine combined with my shock/adrenaline and immediately made me feel high as a kite. The pain was still there but oddly felt further away... like it was resting just above my hip rather than deep within it. That small amount of relief cleared my mind enough that I suddenly realized just how badly I needed to pee.

Part 2 soon.


Thursday, June 18, 2015

Maybe Try Not Riding Hola

So on Easter Monday of this year I had a wee little incident that got me thinking about revising my goals for Hola.

I was thinking, gee... you know... maybe I should not ride Hola.

Yah, I like that plan better.

You see, Hola is fast. And reactive. And did I mention fast? And I'm a thirty something, overweight, under talented (that's a thing right?), chicken shit who lacks the coordination and balance required to navigate the corners of her own house without banging her hips and is known to walk in to the refrigerator on a weekly basis and one who trips over her own shoes and up the stairs on occasion.

I also, apparently, dont fall well. Which is, apparently, the next best skill to have if staying on your horse is workin' out for ya!

What I am trying to say is that I fell of Hola and I landed badly. Really badly. And I broke 4 bones in my back.

I broke my L1 and L2 transverse processes and broke off a chunk of both my L3 and L4 transverse processes which is apparently really hard to do. So if you think about it I didnt fall off badly...  I fell of spectacularly!

*raises hand*

I'm special.

So I broke these transverse processes which takes a tremendous amount of blunt force trauma, so much trauma, actually, that it is most often results from being struck by a car (pedestrian) and getting shot and is often accompanied by damage to internal organs.

Luckily, my guardian angels were all present and accounted for on that fateful day. Not only did I not injure my spinal cord, I also did not have any internal organ injuries. The doctor said that I was very very lucky.

He also said, "The good news is that you are going to be okay. The bad news is that the next few weeks are going to be extremely painful." That man was on point when he said this is a painful injury and that pain meds would not be overly helpful. Over the next few weeks I said "fuck" a lot. Sorry, but cotton-headed-ninny-muggins (Elf) just wouldn't cut it when it felt as though I was being stabbed in the back with a long hot dagger every time I moved.

In all seriousness it was extremely painful but within a few weeks I got through the worst of it and within about 6 weeks I was walking fairly well. A pretty short recovery when considered against the terrifying alternative scenarios of spinal injuries. Also on a serious note, I just want to say, that I am truly grateful for my health and have the utmost compassion for those who deal with physical and mental challenges and chronic pain. While I celebrate the knowledge that I can live a full and pain-free I wont forget that not everyone is so blessed and that things can change in the blink of eye...

So make it count.




Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Conformation Study- It's a Crap Shoot

I have a couple of friends who are horse shopping and so I decided to do up a highly unscientific series about what I look for in a horses conformation.

First rule of horse conformation is that there are no guarantees. Or horse can look "perfect" and yet have a life or career ending injury. Conformation is complicated on so many fronts as you have to consider how a multitude of factors could be effecting how a horses conformation is presenting. For example a horse may appear "camped out behind" (standing with his hind legs stretched out behind him) but in fact that the horse is only standing that way as a result of having been ridden in an ill fitting saddle which caused pain in the lumbar region of his back which makes it uncomfortable for the horse to bring its hind legs underneath himself. Not only could that horse be standing badly as a result of pain in the back but he could also have muscles in all the wrong places from using his front end to do the work his rendered useless hind end.

The angle of a horses foot is effected by the trimming style of the farrier. The condition of the horse (it's weight and muscling) could also dramatically effect how a horse presents conformation wise. For instance a horse look narrow in the front but in fact just lack muscling that broadens the chest and makes the stance wider. A over conditioned horse can stand too wide in front, making him unable to move his front end cleanly and and even changing the shape of his foot as he bares weight in a manner unnatural to his god-given form.

Because in horses the exception  very commonly proves the rule, there are horses with horrible conformation that have stood up to a lifetime of hard riding and horses with perfect conformation that fall apart at every step.

Buying a horse can feel like a real crap shoot because it is- a real f-ing crap shoot. All you can do is hedge your bets as much as possible and hope for the best.

 "No Foot, No Horse" is no less true today than it was when man first climbed on a horses back. The foot changes with feed, condition, work, environment, farrier practices and whether Venus is in retrograde (kidding... I hope.) The size, shape, strength, and structural soundness of the foot is a science even the scientists cant agree on so us lay people dont stand a freakin chance. But my experience with Quarter Horses has lead me to fear naviular and laminitis above all else. Both conditions are common and debilitating and can develop without rhyme or reason but there are some things I look for that give me cause to hope.

