Wednesday, December 3, 2014

One Year with Abby

Abby, my dear sweet girl, is slowly but surely becoming my horse and this week marks our first year together as partners....kind of....

Abby has been my horse on paper for just a month shy of seven years. Seven years!!! Whoa!! I just did the math. I cant believe I have owned her for that long and yet we have only just begun our journey together. Over the past few months I have been riding Abby fairly consistently and actually taking her out for a few lessons and some sessions on the flag. Up until September 1st I was still considering whether or not I would keep her and had not really committed to her being my horse. Don't get me wrong, I did NOT want to sell Abby, not for a second, but I had sworn that I was going to get down to one horse (I had three) and selling Hola was not an option. Hola is my pet, my baby, my love, my.... my horse. Abby is an absolutely AMAZING horse but she was not my pet. She was my reiner. A horse I invested in (financially not emotionally). Don't get me wrong, Abby is impossible not to love. She is the cutest damn mare, so funny and sweet but I hadn't ever had her at home where I could spend the time with her to become truly attached, at least not to anywhere near the degree to which I am attached to Hola. So I kept myself just a little aloof from her while I was still undecided. I had to either lease her, sell her, breed her, or keep her. Or I could lease, sell, breed or keep Hola. One or the other. Not both. I promised myself that I would make a decision by September 1st and stick with it. On September 1st I found myself unable to chose. Hola, my heart. Or Abby, my dreams. It was impossible. So I broke my promise and my rule and kept them both.

From that day on I opened my heart to Abby and I started riding her like she was my new partner. We are really starting to develop a partnership. She has helped me find confidence in my ability to ride. Riding a finished horse (or a least a horse that was finished and is still really damn broke if a little rusty) is so freakin' cool. And Abby on a flag is the coolest thing ever. She is so loaded with cow she just buzzes. My goal for the new year is to get her going on cows and then hopefully cut or do some reined cow horse in the Spring/Fall.

I am so blessed to have Abby and blessed again to have her daughter, Hola. I can live my dreams through them but I also get to go to the barn every day and spend time with two mares who are so full of love, good sense, kindness and oodles of goof-ball antics.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Ride #14- First Ride Off Farm

On Thursday night L and I hauled all the horses to ride at a local indoor arena... and when I say "all the horses" that includes Hola! While I've hauled Hola out quite a bit it has been a while and I knew she would be jazzed. The idea of getting on Hola in a big arena and in a new place scared the living bageezus out of me so I lied to myself, (a really helpful tool that is- being able to lie to yourself). I told my cowardly chicken shit brain that I was just going to pony her off of Abby and that way she would be familiar with the arena the next time I hauled out. Ha! I'm so gullible.

There is a big tie rail inside the cover-all (but just outside the arena) so, as it was raining, we hauled our tack inside and tied the horses to the rail. Hola was JACKED. It is so nice to have a steady-eddie horse to bring along, Abby just cocked a hip and ignored her daughter's bug eyed pacing. I figured that was a good approach so I did the same, just tacked her up like it was no biggie. L then took Abby and Ella in to the arena (which is behind a tall wall). Well, Hola went from restless and worried to full panicked. So I just stood in one spot and moved her feet around every time she tried to look over the wall. After five minutes she was a bit more settled but still far from relaxed however, I needed to get in and take Abby from L so that she could get riding so I had didn't get her as settled as I would have liked. Ideally I would have been able to just leave her tied while I rode but this place had no ties inside the arena (only outside the wall where I couldn't see her). I tried not to let Hola rest too long beside Abby when we went in (less relief at being with the other horses). I quickly got up and started trotting circles. Hola didn't like it much when I put her on the outside of the circle and long trotted Abs. LOL. Working that hard was not in her repertoire. So being the evil woman that I am we kept at it until she looked too tired to be pissy.

After our good work I spent quite a while standing and walking around (on Abs, ponying Hola) talking to L. When L was done riding I lunged Hola for a minute to get her mind on me and off of being stuck like glue to her mom. On the lunge Hola went sooooo soft and light. I just love watching that horse move. The upside was that the time ponying had made her much more confident and relaxed, the bad side was that she had aired up and found a second wind, so she wasn't not tuckered out at all. Oh boy. I walked her around and checked her cinch. I went to mount. Just then, somewhere nearby, firecrackers went off. Awesome. She raised her head and went bug-eyed but stood solid. I waited a few minutes till her eye went back in to her head and then got on. She stood. And didn't so much as turn a hair at the idea that I was on her. We stood for a few minutes, I bent her around left and right and then I asked her to walk off.. and found that while she didn't much care that I was on her but she did very much care about walking away from the other horses. I had to really think then about what I wanted to achieve. My goal was to get her to move out on good footing in a new place and to stay relaxed. So, I asked L to get on Abby and walk up beside me. Rather than have her pony me I just asked L to walk ahead of us. Sure enough Hola followed. She really stretched out and within a minute I was able to ask her to walk up and past Abby. So long as Abby stayed within fifteen feet or so she guided and moved out beautifully. No matter how far i got from Abby I was able to bend her to a stop and have her stand. On one hand this felt like a cop out as didnt have complete control. I wasn't comfortable with the idea that half of her mind was still stuck to Abby.... however, when I looked at the picture as a whole I realized that I had set us up to have her glued to the other horses the entire time and that asking her to move away was far beyond where we were at in her training. I had my horse moving out, guiding, stopping and standing still. I didn't have 100 percent of her mind. But she was confident, relaxed and pretty soft. In that respect I couldnt say the night was a complete failure... but it reminded that I need really think and plan ahead. I was so stuck on whether or not I had the nuts to get on Hola, that I didn't stop to think about whether I should have gotten on Hola. If I had stopped to think I would have easily been able to predict what would happen, (that she would be unhappy about leaving the other horses).

I knew going in that I was not going to be perfect... or anywhere close to it. Hola could do much better. Because I'm a total amateur, I cant afford to make the mistakes that are so foreseeable. I am going to be making enough mistakes that I cant see or avoid. I am going to have to be better next time.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Hola Doctoring and Rides 11, 12 & 13

Last weekend was Mane Event (horse expo). I was able to watch almost all of the Sandy Collier clinics (awesome!) but only a little bit of the colt starting challenge which was disappointing because Dale Clearwater had a long record of winning these type challenges and I really wanted to see him in action. I also had a friend riding in the Dee Butterfield barrel racing clinic and wanted to watch her and on top of that another friend was looking for a saddle and so I missed most of the day Sunday helping her try a saddle. All in all I found Mane Event as inspiring as ever and I was really keen to get back to work on Hola on Monday (her fetlock is all healed up).

So Monday afternoon I tacked Hola and decided to put some trust in her and not give her a work before getting on. I really wanted to know how she was going to react to being ridden again after a week off. I thought that if I got on her and she felt squiggly I would just get off and lunge her out. I also decided to go ahead and throw a snaffle in her mouth. I've asked her to pack a snaffle a handful of times before but never under saddle. I started by asking her from the ground to give both ways. Unfortunately, the right rein snagged up on the breast collar attachment and she had gotten her face bumped really hard when I released that side. I was really choked that I had let something like that happen, you only get one chance to get it done right the first time and she was really worried on that side after that painful bump. I decided to work on it once in the saddle so that I could make sure that rein didn't get snagged again. I stepped up on her and she stood quietly. I asked her to walk off and she walked off quietly. I asked her to guide to the left and she went. But then I asked for the right and her feet got stuck and she braced up. Dammit! So I went to work on her having give her face to the right and stuck with it until she relaxed. I thought that I had only been on her for five minutes but in fact that was our longest ride to date (ten minutes! lol) Aaaaand, I got on her in the gravel paddock! (up until now I have avoided it as it is the hardest place on the farm to land). I was really happy that she was really relaxed about walking out. It was a good ride but...

I still worry about whether I'm going to slow. Every time I get on her I have an objective that is slightly different than the time before and she is progressing... so I cant be totally off track, but I have 13 rides on her (most less than five minutes long) and we are at the same place that most people get in one ride. I have all the time in the world but I also want to challenge Hola and I know that my biggest fault to date has been not instilling in her a desire to work and she thinks her life is pretty damn easy. She really can get a pissy attitude about things and I just hate that.... but if I get after even a little bit that "Yes, Ma'am" attitude is right there, I just have to demand that she be better and then stay consistent about it and I have to start challenging her more.

On Tuesday I had a friend come with me to the barn. It was raining hard and there was a real bite in the air so we had brought some tea with us and planned on having a little visit in the barn after saying hi to the horses. I couldn't pass up the opportunity to work with Hola and so tacked her up, put the snaffle in her mouth, tied off the reins loose and parked her in the barn isle. The goal was for her to stand patiently while I visited. Ha! She was happy to stand quietly... she just wanted to be sucked up to my side, not standing eight feet away. We sat for a good half hour and I kept just getting up and putting her back to where I left her. Because she has had so much time tied to the wall I expected her to give up and go to sleep but she didn't, she insisted on being right there in the middle our conversation. What can I say, she is social butterfly. She was all tacked up and I had my friends eyes there for safety so I had to get on if for only a minute. The rain was stinging cold, the wind was up and there was water all over the paddock. Not a recipe for success. I stepped on her and she stood but when I walked her out I could feel her back was tight and she was a little jazzed about walking through the puddle. I bent her off both ways and did a few loops but she was eye balling the puddles and I knew I was asking for trouble so I hopped off and set her to work. My saddle got soaking wet but she was trotting through the puddles when we were finished. I didn't get back on (didn't want a wet ass!) but I felt like we accomplished something for the day.