Here it goes...

The first thing I look for when judging a horses feet can be done blind folded in the dark. I ask what a horse eats. If the horse cant be on pasture at all. If the horse is a good weight but only being fed a flake of local twice a day, run.  If you take your blindfold off and you see that the horse has fatty deposits on its tail head, wither and/or neck, run for your life. But seriously...Many QHs cant handle lush pasture or a whole day out on grass and many are easy keepers. And even horses that fail the above test can be perfectly healthy if managed with proper care. But it is FAR easier to keep weight on a horse that requires a healthy amount of calories than trying to manage a horse that is constantly at risk of killing himself by so much as looking at patch of green grass. There horses are prone towards founder and founder sucks. Enough said.

Google: "Fatty deposits on Horses" Look at images.

Sadly horses that are fat tend to look better than thin "rangy" looking horses. Fat horses tend to be round, slick, have "proud" arched looking necks and big asses. Even if a horse doesn't have fatty deposits and is just being overfed, I would always hesitate to buy a horse that is too thin or too fat. It is hard to judge a fat horses conformation because fat hides their structure and makes them move poorly (making it difficult to know if their poor movement is as a result of being a porker or because of a soundness issue.) A thin horse is easier to judge and tends to move better but you always have to worry about issues that may arise when the horse is in condition and baring weight. Also note that the disposition of an underweight or overweight horse is also deceptive. A fat horse can act quiet because of the effort required to move. A thin horse can act hot because it doesn't take much effort to move. A fat horse can act hot as it is hopped up on feed. A thin horse can act quiet because it lacks the calories for energy. It is hard enough to judge when the conditions are perfect. Too thin or too fat can muddy the waters.

Will add to this post tomorrow.



Sunday, March 1, 2015

Hola- Hitting the Trail! (15-18

Last week, a day after our scary ride in the field I got on Hola in the arena. I was really nervous to see how she would feel. I was SO happy when I got on her and she felt absolutely solid. She guided nicely and most importantly she felt happy and relaxed. I was so relieved! I actually got a little video of our loop that day (and of me playing with her ears because they are so dang cute!)

The next day I got on Hola again in the paddock towards the end of the day. I wasn't going to because the wind was blowing really hard and she was fresh. And then I reminded myself that excuses such as those are for pussy-footing-ninny muggins which I am certainly not (*whispers conspiratorially* I  total am a pussy-footed-ninny-muggin!) So I got on and sure enough she was a little jacked. Now the real question is, was she jacked because of the wind/time of day or was she jacked because I thought she was going to be jacked? *raises one eyebrow* She didn't do anything really wrong, she was just back talkin' a little. Ha! A back talking mare, never known one of those before.

On Saturday I tacked Hola with the plan to walk her in hand down the trail near the farm with Laurie riding Ella. I thought I would take my helmet out to the edge of the field so that when we got back to the barn I could just hop on for a short ride while she was good and tired. I wasn't going to tie my helmet to the saddle as to not be tempted to get on her while on the trail because I just didn't think we were ready for that. Remember, I've already admitted to the ninny thing... Well, by the time we headed out for the trail I had decided I would take my helmet and just play it by ear.  We had been walking for a about twenty minutes when Laurie stopped and asked, "Well? You getting on." I thought for a moment and said "No. I am not ready. I think I just want to ride that last stretch from the garbage can to the hill before home." Laurie agreed with the plan and we happily continued on. Half an hour later I noticed we were nearing the garbage can that marks the final stretch for home. I stopped Hola and adjusted my girth and put my helmet on. And then I continued walking for a few minutes while trying to really key in to how Hola was feeling. What I got was that she was a little bit tired, a little bit keen to get home, and very relaxed. When we got just past the garbage can I stopped Hola and mounted. She stood quietly. I asked Laurie to stay behind me as I did not want Hola blindly following Ella. I asked Hola to walk on and she did. For the next ten minutes she walked down the trail like a broke old ranch horse. She didn't balk, spook or get tight backed even once. She whoaed when I asked. I pat on her. I got off. And then I shed a little tear. I had just rode down the trail on my sweet little Hola- a dream come true. The feeling of her striding out down the trail, solid and confident is one I will never forget. I am so grateful for this filly. For the opportunity I have been given. I am so blessed. I know it comes with risk. But I know that, even if the worst should happen, I am living the life I dreamed.

This afternoon I rode Hola down the trail again. Same trip. But she was much more fresh this evening. It was actually really nice to feel her look around a bit more. At one point she hesitated to walk past a tree stump but she never actually stopped and didn't try to bolt by or rush off once past. Riding her when she is buzzy with energy really helps boost my confidence. I want to train through how she reacts when stressed rather than avoid any stressors. Or least I want a happy medium between the two. The challenge of the day was to ride her up the hill at the end of the trail. This hill slopes off sharply on both sides and is steep enough to be blind at the top. She gave both sides a hard look and was pretty bug eyed coming over the crest but we made it and she stood for me to dismount. It was far from the quiet walk through the park that we had on Saturday but a reason to give thanks nonetheless.

video

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Ride 14- Pushing Past Comfort

Yesterday Hola and I had spent the afternoon hanging around the barn. Here in Southern BC a sunny winter day brings about this irresistible buzz of energy! Most of us head outside to garden, hike, ride or do chores but often, once one actually gets out in to the sun, a vitamin D coma of sorts sets in and suddenly all we want to do is stretch out like a lazy cat and bask in glow of that warm light. We have had a very mild winter here in the West Coast  (sorry my fellow Canadians to the East!) but a sunny day never goes unappreciated. And so it was that I found myself at the barn doing chores, rushing around doing errands, meeting the vet, brining in a load of hay and intermittently sitting in the middle arena with my eyes closed simply soaking up the rays.  Hola was not nearly as busy. She stood in the sun all day and barely moved. I kept thinking that I should get on her and do some of the softening exercises from the day before but my "to-do" list didn't end and it wasn't until the sun was just starting to set that I finally had time to ride. Laurie was home from work and we decided to head back in to the big field for a quick jaunt. It sounded like a good plan at the time...

But I failed to stop and think about what I was doing and whether I was setting Hola up for success. After a day of hard work I was just dying to get on and go for a quiet walk around the field. Had I paused for moment to think I would have realized this was a plan bound for failure. Most nights, right around dusk, the horses get this surge of energy. They start thinking about coming in for supper. They are the furthest from their last meal. They are tired of standing out in the rain or... after a warm day of sleeping in the sun the crisp evening air makes them come alllllive. Nothing makes our horses more jacked than that sharp drop in temperature at dusk. The sleepy, soft, relaxed pony I caught and saddled at 5:15 was a much different animal than the one I went to stop on at 5:30pm. Hola was ready to roll. She had been moving around me so nicely on the line and looked so damn pretty doing it that I really didn't notice, (until I was sitting on her that is) that she was so jacked. Right away my first thought was, "I need to get off." She was buzzy. I sucked it up and asked her to walk on which she did with a fair about of bounce in her step. We a few hundred meters down the length of the field before I circled out away from Ella and tried to get her to soften. Ella continued down the field a short distance and I could feel Hola's anxiety rise. Laurie realized I wasn't able to follow along and so looped back to me. I had to holler at Hola a few times when I felt her start to really brace up but she didn't actually try anything. We walked back towards the barn and started doing some circles. I could feel Hola come back to me but she was still buzzing. I asked Laurie if she could just stand and wait a minute while I waited for a good place to quit. It is SO hard to wait for a place to quit when ride is gong sideways. I went back to what she knows, some one rein stops to a whoa and while she was far from hog wild she was also far from being under control. I finally got her stand quietly for a minute and she gave her face softly both ways. I waited another minute as she stood and just prayed she wouldn't take a step. She didn't so I finally able to get off. As much as I regret not setting her up for success and while I admit that she probably went backwards in her training that ride, I cant regret the little bit of confidence I gained in being on her while she was so wired. I didn't get off. I didn't get off and waited for the right place to quit. I hope to get on Hola tomorrow when she is nice and relaxed and go back to softening and just riding around quietly. Hopefully that will undo last nights mistake easily enough without loosing what I gained.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Hola Rides 11, 12 & 13