Yesterday, Wednesday, I ponied Hola off of Abby in the hay field rather than lunge her... or at least that was the plan. Apparently Hola has decided that her mom is a pushover. I, however, am not. Unfortunately, I didnt get her going as well as I would have liked on the pony line as I ran out of time, (I had my DB coming to barn to be my safety). I threw Abby in her stall and took Hola out to the paddock for a talk. Five minutes later she was in a much better frame of mind. I had her disengaging her hip for a one rein stop (on the ground) and then I got on her back in a rope halter and did the same thing. She went beautifully. A successful five minute ride.

Oh! I forgot to mention... During the week and half that Hola was not being ridden (due to an infection from a cut to her hind fetlock) I tried to set a high standard for her behavior during doctoring as to keep moving forward in our overall training. I expected her to stand quietly for a ten minute cold hose (twice a day for the first 4 days and then once day thereafter) and to stand parked (not eating or tied) while I cleaned and wrapped her leg. By the end of the week I was really happy with how patiently she stood and I felt good about not wasting our time "off".

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Ride #10 & Ouchie

On Wednesday I happened to be at the barn when another boarder was there and so was able to get on Hola briefly while she was lunging her horse (I don't wan to ride Hola while alone on the farm). I decided to try this old light (not high quality) saddle L. has had hanging around the barn forever. I got on her just inside the round pen and the second I sat down in that saddle I wanted to get right back off. It SUCKED! I felt like I was sitting three inches off her back, my feet were behind my hips, the stirrups were slippery and I was being pitched forward. It was awful. I didn't get off. I instead asked her to step forward and out of the round pen. We walked two large circles of the small field outside the round pen (short grass). I didn't guide her a lot as was pretty impressed that she was walking forward so freely and felt so balanced. It was our first alone ride outside the round pen. The saddle sucked. My horse rocked!

On Thursday night I took Abby out to work the flag. My horse rocked! She is super cowy. More on that another day. That night we got home late and so I barely spared a glace at Hola when I brought her in from the field. On Friday afternoon I grabbed her from the field again and brought her in to tack. When I went to pick her back left I noticed her leg was swollen from fetlock to hock. I took her out and cold hosed it for ten minutes and found that what I thought was mud on the inside of her fetlock was a crusty wound. I wrapped it with a wet warm pad and left it for ten minutes then gave it a wash and found an 2" cut that was clearly a day or so old and clearly infected. She was sound but in no shape to ride. The next morning I picked up some antibiotics from the vet. This evening the swelling is almost entirely subsided. I am hoping that by Wednesday I will be able to get back in the saddle.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Ride 9- *YAWN*

I have been sitting on the sofa sick for three days. I am DONE with being laid up so I hauled my sorry carcass down to the barn and saddled Hola. I put her on the lunge line and discovered that I may have made a bit of a mistake... I gave her three days to think about the ass kicking she received on our last work. While I appreciated her "Yes, Ma'am!" attitude, I was a wee bit nervous about her over sensitivity to any kind of pressure. I had enlisted my Mom to come stand as my safety and so didn't have as much time to get her relaxed as I would have liked. I spent a good amount of time hopping around beside her and mounted and dismounted twice before really sitting down on her but apparently I had no cause to worry as she relaxed nicely once I was mounted. Once again I found myself in that bloody round pen with the shitty footing but we did manage to make a little circuit and the second time around she stopped. I asked her to walk on but she wouldn't and she seemed to be thinking about something... You know how babies get a look of concentration on their faces when they are filling a diaper? Yah well, Hola moved her bowels for the first time while mounted. I hadn't thought of that as being an event but it clearly was in her mind. She gave a big sigh, yawned once and then really relaxed.

Another short circuit around the pen and off she went yawning again...and yawning... and yawning. In my experience Hola yawns when she accepts and processes a lesson. I have noticed this as her "tell" since she was a yearling... I just hope I am not being naive in taking all that yawning as a sign. She is such a funny duck!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Hola- Rides 7 & 8

I picked up a nasty cold from my sister over the weekend but I was determined to keep on track and so went to the barn Tuesday evening with the goal to at least get on her even if for just a minute. I am just so pleased that when I step up on Hola she seems happy, relaxed and just totally comfortable with the idea. My DB came to watch and so I sat on her and talked to him for a good three minutes or so and stroked her neck.We were back in the round pen and the footing is just not ideal so I didn't bother asking her to do much besides move forward (even a few steps) when asked and to follow the inside rein a few times. I sat on her for another few minutes while talking to DB and she dropped one hip and stood relaxed. One day Hola is going to discover that an actual ride involves working... and they generally last more than three minutes. What a rude awakening that is going to be!

On Wednesday morning I had the farrier out and pulled Abby's shoes. She has been shod since Jan  of this year and so I just about have a whole new foot (since I got her home in November 2013) and want to try her barefoot for the winter but needed to give her time to acclimate before the ground freezes so they came off. By the time I finished with the farrier and cleaned up I was just physically wiped and feeling feverish.

Thursday night (tonight) I dragged my sorry ass to the barn and wanted nothing more than to just get on Abs and go for a nice quiet walk in the field. I felt like a zombie. Instead I went to the field and got Hola. *pout* I didn't have the mind to ride but I could saddle her, lunge and then maybe take her for a walk and then, once I had done my duty, I could maybe jump on Abs bareback for a few minutes and go for a nice little wander in the hay field. Hola had other plans. I brought her in from the pasture and parked her in the barn isle to tack. She has been a little bit cranky when I go to cinch her and I have even had to bop her a few times for turning and nosing me when I am doing up the cinch. I don't crank on her and have been more than considerate when cinching so she has no excuse. Well! That spoiled little brat. I am just about pull up on the cinch when she turns her head around goes for it! I had my elbow half way up and so was able to catch her just as she started to nip the back of my arm. Oh, no... that is not going to fly. Hola has never nipped me. Ever. Aaaaaand I am going to guess that she will never try again after the 'come to Jesus' talk we had. And then she got an ass whoopin' on the lunge line. And then she got to do a bunch of circles around me as we walked in the hay field. I went down to the end of the road to wait for L. to come back from her ride. I wore my helmet and took an extra line. I figured it I was still feeling aggressive (riding the wave of my angry bravado) I would get L. to pony me the last few hundred yards home. By the time we got back towards the barn the adrenaline had worn off and I had I was damp with a cold sweat. Damn. I decided to send Hola out on the line to see what kind of frame of mind she was in... I asked her to roll back on my left then my right... and she responded with more than her usual snappiness! She dropped on her hocks, snapped back over herself and launched herself off in the other direction. I asked a half dozen times expecting her to chill out but she was just getting faster and snappier. It was near full dark by this time and she was obviously feeling fresh and a little spooky. I was not getting on that horse! No way, Jose! Not gonna happen! But then I could practically hear Biff (Back to the Future) saying, "What's wrong McFly! Chicken?" *cluck cluck cluck cluck* Dammit! Nobody calls me chicken! (even myself)... well, actually, everyone calls me chicken (especially myself) but not this time Mister! This time I was going to get. 'er. done mo-fo! So I got on. I may have been singing, "Hoooly sheeeeeet, this is a baaaaaad idea. Followed shortly after by "HOLY SHITBALLS" and a high pitched slightly hysterical giggle. But I got on. And I sat there for a minute or two. Hola's eyes were huge as she looked out over the field at something I couldn't see. Her whole body was taunt. I talked to her and (I may have been saying, "please don't blow, this is a bad idea, who's idea was this anyways?" but I was saying it in a nice calm voice and I managed to keep my whole body relaxed and centered. When I got her attention back a little I asked L. to walk us forward. We went a mile or so... HA! No, not really.... we went twenty feet or so when I asked L. to stop. Hola was staring hard at something in the far field and was obviously getting more worried. The crazy part was that she didn't feel like she was going to blow up, at all... like not even a little bit. When L. lead her forward she didn't hump her back, didn't brace up and moved forward freely. When I got off and started leading towards the barn her body stayed in the same posture and her expression remained alert but not spooked. It may have only been a few minutes... and twenty odd feet but it was really successful in that she was very much awake, not relaxed and fresh but still totally unconcerned with the fact that I was on her back. It probably wasnt the smartest decision to get on her. But it was more about me finding my nerve than it was about training Hola.

I am SO ready for our first real ride. And I know she is too. *big smile*

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

HOLA- Ride #5 and #6

On Friday (October 3rd) I got on Hola for the 5th time, however, this was mark the first time that she was asked to move out under saddle. I keep telling myself that with Hola I have the luxury of time, I can go as slow as I want and give her all the time she needs to learn and accept this new stage in her life... but... I also have to be careful to not baby her and to make sure that I am asking her for enough that she learns to work and doesn't become bored and spoiled. I also really felt that I needed to give her time physically to adjust to my weight as she is still small for me and I don't want her to end up with a super sore back. When I looked back on the last ride in the round pen I realized that Hola was not stepping out as the footing in there is really rough and she wasn't confident enough to balance my weight when the wood was rolling under her foot. I knew I needed to get her out of that footing but to where? My options were a gravel paddock that is rock hard (Yikes!), a grass pasture that is slick footing (Eeek!) or a unfenced multi-acre hay field (Ehh!). I weighed all the variables and decided my best bet was to have L. pony me on Hola off of Ella in the hay field. It was time to pull up my big girl panties. Big time.