On Saturday I had quite the ride on my Hola! It was a beautiful crisp day and I was just dying to ride! We didn't have time to haul out to an arena and I was feeling a little hemmed in by the idea of riding in the paddock as the footing and size make it difficult for Hola to walk out without having to be guided every ten strides as we come up against another corner. I was lamenting about how to put together the best ride when Laurie ever so casually suggested I ride her out in the big field. I don't even think I replied at first, I just stared at her like, "Yah, that's not going to happen." The big field is... big. It has no fences. It has no obstacles. It is just acre after acre of grass. Which is kind of terrifying on a young horse. Laurie, being the good friend that she is, didnt hesitate to kick my ass a little. She has so much more confidence in Hola and I than I do. I said I would start by walking her out in hand and then see how she felt. When I got in to the field I was happy to find that the ground was actually pretty firm and that Hola was very tuned in. I was having her jog around me in small circles, turning her back each way and she was just a little jacked but moving her feet nicely. I could see Laurie sneaking a glace every so often to see when I was going to nut up. Finally she walked over and asked what I was going to do. I said, "I don't think it is a good idea, it just doesn't feel safe. I want her to have the chance to just walk out but this is too big of a leap, too quick." So Laurie asked why I was so worried about the open space. I explained that the biggest fear I have is getting hung up and drug. I have had both happen and walked away relatively unscathed (skinned my back and got stepped on a few times.) However I have seen a few people get hung up over the years and there is just nothing scarier. That is why I feel better in the smaller areas. I am not so scared of falling off, I am just scared of not falling ALL THE WAY off. And being in that open space where there is noting to stop that horse should the worst happen is way out of my comfort zone. However...

Sometimes you have to feel the fear and just do it anyways. 

I got on Hola. I was more nervous than I have ever been on her and she sure felt it. For the first five minutes of so she was pretty jacked and I kept having to bend her around and send her off again. I loved that I was able to just ask her to go forward without having to be so in her face. I went maybe five minutes or so down the field away from the barn and then turned for home. I was a little apprehensive about how she would react to heading back but actually she seemed to relax some which helped me relax which helped her relax and so on. I really wanted to get off as I felt that I had cleared that hurdle and wanted to quit before it went wrong but I forced myself to stay on until I really felt that we were back in sync and we were both relaxed. Once I made that decision I was surprised at how quickly we achieved that goal. She is so sensitive to my energy that even though I thought that I had relaxed considerably she still felt that I was anxious to quit. The biggest mistake I made was that when I got off I was so excited I "whooped" as my feet hit the ground which spooked her a little. It was SO cool and SO exciting and SO rewarding to finally be out on her.

The next day I really wanted to get on her back in the arena and soften some of the guide I had lost the day before with my nerves. I did a lot of vertical and lateral flexion and asked her to yield her hip. It was actually a good thing that I went back to this as she was really sticky at first. I got her much lighter and then asked her to guide around again a little in a circle and she went beautifully. I stopped her, dropped her saddle and turned her loose.

So today I was really curious to see how much she had retained from the day before and was pleasantly surprised, as I so often am with this filly. She yielded nicely and  remembered all of it but most importantly she spent a lot of time licking and chewing and yawning. She obviously was thinking hard about this new life of hers. All of that pissy attitude I was so worried about has completely disappeared now that I have this big saddle on her. I am just thrilled with my good little filly.

 

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Hola Ride 9 & 10 in the Heavy Saddle

I have been on the hunt for a saddle for Hola. I got it stuck in my head that I really needed a lightweight saddle (17-20 pounds). The Bob's I'm riding her in now really doesn't fit well (I tweek it as best as I can but it isn't right) and it weights about 32-34 pounds. I would say your average quality western saddle weights around 32-36 pounds and your "lightweight" saddles fall somewhere between 22-30. I did find a few synthetic saddles that weighed between 17-20, the problem was that when I got in to the synthetics I took a massive hit to the quality of the hardware and tree. While there are qualitative synthetic lightweight saddles available, most are endurance saddles and most are expensive (in the $2000 range). I dont want to make that kind of investment in a saddle that is not built for the kind of riding I want to do (cow horse) and that will be hard to get an return on should it not work out.

 I tried two Wintec westerns on Hola. The first didn't fit. The second wasn't horrible but there was no way on God's green earth that I was going to be able to ride her in that piece of shit! Sorry, but it awful! I felt like I was sitting 3" off of her back, there was no feel in my seat, the placement of the stirrups was awkward and I felt off balance. I also tried some of my friends saddles to get an idea of tree fit and found that the Arab saddle was the closest and so I took out a new Crates Arab to try. It was close, but no cigar. I also tried a older but well built saddle that was too narrow and far far too small for me (my ass did the muffin top thing out the back.) I tried Laurie's old Saddlesmith which was also too narrow. I tried another friends Wintec Dressage saddle that had a "wide" gullet and it actually was a pretty close fit but unfortunately I don't have the cojones to ride her in a English just yet. So then finally, out of desperation I put on BIG BOB.

BIG BOB is my honkin' heavy Bob's Custom Cow Horse saddle. I bought it last year off of a friend for Abby but found that it's pocket was too tight for my liking. It is very comfortable and has a very secure feeling seat and the stirrups fall in a way that keep you nice and balanced. It is also really f-ing heavy. I would say about 36 pounds or so. Just my luck.

I actually discovered that BIG BOB fit Hola after trying the Wintec. Hola has been getting a wee bit pissy in the last few rides and I think it is because I keep farting around with these saddles that just don't fit right. So I got on her with the western Wintec and it was obvious that I wasn't the only one who hated the feel of that saddle. So I got off and pulled the saddle. I wanted to get on her again in my other saddle just to finish off on a better note. At the last minute I grabbed BIG BOB and paired it with a reinsman pad I have found works well. When I got on Hola again and this time she settled quickly and seemed to move around with a freer feel but still had attitude. At one point she wanted to stop and I pushed her on. That is when I felt her make her first genuine threat. Her head dropped, her back rose and she sucked back... but before she could get to the next step I bopped her good and growled "QUIT!" She hopped forward and went to try again so I grabbed one rein and bopped her again. Her whole body seemed to scream, "Holy shit, I'm gonna die!" and then I made my body go really quiet and just said, "Goooood, now walk on" and to my surprise (and luck) she did. A half a lap later she started licking and chewing and relaxed. It was only then that I felt the tickle of nerves. I think I said to Laurie, "Hooooly Shit that was scary!" Luckily my brain only clicks back in to its default "chicken shit" mode after everything has settled. I finished by having her stand and gently asked her to give her face both ways until she got really soft.

I decided to ride her in the big Bob's again today. I got on and she stood and didn't brace up as she has the last week. I sat on her for a moment and asked her to walk on. She went a few laps around the paddock like a broke old ranch horse. She guided beautifully. I switched directions and did a few more laps and asked her to "whoa". She came to a quick stop. I had only been on her for a few minutes but it was all so perfect and she was so happy and relaxed I decided to just quit while I was ahead. I got off, dropped her cinch, pulled the saddle and turned her loose. I am hoping to get on her again tomorrow.

Last week I ordered an Abetta Arab tree that is 17 pounds from Stateline Tack. I felt comfortable ordering it as it is cheap (under $500) and they take returns. So I will try that on Hola next week and if it works I will keep it but if it doesn't I think I may just look for a Wintec Dressage like I tried and just use that for longer rides or quiet at home rides and BIG BOB for any of the scarier rides. I need a saddle that fits her. I cant afford to give her an excuse to act up and I want her to be relaxed and happy. She's a good filly.