First, I established the same routine as in our previous rides. I brought Hola in, saddled her, and then tied to the wall for a good fifteen minutes. I then lunged her very briefly to get her focused and tied her back up while I set up my ride.

When I stepped n Hola in the hay field she didn't move or tense up. The idea of someone sitting up on her is NBD (no big deal). I asked Laurie to take a few slow steps forward... which was a great idea in theory. But Ella doesn't really know how to walk slowly. Hola has been ponied a lot. She knows the drill. As Ella stepped away from her she went to step forward and I felt her body go, "Eeek! Ella!! Hold up!! I got this crazy thing on my back! Ella, wait! Help!". And my body went, "Eeek! Ella! Hold up!! I 've got this crazy thing under me!! L, wait! Help!". For the first time I felt Hola's back hump up. I felt her bum scooch. Her neck scrunched up. Her poll tensed up. I thought, "Holy. Shit. She's gonna blow!" Before she could follow through with her threat I pulled my only defence....

I yelled at her. Well... I didn't yell so much as growl. One thing all my horses learn is that when I shout, "HHHHHAAAAIIIIRRRRR!!!!!" (yes, I said "Hair!") shit is gonna get real, fast. My good friend's Mom, Nancy, is a born and bred Wyoming cowgirl who would growl, "Haaaaaaair there mare" when any of their horses got naughty. I picked I up as a teen and have found it surprisingly effective. My quick growl stopped Hola in her tracks. She didn't relax and her back did not level out but she didn't blow. We did a small loop of the field. Every time Hola was able to walk beside Ella she relaxed a little and leveled out some but when she lagged behind at all I could feel her back start to hump up as she thought about having to trot to catch up. A few times, when she felt like she was ready to blow I would growl at her again and she would quit and I would ask L. to slow Ella up and allow us to catch up. I then asked Laurie to walk straight forward out into the field and to try to keep Ella at as slow of a walk as possible. We went a hundred yards or so and I felt Hola start to stretch out and relax. I asked L. to stop and we sat there for a moment. Hola yawned. Yawning is Hola's tell, she will yawn a dozen times in a row when she learns something new. So I sat for a minute, relaxed my whole body, pet on her a little and then got off. It felt like we had ridden for about ten minutes. In actuality it was less than four minutes. Four minutes wherein I did not get bucked off and my horse learned something. Success, no matter how small, is sweet.

I went to my sisters house to celebrate Thanksgiving over the weekend so wasn't able to do anything with Hola. This evening (Monday) I went to the farm and found Hola dripping wet with sweat. I had a moment of panic before B (a boarder) said that the horses had just finished ripping around the field and that Hola had been the ring leader. Sweet! She worked herself! I brought her in and let her cool out a little before tying her to the wall and tacking. I noticed that she is in season and acting pushy so I did school on her just a little on a lunge line to get her brain working. I planned on having L pony me in the hay field again but I really don't want her thinking that the horse in front of her is the one leading the show. Ponying was the safest way for me to get her moving but I didn't like that she was so sucked on to Ella and I was just a passenger. However, because there is no small area for me to ride in (with good footing) I don't feel confident enough yet to just get on and go... so I split the difference. I had L put me on the lunge line. This was the first time I have stepped on Hola from the ground (rather than a stool). No reaction. I sat on her for a moment. No reaction. None at all. I clucked to her to walk forward and she went. Not once did she hump up and she while she wasn't totally relaxed she felt pretty damn good. The only problem was that she was really wanting to cut in and suck up to L in the middle and stop.  I was trying not to guide her at all but was trying to be in the one in charge of her forward movement. I rode her for maybe three minutes or so before her head dropped, her neck stretch out and I felt her relax. I stopped her, waited a minutes or two and sure enough she yawned again. I got off and dropped her cinch.

I feel like I am doing too little and yet Hola is clearly learning to accept a rider. I need to start guiding her some in my next ride... I just need to figure out where to ride her. I can make things work for now but eventually I need to get her in an arena with proper footing. If I think too far in the future I get stressed so I will continue to just focus on the tiniest of baby steps and take it one ride at a time.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Ride 3.5

On Monday I wasn't able to actually put a leg over on Hola (just laid over her) so this evening as more like ride 3.5 than ride 4. When I asked her to step up to the mounting block L. and I immediately got the impression that she was less than impressed to find herself there once again. Her expression read something like "Again!? Really!? F*%$." So I started by laying on her again but I knew that I was just stalling and probably annoying her and I needed to cowgirl up and swing my leg over. So I did. I tried not to hold my breath or tense up. She didn't tense up but she did seem to be holding her breath. I waited there and told L to stand by and until she chewed. I didn't like how tense that poll looked but before I could even finish my sentence she chewed and dropped her head. *wipes sweaty brow*.  For the first time ever (on her back) I asked her to step forward without being lead (L. went and stood against the rail). She was confused and took a few halting steps. I asked again and she went a few steps and stopped. She had her ears on me and she was clearly confused that she was being asked to move without being lead or driven. But she did move, if in halting steps, and her body just didn't feel tight or locked up. L. said she could believe how much she seemed to be trying to figure out how to balance my weight. I asked again and got another few steps. I really wanted her to move her feet and free up her body some but after five minutes of getting only three steps at a time I resolved that I would quit when I got five steps in a row. Not a minute later she gave me five so I stopped asking for forward and she stood. I wanted to wait for her to chew again but her poll and jaw didn't seem tense and her head was level. I waited. And waited. And waited. It seemed like forever but it was more like 3-4 minutes. .The sun was getting low in the sky and it was a nice warm day after a few days of rain. If I were not on her back it would seem that she was just sleepy and soaking up the sun... but I was on her back so I thought she might be internalizing everything and maybe overwhelmed. When her eyes half closed I bumped and rocked a little to try to get her to pay attention to me up there. I asked L. what she thought and she said that her back leg was resting and her hip was cocked and her eyes were half closed. So I got off and pet on her face a little. She didn't move. She didn't lick and chew and she looked the picture of relaxation. I was stumped. Could it be possible that she really was that relaxed? Was she zoning out? I stood for a while longer and then asked her to step forward. She just moseyed along back to the barn and when I turned her loose in the pasture she did run, buck or roll...she just quietly walked out to graze. When I brought her in that night she was still really quiet. I noticed the night before at feeding that she was in heat. Could that play in to it? I shouldn't question such a good thing but my brain wont stop warning me to not count my chickens just yet! I think that tomorrow I will see if L. cant pony me off another horse. I want to get her walking out some. I also need to get out of the bark mulch round pen, the footings deep and makes for a soft fall but it is hard to move in. The idea of riding her on the gravel is terrifying. I have come off on that ground and it is like hitting cement. Maybe the small field right outside the round pen would be a better option.



Torn calf muscle be damned I got on my pony and got 'er rode! Hot damn! WHOOP!!!

(I'm obviously a wee bit excited to deliver this news!)

What a journey! Four and half years of waiting!

When we bred Abby back in Spring of 2010 I hoped for filly that I could raise and train myself. And from that first photo I knew my dreams had come true...

That sweet eye stole my heart. The day after she was born I flew out to Spokane, WA to meet my little red girl. She stepped forward from Abby's side and everything about that bright, open, and honest expression seemed to say, "Hello!". Hence the name "Hola".

Do you know how agenizing it was to watch this filly grow up in super slow motion? I had hoped to start her as a two-year-old. I had hoped to put some light rides on her in the Spring, some work in the Fall and then really get riding her in the Spring of her three-year-old year so we could show in the Fall. I didn't want her pushed at anywhere close to a competitive level but if I had even some simple/basic maneuvers on her I could take her in a few beginner/novice classes to get her that exposure. That was not meant to be.

In the Spring of 2013 Hola came two. She was 13.2HH and 700 pounds. And fine boned for all that. I was *most definitely not inserting my weight here* about 25 pounds heavier than I am today. There was no way. Even if I could find a light weight trainer to start her, she just wasn't ready mentally. To wait for her was not a prolem...the much bigger problem (pardon the pun) was the reality that Hola was probably going to finish at 14HH and 800 pounds, much too small for me.

In the Spring of 2014, when Hola turned three, I gave up hope. As a child I had wished for a pony. Twenty years later, I got one. There was no way I could get small enough for her. And so, I contacted a trainer I know to be an incredible horseman, a woman with a big, generous and spiritual heart, who just happened to be really tiny in stature. I asked her if she might be interested giving Hola a good home. The stars seemed to align. It killed me to give up my dream but to see such a talented little filly sit in a field unused was just not an option. When I put Hola on the trailer and said goodbye I thought my heart was going to burst. I missed her horribly and wondered if I had made a huge mistake but every time I came close to emailing my friend and asking for her back, I would think of all of her energy and talent going to waste and I would remember why I had let her go. Hola had been gone for two weeks when I received an email saying that her new "Mom" had come off one of her training horses and fractured a vertebrae and done some damage to her tailbone. As a professional trainer this meant being out of work. As she had not yet even started working with Hola and as she knew I was missing her desperately, it was an easy decision to send her home. Not three weeks after she left, I got Hola back. And I resolved that, come hell or high water, I was keeping Hola for good- I would do what I could to loose weight, I would wait the extra year for Hola to mature more physically and if all else failed I would learn to drive and put her to work behind a cart.

Fast forward 6 months. Hola grew. I shrank. She is now 14HH and 850 pounds. I am *most certainly not inserting my weight here* considerable smaller. I didn't think I would be able to get on her this Fall after I tore my calf muscle but...

On Saturday I got on Abby and my leg felt good. I threw a saddle on Hola for the first time in a month and ponied her out in the hay field. She was full of piss and vinegar. So I came back to the barn and tied her to the wall and left the little brat there for a good half hour to think about her attitude. Sure enough, she was in a better frame of mind so I turned her loose in the round pen and sent her to work. I expected her to buck and fart and act like an idiot. She didn't. Hola was soft, light, respectful and just had this beautiful and relaxed energy. I realized that she was just so happy to be back at work. I told L. that I was just dying to get on her. She said, "If not now, when?" I said, "When I don't have a torn calf!" I knew I was going to get in BIG trouble at home when K found out but the extra naughtiness made it all the more tempting! Rebel without a cause, I am!

So we brought out a stool and I laid over Hola's back. L. lead me around while Hola got used to packing my weight. I then stood up in the stirrup and put on hip on her. She stood. I stepped down. I stepped back up and swung my leg over. She looked back at me like "what the hell are you doing!?" and tensed up in her poll a little but didn't hump her back and didn't move forward. I stepped off. Stepped back on again and swung over. I asked Laurie to (carefully) lead her forward a few steps. We went maybe eight feet forward and stopped. Hola dropped her head, licked and chewed. I stepped off. I dropped her cinch. And, remembering my damaged calf, resisted doing a happy dance.

The next night I repeated the process only this time I had L. lead me around a few laps of the round pen. Looking at the video of that day, you would think I was the one getting my second horsey-back ride ever! She looks like a broke old kids pony and I look like an excited little girl with a, "Hey Mom! Look! I'm riding a pony!" smile.

Of course, I recognize my mistakes only after the fact. On the first ride, when I stepped off all at once she was just a little startled so the second time I wanted to go slow and lay back over her. I should have had my foot out of the stirrup as I pulled that saddle too much off center. I also made a big mistake in not having a rein myself. If L. had lost that lead I would have been left with nothing and if she had gotten to bucking I wouldn't have been able to pull her head up. 

Last night I went to get on her the third time. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to find anyone who was free to come be my "safety" and I wasn't going to get on her if I was alone at the barn so I compromised by laying over her a few times so she got my weight on her back again and spending some time at the mounting block just petting on her... so she was nice and relaxed last night when I dropped her cinch. This eve I plan on getting on her again but this time I will have the reins and hope to have her move forward without being lead.

My plan is to get on her every day this week for ten minutes and then give her the weekend off. I will keep it simple, all I will ask her this week is to move forward to a walk and to one rein safety stop. When I think about how long of a road it is to getting her broke I am daunted. So for now I will focus on one week at a time. And I will savor every moment.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Okay, I Need a New Plan

One bad step. That's all it took. Not for my horse, thank god, but for myself. Of all things, I was doing a happy dance. You know, a little bouncy jig like a leprechaun over a pot of gold, and just like that "bam!" it's like someone's just stabbed me in the calf with a wee leprechaun dagger. I tore my inner calf muscle. Estimated recovery is 10-12 weeks. And there goes my plan of getting Hola started before the end of the year.

Hola needs started. Last year, as a two year old, she wasn't ready, physically or mentally. This Spring she was ready mentally if not quite physically. By early this summer I knew she was ready to be go but between my back issues, showing Abby and lack of time, I just didn't get it done. Last month I put in twenty days of ground work and was thinking I would get on her in early September. On September 2nd I tore my calf.

I may just have to send her for training this Fall. Mentally she maturing so quickly I really want to make sure her young and malleable mind of a filly learns the important lessons of how to be a good equine citizen before she that I-rule-the-world mare brain takes over.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

My Five Bits

I owned horses for twenty years and I've only ever owned five bits. That must be some kind of record! I am planning on doing a few posts on bits in the coming month as I navigate through this vast new world of kimberwickes and Mullens, Argentinian and Weymouths and other such wacky doodle names! I want to understand the intended purpose of the most common and how to find the right bit for the individual hrose's mouth shape. It all sounds a little daunting when you've only ever owned five bits...

The first bit I ever owned was a Tom Thumb exactly as pictured below. I inherited this bit with my first horse Rocky. I knew nothing about it except that it "worked' for him and I had been told not to change it.... and so I didn't for the next four years. I cant say whether it worked or not, Rocky and I spent countless hours riding down roads, in to the bush, through rivers and up mountains. I didn't know the first thing about picking up a shoulder or vertical flexion. Rocky went where I pointed him, most of the time. It was that simple.

Weaver Tom Thumb

In 2003 I bought a very green broke horse named Tonto. I thought that was the most embarrassing name for a horse I had ever heard. If you had told me that one day I would own a mare named Princess (ha!) and that I wouldn't change her name in the first year let alone the first week, I wouldn't have believed you. But by the time Princess came around (now Ella-Blue, thank God) I had figured out that a rose by any other name does in fact smell as sweet... or in the case of Tonto, as sour. The first day I owned him I dropped the name Tonto in favor of Cheekeye. I wish I had dropped the whole damn horse rather than just his lame-ass name, but hindsight is twenty-twenty. I was told I needed a nice plain snaffle for Tonto/Cheekeye/Loachan. If I only I had been told I'd also require body armor, a bottle of whiskey and a world title in bronc riding... but unfortunately I only bought a snaffle. It served me well over the next ten years with various horses in the arena and on the trail. This bit is now all rusted and coppery and apparently delicious as every horse I've ever put it on has licked and chewed and sucked on it like it's made of candy, all except Marmalade, which is also another story for another day.

Weaver "Offset D Ring Snaffle"

 Late last year I bought a bit to use on Abby. I wasn't ready to put her all the way back in to a solid bridle (curb) but I wanted something with some leverage rather than a plain snaffle. I noticed a Myler come up on a local used tack site that seemed to fit the bill. It was a Myler HBT Shank with Sweet Iron Low Port Comfort Snaffle MB 04

I thought it would be the prefect in between with the ultra low curb and leverage but independently hinged shanks allowed the rider to pick up on either side. I knew I didn't like that bit the second I put it in my hand. The entire bit was loose 'n goosey (a highly technical description!) as it hinged in various places and rolled around in the mouth. I could see how a more experienced rider could use that bit to their advantage but for me it was just way too much communication.  I rode Abby in it one time and we were both confused. I sold the bit a week later.

So I continued to ride Abby in my old snaffle which was fine as I was allowed to ride her two handed in a snaffle in the beginner reining class I had entered that July 13th weekend. Knowing I would eventually need a NRHA legal curb, I began to research and look for the right bit. Even with the specific requirements of port height, bar thickness and shank length in the NRHA handbook, I was still lost as to which would be a good entry level bit. I decided that I would look for middle ground, nothing extreme, nothing that claimed magical powers or had complicated mechanics. I looked for a old fashioned grazing curb bit with a moderate length shank that met the NRHA restrictions and my limited budget. I found the Bob Avila Rio Collection Copper Port Bit by Professional Choice.

Bob Avila Rio Collection Copper Port Bit by Professional Choice

I was planning on ordering this bit online but actually found it at a local tack store and decided, on a whim, to just pick it up so that I had a bit at home should I need it. Little did I suspect that I would need it just one week later. While packed up the trailer to go to the AQHA show I threw in this bit (loose not on a headstall) just in case. When I went to the office to enter a reining class I discovered that there was not AQHA reining class that allowed me to show in a snaffle. I rode Abby in a curb for the first time in five years just one hour before we went in to the show pen. It wasn't perfect but it was damn good considering. She didn't fuss over this bit and I felt like when I picked up my hand we both knew exactly what I was saying, the communication was simple and to the point.

The last bit I bought a few months ago for Marm. After years of my good and trusty friend telling me that I needed to try this bit she had on Marm I finally listened. B had used this bit on her tough mouthed old barrel horse and said that it was the only bit she ever had on that horse that actually made her soft as it was comfortable in her mouth, passive when left alone and enough bit when you needed it. I had huge reservations about using any bit on Marm, let alone a more "severe" one but one day, in the store, I just thought "screw it!" and bought a similar bit to the one she had recommended, a Reinsman Jr. Cow Horse Sweet Iron Small Chain Mouth. When I got home I tried it on but it didn't seem to fit so I took a pic to send to my friend for clarification and took it off. When she said that it looked okay I tried the bit once more for about ten minutes just to see whether Marm would freak out about it. She didn't. She sucked on that bit and didn't want to spit it out. I still wasn't sold on the idea of using it as I had all sorts of prejudices against bits in general that I still hadn't gotten over so I decided that I wasn't going to use it. This whole saga, again, is a post for another time. Last month I had a professional barrel racer ride Marm. We started out in a snaffle. About ten minutes in to that ride she asked if I had any other bit because a snaffle was about the worst thing I could be riding her in. I bashfully said that I did have this bit in the trailer but it wasn't on a headstall. She actually got off and had me put that bit on. What I saw next forever changed my opinion about bits. Before Marm went to her new (and fabulous) home I had two rides in that bit. They were the best rides I ever had on Marm. I only wish I had not been so thick skulled and had tried something many, many months ago. Life lesson learned.