I

Friday, February 13, 2015

Hola Ride #8- Dropping in on a Group

On Tuesday night Laurie and I took Hola and Ella out to drop in at a group lesson with a trainer I know quite well. The idea was that I would take Hola in tacked and just keep out of the way and get her exposure to a busier arena with some "strange" horses and at the end of the night, if everything calmed down, I might hop on for a short ride. Well, for starts Hola was j.a.c.k.e.d..  I am also surprised at just how reactive my quiet little filly can be! But then Hola is not "quiet" in the typical sense of the word. She likes to move her feet, is very interested in everything going on around her and she is so athletic, so free in her body that her reactions are fast big. On one hand I love this because it is part of what makes her so cool. On the other hand, it is scary to think about riding a filly who's small spook can take her from one spot to another (ten feet away) in 2 seconds flat. On top of that she is going through a bratty stage. At least I like to think it is a stage. She is smart enough and sensitive enough to know when I am around people that change my posture/habits. All but one of the people there I knew personally so I wasn't nervous, but there is that small change that happens when I am around other horse people and there is a certain expectation/hope that Hola will behave perfectly and she also seems to know that I hesitate to school on her around new people. I lunged her on the short line and she bucked and farted and acted like a idiot in general. She did settle down and was pretty quiet for the next hour. I decided to get on her. Well! First, I took a while to prepare her to get on, took her back out and lunged her around, stood above her on the mounting block and waited for her to settled, rocked her saddle a little, gave her time to think about the fact that I was getting up there. I stepped on her and for a few second she stood, and then she took a few steps forward and everything her body went "F-U! Get off! Get off! Get off!" She didn't buck but her back felt high and I was able to pull her head around and she stopped and came back to me. So I tried walking her off again. Same thing. I pulled her around the other way and waited for her to soften. Again we went off and again she just felt totally not with me. I finally decided to stop her and just sit for a few minutes until she really relaxed. Just then a new horse came to the (high) door of the arena. F-ing perfect! And this horse was young, bug eyed, and a wildly colored paint. Needless to say, I got off in a hurry. To Hola's credit, she did stand. But a minute after my feet touched the ground she was blowing around have a melt down as the other horse also had a melt down. Ten minutes later both horses were settled again and I knew I had to get back on. So I did. Which was when I found that my guiding/steering had gone to hell in a hand basket! Hola was walking out nicely but I didn't have much control and once again I think I might have been a little to conscious of eyes on me. In the end she did guide a little better (but not great) and she did relax so we ended on a good note but it wasn't overly pretty and far from perfect. As much as it sucks to admit it, I think Hola and I both need more time spent out and around people. Damnit! I really don't prefer riding with a group, no matter how friendly and non-judgmental. But I need  make sure Hola doesn't learn to be the same. I might go again next Tuesday only I don't think I will get on again until I feel like we can go and stay together mentally.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Hola Ride #7- Awesome

Last night we hauled Hola out to the same indoor we were at on Monday night. When we got there a couple of ladies where there having a barrel racing lesson and another boarder was riding her big warmblood. Three strange horses, two extra people watching/coaching and us made for a busy arena... or at least a much busier arena than Hola has ever seen. It was a very dark and rainy night which meant we had to tack as quickly as we could which added extra bluster to the evening. When we walked in the arena Hola was certainly bug eyed...


but we both settled in to a corner to quietly watch the going-ons. Eventually the barrel racers left and after cantering (which did freak Hola out a little) and cooling out the English girl left as well. I spent the next 45 minutes walking around the arena talking to Laurie about stops and just having Hola tag along with me. At about quarter to nine I thought I would get on Hola for ten minutes while Laurie cooled down. Hola was very relaxed by this point but actually hadn't worked besides walking around with me. I got on and she walked off so I bent her to a stop, waited a minute then asked her to walk on. I said to Laurie that she really felt like she was fixing for trouble, her back felt high and she had a lot of energy. Laurie watched for a minute and said she Hola just looked really happy and was moving out beautifully. After a few minutes Hola stretched out some and I relaxed a little. As we turned a corner I felt her really step out and I said to Laurie, "I think she wants to trot!" So I put some energy in my seat and she stretched out some more but didn't break gait. So just to let her know she could go I gave her one small cluck and off she went. I could feel her tense up a little as she felt my weight bounce on her back. She went about 6 strides and kind of stalled. I walked her forward and waited for her to relax again and then put the energy in my seat and off she went again at a trot (no cluck). This time we completed one full lap with just a few stalls that I clucked her past. I sat and said "whoa" and she went from trot to stop without a single walking step. I thought my heart was going to burst I was so damn happy. I was so worried that I was going to slow. Last night I night I realized that Hola was going to tell me when she was ready for more. It is not that I think there is anything wrong with moving training along at a more productive rate. But Hola and I are going to go at our own glacier pace and I'm going to stop worrying about it. Last night Hola actually asked, "Hey, can we trot?" and when I said, "Yah, let's trot!" she went forward in a relaxed and confident fashion. What a great filly!

Monday, February 2, 2015

Hola Ride # 6 But only Hour 3!

In October of 2014 I put about 14 rides on Hola. 14 rides sounds like a fair number. But in fact, I looked back and did the math and realized that in 14 rides I actually spent less than 2 hours total on Holas back. I count a "ride" as being on her back whether that be 2 minutes of 15 minutes and whether she be moving or not. Six of those 14 rides were less than 5 minutes and none were over 15. I have all the time in the world to get this filly broke and I'm going to take advantage of that fact.  This year each of my rides have been a little longer. I am at ride #6 and already I've spent close to an hour on her back and much more of that time was spent actually moving.
 