Reinsman Junior Cow Horse - Sweet Iron Small Chain Mouth with Copper Pacifiers
I have spent less than four hours total in last three bits I've mentioned. I've spent the past ten years riding in that tasty old snaffle or a rope halter.

Those are the only five bits I have ever owned.

But I am now a believer in the power of the right bit for the right horse. I wasted so much time by refusing to consider that a more severe bit might actually make for a less severe ride. More on this, next time.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Bridling Passion

Over the past 20 years a significant portion of my time has been spent in indulging my passion for horses, as such, it is little wonder that being a horseman is huge part of who I am. How many days have passed within those twenty years wherein I did not dedicate at least some portion of my day to horses whether it be at home reading about horses, shopping horse sites or watching training DVDs, or in the barn, cleaning up after, caring for and riding horses. Even my social life is largely comprised of friends whom I either ride with or speak with about our horses. So much of my life comes back to horses from my clothes, to my truck to...hell, even the length of my fingernails. It all amounts to a tremendous amount of time, hard work, worry and yes, joy. It also resulted in stress on my personal relationships, my body and my bank account. It is a constant effort to limit the time, energy and money I put in to horses because, if left unchecked, I would be at the barn all day and I would spend every dollar I had. And it still wouldn't be enough. Some say horses are an actual addiction and no different than any other addiction, it can be detrimental to your health, relationships, responsibilities and financial security. It is easy for me to call to mind women I know who have neglected their responsibilities, endangered their children, frustrated their husbands to the point of divorce, and placed tremendous financial stress on their family all for the love of horses. We use the term "Horse Crazy" flippantly. This very blog is named "crazy horse woman" and "horse crazed mind". What if horse crazy is actually just crazy... At what point does it become an emotional dependence or mental instability? I knew a single mother who couldn't afford to buy winter jackets for her children but managed to pay board on her four horses. That isn't right. Of course there are undeniable benefits, it has now been scientifically proven that horses are an effective tool when used for emotional and physical therapy. However, there is science behind the health and emotional benefit of having a glass of wine in the evening too... just not for an alcoholic.

A few weeks ago I listened to an interview on the CBC with a novelist who had written a book based on her struggles with alcoholism. She said something that really stuck with me. I cant recall her exact words but it went like this: "If there are consequences to your drinking, drink less. If you cant drink less, don't drink at all. If you cant not drink, get help." I have to admit that my life is negatively impacted by my obsession with horses when I have made poor decisions and allowed myself to get "out of control". To be clear- while I am using alcoholism to draw parallels between addiction to alcohol and "addiction" to horses, I fully recognize that these are two vastly different issues and I in no way mean to belittle the seriousness of substance addictions. I make a choice to indulge my passion for horses. Learning to make that choice deliberate, measured and responsible is what I have failed to do in the past and what I am determined to do in the future.

How much time do I want to spend at the barn on a daily basis? How much do my horses actually cost once I have accounted for all the direct and indirect expenses (boots, tack, vet, shows, lessons, alternative treatments, supplements, trailer insurance, barn supplies, gas to and from barn, jeans etc..) How much money do I want to spend on horses in a year? What can I afford? What other activities have always wanted to try but never have for lack of time and money due to horse costs and time. Would I elect to spend all of my time and money on horses if it meant that I would not be able to pursue any other interests? Other interests like...

More than anything else I want to travel the world. I could write a book about all the places I want to visit and things I want to do but closer to home I really want to: Kayak, canoe, boat and sail. I grew up boating, fishing and crabbing on the Ocean and it is apart of soul. I want to get back on the water. Take some martial arts class and go to daily yoga classes. I also want to learn to paint and have always wanted to sculpt bronzes. I would also love to take classes at the local college in woodworking (furniture building), art, and photography.  There are many trails in our Provincial Parks that I have always wanted to hike and I would also like to do some 4x4ing trips to provincial  historical sites and BC's many spectacular vistas. I also grew up in a family that renovated and decorated homes (mainly kitchens) and have a passion for decorating which has gone painfully and obviously unexpressed in my own home. I would love to do a room by room reno. All of these are recreational activities that I don't do in a large part because horses take up so much of my expendable time and income. Traveling is the only single activity that really competes against my passion for horses. All of the rest, individually, just don't compare but collectively they make up an entire lifestyle which I find really appealing. All of the above are relatively affordable relative to horses and require far less daily commitment.

Can I have some part of that "other" life and horses? I believe it is possible but only with a plan, self discipline and some sacrifices along the way.

In this post I have tried to summarize some of the internal debates I've been having with myself, and frankly, with my DB, over the past year with respect to my life plan going forward and how horses fit in that equation. The biggest hurdle I had to overcome was simply admitting to myself just how much time and money my horses require. Second was admitting that I need to make some serious changes in my behavior, decision making and time management and that it was going to be a process, not an overnight change. Third was deciding that I was unwilling to cut horses out of my life entirely. Horses need to be apart of my daily life no matter what the cost with this proviso- so long as I can effectively manage the time and money I put in to horses. I find it very difficult to say that I am no longer going to invest my time and money in trying to become a better horseman. I spend a lot of time on the internet reading about health issues, training and watching videos. I also constantly want to improve my tack and saddle fit which requires research and shopping and I am often sourcing and researching any supplementation or alternative therapy for my horses soundness and health. It makes me feel like a lesser person to say I am not willing to take the time to actively learn about horses or maintain my horses to best of my ability. So much of my self worth is tied up in being the best horseman I can be. And even that comes with its pitfalls. Because I am no where near the horseman I want to be despite all of the time and effort I put in to it. My self respect flags when I am not successful at horses, which is more often than I care to admit. I am so wrapped up in horses that it defines me. And by default, it also then controls me. I needed to change.

That process began with taking stock of current situation, setting a goal for the future and finally devising a successful plan. At the time I owned two horses, Abby and Hola but I actually "had" three as I was 100% emotionally committed to Marmalade. In no way shape or form did maintaining three horses fit in to any kind of life plan. I decided that the horse that was least likely to take me where I wanted to go was Hola simply because of her size and her current state of training (or lack thereof) so I found her a great home and let her go. For reasons unrelated to her, she came back three weeks later. In the time that she was gone I realized how much I love that little horse and that letting her go was the wrong decision- The very reason Hola exists is because I decided to indulge in a bucket list item which was to breed, raise and train a horse that I could keep for its lifetime. Hola is that horse. She isn't big enough for me so I am going to have to get smaller. It is that simple. Ultimately I can only keep one horse and I decided that horse was going to be Hola.

That left Abby and Marm. Because of Abby's breeding and training (she is bred up the ying yang and was a finished reiner) I don't have to sell Abby to eliminate the cost of her maintenance. I can easily let Abby go back out on a breeding or riding lease and leave myself the option of getting her back when or if I am in a different place in my life. Given how much I have invested in that horse I just don't feel it makes any sense to sell her so my focus will be to get her leased out in the New Year.

Which left Marmalade, whom, technically speaking, I did not even own. I was incapable of walking away from that horse. I love Marmalade with all my heart and soul. She is the horse that carries me away when the world gets to be too much. She is the horse who makes me laugh and makes me crazy. She was mine. And I was hers. Only I didn't own her... yet. The only way I could let Marm go was to own her. That sounds conflicting right? Her current owner, my good friend, needed to sell Marm if I wasnt going to continue leasing her. I know that L would have tried to find Marm a great home but I needed a home I knew and trusted. And, if I owned Marm, I could take the time to find her the right home and I could also have a contract in place that should make sure she would never be lost to me. There were also a few other things with Marm, physically and in the saddle that I needed to figure out before letting her go but it was next to impossible to justify spending time and money on a horse that I wasn't going to keep. I know a good number of horse people who could provide Marm with a good home but few who would be a good match and fewer still who were looking for another horse. Knowing it as a long shot, I contacted one of the best horsewomen I know who I thought might like untangling the Marm puzzle knot. With full disclosure on what I knew of her, I asked her if she was interested in Marm. Unfortunately, it didn't work out. I went to DB and told him that I needed his blessing to buy Marm and after that I needed to spend some significant money getting her physically right (this on top of all of the money I have already spent getting work done on Marm) and then I needed to spend some time and money getting her started at a job and then, I promised, that I would find her the right home (but would keep her as long as it took to make that happen). I told him I needed to do this and it was more important to me than anything else. Bless his heart, he gave me his blessing. I bought Marm and had a soundness exam done (not for purchase, just to help me figure out what was going on). She vetted sound. The problem was that she had thin soles and he suspected she was chronically bruised from being barefoot but without xrays there was no way to tell. So we did xrays and they came back clean. He recommended shoes and pads so I had her shod. I then left her off for a good chunk of time as I wanted to give her time to physically adjust as the shoes and pads eliminated those compensatory muscles and posture. I then got really busy between my back issues, getting Abby ready to show, showing her and then trying to give myself a break while going through physiotherapy. Once my back was strong enough I turned my focus to Marm. I knew from the rides I had gotten in and from seeing her move around the field that the shoes made a significant difference in the way she moved and in her topline. I had decided to see whether or not I could run some barrels on her or maybe rope. I also wanted to take her out and try her on an extreme trail course, on the flag/cows and I wanted someone to try jumping her. I also went out and watched some penning and even the drill team. I needed to find Marm a job, the problem was that I wasn't experience in any of the above. Finding the right people to help me introduce her to those things proved a challenge. I knew Marm could potentially be a fair prospect for any one of those sports but which one? I became really frustrated and daunted by how hard it was going to be for me to get out and started and the cost of just maintaining all three horses was overwhelming but I was determined to keep trying. One night, just a few weeks ago, I popped over to a friend's blog and read that she was contemplating what her horse future might hold and whether she should look for another horses. My heart stopped. This was a woman I knew to be experienced, knowledgeable and compassionate and one I knew looked after her horses very well. Everything I knew, and I felt I knew enough, was that this could be a fit and this could be a great home. I wrote an email and attempted to paint a brutally accurate and honest picture of Marm. In order to do so, inevitably it all becomes about the negatives and I often put up cautions in front of the positive. I sent the email. The next morning I re-read it and decided that I was the worst horse seller in history and that it was highly highly unlikely that I was going to get a positive response. When I received a reply from saying, "Yes, I am interested" I literally had a panic attack. A few days later we had a long telephone conversation and from that moment on everything just fell in to place like it was always meant to be. One week ago today I put Marm on a trailer. I knew the depth of my love for Marm and that it was going to be hard to let her go but I didn't expect the physical response I had to the actual act of letting her go. I had multiple panic attacks. I have stress rash. I found myself struggling to go to sleep and to wake up, I had absolutely no energy and even at the barn I just wanted to lay down on the concrete floor and bury my face in my arms. I tried to stop crying but found I couldn't. And all of this when I could not be happier with where she went or to whom she now belongs. I realize there is no way she could have gone to home I didn't know and trust. I cant stress enough how perfect of  home she went to and how grateful I am that she is where she is... It is still just hard to not have her within reach. I only hope that her new Mom falls as hard in love with her as I did. Luckily she was kind enough to send many emails which allowed me to focus on the positive- just how excited I am for Marm's new and bright future. Marm lucked out, big time and I did too.

So where does all of this leave me? I have decided not to show Abby this Fall. I got to tick off a bucket list item this summer when I showed her at that is more than good enough.  To show her is going to take too much time (to get her fit), too much work (to get her tuned up) and more money than I am willing to spend. If there are any cheap and local shows where I can run a pattern I will go but I will not be going to any of the big shows. I will ride her enough that we both stay in shape enough and then lease her out for next year. I am going to continue working on my weight and get Hola broke this Fall. Next year I want to do a ton of trail riding on her which, thank god, is very accessible to me and highly affordable. Away from the barn I am going to stay as non-horsey as possible. No perusing the internet for tack, horses, or even training videos and such. I plan on being at the barn most days and I still want to chronicle my time with Hola here as it actually helps keep me on track but my goal is max of three hours a day total and my horse budget will be kept to a minimum too which means that I need to prioritize what my horse actually needs vs. what is optimum care. I have a certain standard of care that I will not compromise on but it will be the bare minimum of that standard, not the top.

I have committed myself to making a change. It has been hard and I still have days where I dont know that I am making the right decision by limiting just how much I am willing to indulge my passion. Should a passion as deep and profound as mine be given carte blanche? I have no children. My responsibility is to myself. But at the very least I want to make a deliberate decision. To give myself over completely, as one does in young love, or to give myself over in measured does after careful consideration as one does later in life, when the unbridled passion of youth has proven too costly a price.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Hola GW- Day 18

August 19th, 2014
Saddled and put her on lunge line. Took her in field and had her move around some and worked on having her turn back out on the line. I am really having a hard time finding the right ground to work on. Man this girl loves to use her hind end. Her name should be scoootch. Went back to water tub and laid over her some more. Lots of rubs and scratches. Today when I started to lean on her she moved her feet to balance herself. I had tried to encourage her to do this before but she didn't think she could move around. I was really happy that she did it on her own.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Hola (barely) works 16-17

Sometime between August 12-15th-
Saddled Hola and walked her to a upturned water tub (large and sturdy rubbermaid). Stood above her, patted on her, bobbed in stirrups, leaned on saddle, laid across saddle, let her have my whole weight, patted, bobbed, stepped back to tub. Maybe 8 minutes total.

August 18th-
Saddled, walked her down road and let her graze. Repeated above exercise on water tub.

The past week has been... FULL... as in, filled to the brim and over... I am not going to beat myself up for loosing momentum. At some point I will explain but for now, let's just say, my mind was not in any place to be training and my body is just plain worn out. My hope is that tonight is the start of another two week run with much more sweaty saddle pads.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Hola GW Day 11-15

August 4th, 2014
I wanted to get Hola worked but didn't have much time and needed to get Marm rode. I saddled up that eve quite late and had Abby and Hola loose in the pasture where I was going to ride. Most nights, when the bugs come up, Abby freaks out and chases Hola. That night, when Abby started up, because I was busy riding, because both Abby and Hola needed the work, and because they were in a big safe pasture I decided to just let them work themselves. For probably 15 minutes they were ripping around the field. I was going to saddle Hola still but when I caught her she was soaking wet and breathing hard and I needed her to cool out so I could feed and go home.

August 5th, 2014
I didn't get to barn until late and had to get Marm rode so I tacked Hola (took off back cinch) and tied her to the trailer while I rode Marm. She stood there for a good half an hour very quietly while L and I rode in the field. I then asked L if she would pony Hola around to get her some work which she did. When I was done riding I took Hola and walked her around the field driving from behind. She is starting to get that she can go straight when I am behind her even without having the second line to guide her away from me.

August 6th, 2014
Again I didn't get started until late and ended up ponying Hola off of Marm. Abby was loose in the pasture which made for a challenge as she was having her nightly "I'm dying!!! Attack of the (two) mosquitoes! Help me!" freak out. She really wanted to put the chase on Hola and after getting driven off a few times decided it was really fun game to get me all twisted around. I went and got my lunge whip and rode with that (while ponying Hola) and Abby still thought it was fun to stay just out of reach. Finally, after about ten minutes, she got bored and went back to grazing. What a brat! Hola and Marm were chuggin' along just fine when I looked over and noticed that Abby was rolling. Distracted for that second I didn't notice that Hola had stopped. The line snapped me back and I turned to find Hola on her side having a great roll. We had been trotting! Thankfully I had decided not to saddle her that night as I wanted to work on having an outside long line without it getting stuck in the saddle. Hola had no idea why I was getting after her to get up. She looked at me like, "What?! I just rolled! Whats the big deal?" I finished ponying and put Marm away and came back out with Hola. I lunged her briefly and worked on transitions from the trot to lope and back to trot. She is really listening beautifully to voice commands. Feeling successful and like my horse was relaxed, confident and happy I called it a night and didn't work on the off side long rein.

August 7th, 2014
That afternoon I "lost" my cell phone. It mysteriously just disappeared and by ten that night it was going to straight to voicemail. Because I was hot, sweaty and "horsey" from getting the alfalfa I did decide to get a quick work in on Hola despite everything going on. I threw on a saddle that I have never used on her before (one that has no back cinch).  I sent her out at a trot on the lunge. The back half of that saddle went to flopping up and down by a foot with every stride. No word of a lie! And you know what, my little filly didn't so much as hump her back. I let her pack it around like that for a few rounds as it had the whole of her attention but she relaxed some and continued to move out no problem so I stopped her and pulled it off. Needless to say I dont think it fit! I just lunged her after that and was listening to voice commands beautifully and transitioning between gaits with confidence. She was relaxed and happy to work. After ten minutes or so I started getting behind her and working on a single long line again and then had her drag the line around on the off side. She didn't bat an eye.

August 9th, 2014
I didn't saddle but threw her on the lunge and asked for transitions. She is now loping with so much more balance and confidence and seems proud of herself for having such nice transitions. I clipped a line to the outside and had her drag the inside line while I guided her with the outside. She was a little confused about whether when I added pressure to the outside, thought she should turn all the way around but quickly figured out the game. I kept it really short... like less than five minutes and then gave her lots of scratches. Tonight or tomorrow I hope to have her on the long line.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Hola's GW (Ground Work) Day 1-10

Hola, my dear sweet "baby girl,  has finally grown up...well, I use "up" loosely, she has actually grown outward- her hip, back and barrel have filled out significantly in the past two months and all of the sudden, seemingly overnight, she became a horse. Most importantly she has developed a much more mature attitude which has me thinking that I need to get her started right quick before I loose that malleable baby brain.