Yesterday I hauled Hola out to an indoor arena. She has been off the property only once since November and she has been ridden 5 times this year (all the last week). My goal was to get her out and not worry too much about whether I got on her or not. I didn't now how busy that arena would be or how she would react. Luckily the other rider was an friend and a lady who I took lessons off of years ago. I was able to stand and chat for a half hour or so and then Laurie kindly ponied Hola for a good ten minutes off of Ella so she could get the willies out. Poor Hola, just doesn't get why she should have to work so hard. The cool part was that she stood around with me near the new horse and then she had to work really hard when she was close to her buddy and then she came back to me and I sat on her while she aired up. She was very happy to have me sitting up there if it meant she got to rest. I was surprised when I asked her to move forward (after about five minutes) that she went and guided pretty well and didn't try to latch back to Ella (smart girl!) I got off and we stood for a while longer. Before we left I got on her again for a few minutes and walked her down the length of the arena. It sounds dumb it was the furthest we had ever gone in a straight line, just moving out and walking on without me guiding her or having to ask anything of her. It felt like a real ride not a training session. It was so cool! When we stopped I took the below picture. Good filly!

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Hola- Ride #5 2015

I had a great ride on Hola yesterday. We started by going for a walk in hand down the road where Hola met and instantly fell in hate with a newborn lamb, a llama, and a ram. She lost her ever-loving' mind. So on the walk home Laurie ponied Hola off of Ella and worked out some the kinks. By the time we got home Hola was in a much better frame of mind. I tacked her up and mounted. She walked out really well again and guided around the cones. I am still not happy with her attitude at times (just a bit of tail swishing and ears back, tight neck) but it is coming and going and she didn't lift her back this time. After we did a couple of laps I sat one her for a few minutes and tried to make my energy go really soft and quiet. She stood and started yawning. And yawning. And yawning. She found her happy place. Good filly.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Hola's 4th ride of 2015

Yeah okay so maybe trotting yesterday wasn't the best idea. Hola stands at just 14HH, however, yesterday, I can pretty confidently say her back was sitting at about 14.3HH. She was one pissed off little filly. I figured I could either get off and put her to work (the pussy option) or I could give her supreme shit and then carry on like she had been a perfect angel the whole time (the cowgirl up option). Being that there were no men standing in the peanut gallery, the pussy option sounded pretty tempting. But I had myself to answer to so i took option two and bent her around and asked her to disengage her hip, pushed her off and then did the same the other way. I yelled at her to "quuuuuuit it!" And then forced myself to go all soft and calm and asked her to walk on. For a few steps she still felt ready to  cause trouble but then she took a deep breath, relaxed her back and walked forward calmly. We circled some pylons and I bent her to a stop (softly) both ways. I then sat quietly on her for a few minutes before working on having her give vertically and laterally. I even got her to back up a step. All in all it was a great ride, about 15 minutes long. I took a pic of our shadow. I have taken photos of the shadow cast by my horses and me for as long as I can remember. I was kind of excited to get the first of me on Hola. 

Friday, January 30, 2015

Hola's 2nd & 3rd Ride of 2015

On Tuesday I got on Hola for about five minutes. Such a short ride and yet we made a significant step forward... "forward" being the operative word. I introduced Hola to the crop before getting on to make sure she wasn't started by it's appearance. Ha! To Hola, that stick meant absolutely nothing except for maybe the mild amusement of having something new to smell. I wiggled it around some and then scratched her body with it but she really could care less. I say this because I really don't think that the crop was what made a difference when I got on as she didn't know what it could do and she didn't care that I had it in my hand (had no association with it). So I got on her and asked her to walk on. And she WALKED ON.  Hola has been walking but she has lacked forward motion because she constantly feels like she is still trying to figure out how to balance my weight, she just doesn't stride out. But from the minute she stepped away from the step stool she really just moved out like I wasn't even up on her back. I did disengaged her hip to stop first right then left and guided her left and right a time or two and then had her walk out for maybe a minute more. I did tap the saddle gently with the crop a few times when I asked her to go forward again but more to just get her used to the idea of that crop. My goal for the day had been met in the first minute of the ride so I decided to quit and drop her saddle off in the middle of the arena.