I have done a lot of ground work over the past few years. She bathes, ties, loads, stands for the farrier, stands ground tied, is good in traffic, loads in a straight haul and angle haul, and has been hauled out to new arenas and trail both alone and with a friend. She has also been saddled at least 30+ times in the last year and will take a bit. While she is certainly not lacking for "ground work" what I haven't done with her is make her work... She hasn't been round penned, long lined or made to do any serious work on the lunge. All of my sessions other than our trips "out" have been short, sweet and positive. The biggest "hole" she has is one that I had intentionally left untouched- she hasn't been sacked out. My #1 goal has been to make sure that Hola retained her really light "feel".  I tried really hard to make sure that she was still very willing to move off any driving pressure. If I swing a rope at Hola she will scooch her bum and hustle out of the way. Hola is highly reactive when you ask her to move. What I learned the hard way is that you need forward motion to train. When, ten years ago, I started my colt Keo, I tried really hard to make him "dead quiet"... what I got was "dead". It was nearly impossible to put that lightness and drive back into a horse. Mind you, I talked to his owners a few years ago and they said that horse has never spooked at anything, ever, and you could literally ride him down the middle of the freeway and he wouldn't so much as bat an eye. Keo also won the High School Rodeo championships in breakaway roping... so I guess he didn't get that bad of a start! I am off track:)...

Hola is snappy... like, freakily quick footed and as light as feather when you get her working. I took a lot of time getting her ready for that saddle and even so she did get to bucking pretty hard the first time she trotted and felt it bounce on her back. That is my biggest issue. Hola likes to buck and rear. She has never reared or bucked on the lead line, ever... but in the field she will hop up and buck and fart like a new born foal. All. The. Time. She also loves to run hell bent for leather and fence herself, leaving perfect ten foot 11's (sliding stops) in the grass. Oh, and bonus, she falls down. No, she isn't "out", I've had her looked at by vet and chiro, she just thinks that she can roll back over 180 degrees and not get her legs tangled up. And she doesn't even hit the ground hard, she will wipe it, roll with the momentum, hop up, crow hop, shake and then walk off like nothing happened. She is so athletic it scares me. Why I am starting her?

I don't know if I will start her. It depends on where I get in the next 30 days. My plan is to get her "sacked out" mentally and filled out physically before getting on. She is bigger but still slight and very lean muscled. I want her to pack some weight around to develop some muscle in her back and get her working on the line. We will see.

My biggest issue with her so far has been that Hola has had a really hard time accepting the back cinch (which I have buckled up to her belly).I have done prep work from day one with ropes on her belly and girth line to prepare her for the cinch. The front cinch really wasn't an issue when I finally cinched her up. The first few times she trotted with the saddle she did get to bucking a little but it really didn't surprise me because Hola L.O.V.E.S to buck but with the front cinch she really got over it quickly. Late last year I prepared her for a back cinch again with ropes and the day came where I finally cinched up that back girth. I wasn't surprised that she got broncy on that day but was surprised when she got broncy pretty much every time after... not when you cinch it or even when you walk her out but as soon as that saddle moves around a lot (up and down hills, trot, lope etc.) she will go bronc. My response in the past has been to just pull her around to a stop and send her back out again and usually after a one or two times she quits but if she is wearing that back cinch and something spooks her she will get to bucking again. I cant seem to get her passed it. I don't know what the right answer is... give up and come back to it later or work her passed it.

Here is a summery of our work so far.

July 25th, 2014
Day One!
Quiet and easy saddled lunge. Bucked when first trotted not after.

July 26th, 2014
Worked with ropes coming off the saddle/dragging behind her. She was pretty reactive which surprised me as she has done this before but never saddled. Started to realize her reaction to things saddled was much greater than unsaddled.  Started to get behind her and drive forward rather than stand at center. Bucked when pushed.

July 27th, 2014
Worked with plastic bag/sacking out. Had a panic attack about the bag disappearing from vision around her chest. Found that she wanted to blow up if I encouraged her to stand and look rather than walk forward. Went bronc if standing still when bag goes to blind spot but if I got her moving before putting it there she only bucked a few times and then moved on.

July 28th, 2014
Worked with plastic bag again having her move and follow it rather than freezing. Walked around the field waving the flag under and around her legs while having her move. Threw ropes around, at her. Drove her from behind a little. Small buck, just a couple hops. Moving seems to be the ticket.

July 29th, 2014
Used lunge whip without bag and had her recognize my body intention and move forward/not react to the whip moving rhythmically around her. Threw lines around her body. Had her swing around from pressure on the opposite side of where I was standing. No buck.

July 30th, 2014
Worked with ropes around saddle, swinging at her and having her follow the feel to spin around.
Lunged. No buck.

July 31st, 2014
I cant remember this work or if I gave her the time off but I think I might have driven her around the field and tried to see if I could get her used to the line on both sides of her so that I could long line her but she was pretty reactive about it and my line kept getting hung up in my saddle so I decided to wait and try without a saddle. But this might have been the day before. Grrr! THIS is why I need the journal!

This eve I took Marm out to be ridden by a professional barrel racer. More on that in another post.

August 1st, 2014
Our worst day. I took her out saddled and the first time I threw the line over her back she wanted to go broncy but this time I didn't just pull her to a stop and start again. I decided that enough was enough and that every time she bucked I was going to drive on her hip until she flattened out. It wasn't pretty. She tried to pull the line through my hand but I held (have blisters to prove it) and once she got moving out I also went to fixing the little pull she has had going on by giving her a hard bump inward to get her off of the line. She really didn't like that either.

I also really set her to work this day. She got really worried about it but I didn't lay off after a only a circle or two. She was really worried about having to canter three or four circles in a row and kept trying to quit but I wouldn't let her. I stayed with her until she completed a circle without having to be told and then just waited until she settled down and looked less stressed before quitting entirely. I then went back to some things she knew (following the lead through) and gave her a long in hand walk around the field followed by a 15 minute cold hose of her legs. This was the day I needed her  figure that she in the real world she was going to have to suck it the fuck up. Short, sweet, low pressure baby training is over. She is going to have to learn to work. I knew she wasn't going to like it but she needs to figure out that she working doesn't mean she is in trouble. I realize that is my fault...  I work her when she is naughty until she quits being naughty and then I quit. Now she thinks moving out means she is in trouble and get's stressed when I make her work for a longer period of time.

Hola after The Hardest Day

August 2nd, 2014
Day Off. I would have liked to give her a nice soft low pressure work this day but I wasn't able to make it to barn.

August 3rd, 2014
Didn't saddle. Notched down pressure level to make for a nice quiet no pressure 15 minute lunge. She loped on her own and didn't get jazzed. Going to work back up to some hard works mid week.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Showing Abby

Two weeks and two shows later I think it is official... Abby is the best horse ever. I want to write about everything that happened before I forget but it is hard to find the time right now.  I want to remember it... like for-eh-ver ...

Where to start... well, it started on my birthday...

On my birthday I could feel that my back was "twigged". That Monday night I rode but tried to keep it really light and easy. The next morning that twig was pretty flared up and I knew that if I rode I was going to be flat out so I decided that I had to be a little proactive-

I went to physiotherapy for the first time since I was eighteen (I've been told to go to phyio about dozen times for my knee and back but just never got there.) That Wednesday the physiotherapist examined me at length and looked at the CT scans I had last winter and concurred with the doctor that it is my SI joint that is the issue. So he used some ultrasound therapy and some dry needling and showed me some exercises he wanted me to do in order the strengthen my core. I told him that I needed to ride on Thursday, Friday and Sunday for sure but I could take Wednesday and Saturday off. He laughed before realizing that I wasn't joking. "You cant ride", he said. I just smiled and said, "If I can find a way to get on, I will ride."  He clearly hasn't had much experience with horsemen.