On Thursday I accidently got Hola a little rattled before getting on. I was waiting for a friend to come out to the barn so that I could ride (I still am not comfortable getting on when no one is outside) so I started up with Monster but I guess I was in a hurry and I didn't give her enough time to get used the idea before winging under the lead. That horse jumped from spot to another, about ten feet away, in the blink of an eye. "Why am I getting on this creature?", I thought. But before I could get her in a more relaxed state of mind my friend J came out and I needed to get started (I told him I needed ten minutes of his time, max). So I hop on. And Hola walks off with more energy than even the day before. But she dropped her head a little and kind of said "Okay, this I am cool with". I had set up some cones to give me something to focus on in my turns which really helped. She guides really lightly (even though she stalls sometimes mid turn). About three minutes in to my ride another man (a friends husband) came out to the barn. His presence, combined with that of the young man watching me gave me this sudden surge of bravado! Weaving between some pylons didnt seem too impressive. I needed to show these boys that I had some cojones! So I thought... let's see if I can push Hola up to a trot. So I did!.... for about a stride and half. Hola was really uncertain. She seemed to say "Ah... hell no! I cant trot with your fat ass up there!" but she tried so I let her quit. I asked again and she went three strides before quitting. She was a little pissy about it but she tried and didn't throw in any monkey business so I decided to quit while I was ahead.

Not bad. Not bad at all for our third ride back!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Hola's First Ride of 2015

Yesterday I got on Hola for the first time in 2015!

In August of last year I put a solid 20 days of ground work on Hola and then in October I put 15 very short, very simple rides on her with my last ride being November 1st.

Last week I started up doing ground work with Hola again including sacking her out with the terrifying "MONSTER" (flag). After our ground work session yesterday I decided that she was in the perfect frame of  mind for her first ride back. I put on my helmet and stepped on her. She stood quietly and was completely unconcerned. She remembered how to guide left and guide right but as like in our last ride, she still lacks impulsion which I believe has to do with a lack of confidence in balancing my weight. I am going to have to start using a bat (very very lightly) to help her understand that when I ask her to move forward she needs to move out (the bat so that I dont have to wear out my "go" button before it is even installed) but I am hoping I might get ponied on her a few more times to help her gain confidence in moving out before we work on installing that "go" button.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

MONSTER!!!!

Schooooools innnnnn for WIN-TA *sung to the tune of "Schools out for Summer" Yah! Schoooooools innnnn for WIN-TER!

Poor Hola. Someday she is going to get a real job and boy oh boy, will that ever be a slap of cruel reality.

On Tuesday I cut a piece of tarp from the bottom of a big grain tote and sewed it on to a dressage whip with baling twine. When I picked it up and gave it a shake the white flap of textile crinkled, crackled and twitched to life in my hand. In that moment, "MONSTER" was born. (MONSTER is fuckin' frightening his name can only by written in cap locks!!!)

On Wednesday Hola met MONSTER for the first time. The rest of the horses on the farm also got an eye full of the flapping, crackling, crinkling, waggling MONSTER and did their best River Dance impersonations at the far side of the field while carefully keeping both eyes on the offending flapper and shamelessly abandoning Hola to her sad but inevitable fate. Bastards.

On Thursday Monster made another appearance. This time Hola's friends quickly decided that they were safe enough at the far side of the fence and settled in for some afternoon entertainment. After twenty minutes of having MONSTER flap about like some demented pigeon Hola decided that animated bit of fabric may not, in fact, be attempting murder upon her person. Thus MONSTER became Monster. With this revelations the show became much less entertaining and the Peanut Gallery dispersed which allowed Miss Hola to focus on the task at hand. By the end of session two monster had impressed Hola with the notion that if she stands still and/or walks forward calmly, the flapping, waggling, crinkling monstrosity of a tarp will also become quiet. She looked at me as if to say, "Its like, magic! If I stop, it stops!"

On Saturday monster and Hola came to a truce of sorts. She allowed him to ride her back, touch her legs, and even (briefly) wiggle along her tummy. Like a shy young woman on a date with an aggressively persistent and overly feely man, Hola submitted unhappily to the contact. Tomorrow morning Hola will once again come up against monster but I believe that their relationship may have come to a timely end by Monday. Once Hola's fear has been overcome I will create a new Frankenstein to rouse the rebel in my sweet filly. Just call me Victor!