And then I woke up the next morning and knew I was in BIG trouble. I had paid for a warm-up in the big arena. Because Abby has been out so little I really felt it was important to get her to the venue on a day that was quiet and get her in that big pen with the grandstands, waste barrels, signage, and people bustling around behind curtains. I managed to get my trailer hooked up and down to the barn. I got my tack loaded and haltered my horse. By that point I wasn't really walking so much as gingerly shuffling along. Abby loaded easily enough, I checked the trailer and I hauled myself up in to the drivers seat... but just couldn't quite sit down. I leaned against the door and propped myself up on the steering wheel and started down the road. I was hurtin pretty good by then. Half way down the road I stopped and had a little pity party. I have waited FIVE years to show this damn horse. I had been trying to prepare for this show for 2 months but had lost the first six weeks to my Very Bad Mistake and then half of the two weeks I had left to my back issue. I honestly felt that if I didn't show Abby that weekend I might never get the chance again. I know that sounds crazy but it just seems like for so many years the stars just wouldn't align and once again I was going to miss my opportunity. I phoned my good friend Barb because I knew she was the only one who's opinion would fall somewhere between sucking it up (I've seen Barb run grand entry with a broken ankle) and playing it smart so I had a hope in hell of riding that coming Sunday. She told me to go in to town and buy some good muscle relaxant/anti-inflammatories and then head out to the show grounds, if by the time I got there I could move a little better then get on but don't work her, just walk her in to the big arena and let her get a look around then walk out. So I took her advice and popped some pills. Sure enough I got out there and was just able to move around just enough to get Abby out of the trailer and tacked. I had parked as far out as I could so that no one would see struggling like a total pussy while getting ready but the flip side was that I had a longer walk to the arena. I wasn't going to go shuffling along like some demented cowboy Steve Urkel and I sure the hell wasn't going to let anyone see me try to mount once I got there. Luckily, Abby is only 14.2HH. I was able to drop my stirrups a few inches and after making sure she was cinched up extra tight and basically crawled on chin-up style. Why did woman have to get the short end of the upper body strength stick? The problem was that I still couldn't really sit down but I figured out that if I leaned on the pommel and took my weight in to my (by then) shaky arms I could kinda-sorta ride. I stood on the sidelines for ten minutes watching everyone else school their horses in the big arena, spinning, running down, stopping and galloping around. When my name was called I slowly walked the perimeter of the arena, letting abby stop and sniff the trash barrels and ogle the stands and then slowly walked out and back to my trailer. I heaved a sigh of relief that I had somehow managed to "get 'er done" and could take my time getting home. I thought I was in the clear right up until I went to pick up the ramp of my trailer. I huffed and I puffed but there was just no way I was going to be able to pick that sucker up. I stood up and looked around. There was a man wearing a cowboy hat (I wouldn't call him a cowboy for reasons you will shortly understand) sitting on the lawn chair just a few trailers over. I took a breath to ask him for a hand but stopped when I realized that he had been watching me struggle my way through untacking Abby the whole damn time and had certainly seen me fail to lift the ramp. Now I wouldn't expect someone to come offer a hand when I obviously trying to suck it up but he saw me look around for a helping hand and he didn't see fit to stand up. I would be damned if I was going to ask him for help. I got that ramp up on my foot, then slid it up on my knee and managed to shimmy it up until it was at a height that I could reach and pull. I closed the door with a thud and resisted the urge to turn around and flip him the bird. Later that night I realized that I probably over-reacted- I should thank that lazy ass bastard as it spiked my adrenaline enough to get the job done and I went home hurting but satisfied.

The next day I couldn't get out of bed.

My DB said there was no way I was going to be able to show by that weekend. I looked him dead in the eye and told him that come hell or high water I was showing my horse and I didn't want to hear another word about it. Of course that didn't stop him. Every time I had to get on my hand and knees to get out bed or had to stand to eat supper he would give me the eye and I'd just say "shut up".

On Friday and Saturday I had my friend and neighbor ride Abby for me. She is very handy with a horse and got Abby tuned up a little and that really helped my confidence that at least Abby was thinking about being a reiner again. By Saturday I was walking and able to sit and drive again. I was about 50% better, enough that I knew I was going to be able to ride, maybe not well and maybe not enough to actually ride a pattern but I was going to be able to get in the show pen even if I had to zero my pattern intentionally. The best thing about what happened was that it completely changed my attitude about showing. Previous to my back going out I was nervous about how unprepared Abby and I were, I was worried about the crowd, the judges, what I was going to wear and if Abby was going to be fitted out respectably. Absolutely none of that mattered by the time I got to Sunday. I didn't care if I had to ride in there naked on a highland pony. I didn't care who watched or how badly we did, I just cared that I was able to go. So many people in this world face a lifetime of disabilities, I knew I was going to be okay, I knew I as going to be able to walk, ride and drive again. What right did I have to complain about a stiff and sore back?

On Sunday morning at 5:00AM I headed to the barn to pick up Abby. The sun had just risen and the mist over the river glowed pink and golden. The pale sky was cut in half by a ridge of dark blue mountains and the damp fields glistened with dew. I was humbled by the beauty of that morning. I recognized that in that moment I was living my dreams. I continued to live out my dreams for the rest of that morning. I showed Abby. My friends and family were there to watch. I smiled at them. I smiled at the judges. I thanked my horse. And I rode my pattern. I didn't zero. I didn't score well either:) But I didn't zero which means that what we did resembled reining enough to grant us a score. I cant begin to say just how highly I think of Abby, she packed me through it. What horse packs a rider through a pattern after FIVE years of standing in a field raising babies?

Of course I wasn't even out of the pen before I was plotting how I could get her fit and ready to show again! Little did I know I would get that chance just one week later.


Monday, July 14, 2014

Mosquito on my Ass

I last posted on the 24th of June. I had just taken Abby up to a club arena and had started to think that maybe I might just make that July show I had set my sights on back in May before having to leave her off due to my very Big Mistake. Other than a handful of very short, very slow rides on very soft ground Abs didnt get any riding until that ride in the end of June. Actually, Abby has had very little riding, period, in the time I've had her since she got pulled off the broodmare field where she had stood for over five years. I got Abby home in November of 2013. I didnt ride her at all until January and those rides were very short and sweet and I remember being so happy and shocked with how much she still remembered. But that Spring I never did really get it together and actually start working her. I would guess, all total, I rode Abby about 30-40 times coming up to the last week in June and nearly all of those rides where walks in the field and on the trail. I rode her twice at the neighbors, once at a local indoor, and a few times at a half I can safely say that I did not have more than ten arena rides on her or any kind of serious work. So when I decided to, (at the end of June) try to get her fit and ready to rein for that July show, I knew that I was going to have to keep my expectations low... but I decided to bite the bullet and just go ahead and enter. I wasn't going to be "ready" but I really just needed the experience under my belt. I paid my fees. I was entered to show on July 13th!

That last week of June I dropped in three times at the neighbors arena, hauled her over to another big arena and had a very short ride in the gravel paddock. I had avoided stopping her at all in that week because I didnt have sliders on her and the neighbors arena is deep and stick- I didn't want her jamming up her hocks but on July 3rd I got a set of sliders put on and the next day I went over to a local indoor with good loose footing. We had a really nice ride at that arena. I am always so impressed with this horse and how totally relaxed she is wherever we go. New horses, new arena, a mirror, jump standards- none of it phases her. It was exciting to finally get to ask her to run down (a little bit) and stop. I was a little surprised that she was wanting to really break down to a soft stop rather than slide but then I realized that I have done nothing but break down to a stop since I've had her (because I didnt have the ground or sliders on her). I didn't want to overdue do it and make her sore so only stopped her four or five times. I really wanted to get her stopping better but thought it was better to error on the side of caution. The crappy part was that during that ride I had asked her to gallop out a little and she had popped her lead and when I picked up on her to bring her down and switch back she kind of jammed to a stop on me and I could feel a little twig I have in my back get tweaked.

I've had chronic issues with my lower back since I was eighteen. Most of time it will just be a little "twig" and if I baby it for a little while I can get past it but every year I will randomly make some motion that will spontaneously set it off and leave me barely able to walk, stand, sit or even lay down comfortably. When Abby stuck that stop suddenly I felt that stab of pain and later that night I definitely felt that inflammation come up but I just took an Advil, went to bed and hoped it would be gone in the morning.

And wouldn't you know it, the next morning was my birthday. You know, that special day wherein the world is obligated to lay off the bullshit and cut you some slack for 24 hours and maybe even grant a few wishes? More than anything I really just wanted to take Marm to the park and go for a nice little trail ride by myself. I felt some tenderness in my hip/back but not enough to not ride. I hauled up to a local park and hit the trail feeling like all was right in the world... for about three minutes until I felt the sudden prick of mosquito on my neck, my thigh, my wrist, the back of my hand, my upper arm, shoulder... everywhere! Marm was tossing her head and swishing her tail like crazy. I had doused us both in repellant but it was no use. Right by the parking lot there is a large field of tall grass so I decided to just pick up a trot and see if I could get out of that infested area. Marm thought this was a great idea and we were quickly hustling down the trail. Five minutes later I slowed to a walk and waited to see how many mosquitos would land on Marm's neck. Within thirty seconds a dozen or were greedily sucking her blood and I was slapping bloody streaks off my own neck too. I stubbornly refused to admit that my morning, my birthday morning no less, was going to be ruined by a mob of vampire bugs! Oh no! So off Marm and I went again. We long trotted that trail for twenty minutes or so before I stopped to turn around. For half my ride my bladder had been protesting that it needed some relief. For half my ride I had been telling it to shut up!  The morning was hot and humid and my jeans were damp with sweat and stuck tight to my thighs. The trail I was on, while not busy that morning (no one else was crazy enough to dare the bugs) was not entirely abandoned either and there was no deeply wooded area in which to step. The idea of exposing one more inch of my skin to the hordes of lurking bloodsuckers was needless to say, unappealing...however,  only slightly less so than the idea of long trotting all the way back to the trailer with a full bladder. I resigned myself to getting off to go but I knew I had to do it as quickly as possible to minimize the time my butt was exposed to the pariah like mosquitos and maximize my chance of missing a fellow rider or walker. I think actually mumbled to myself, "ready, set, GO!" I hopped off, stepped two feet off the trail, peeled off my pants and sat my ass straight down on to a stinging nettle bush. Happy Fucking Birthday! Oh! And it's not like the mosquitoes had any sense of sympathy! Oh no! They sensed my vulnerable state and pounced on my posterior with their greedy little fangs. I told my bladder to stop! Stop quick! We had to run for our lives! But it ignored my desperate pleas in it's own quest for relief. Finally, finally, I was finished. Surely the worst was behind me. But no, oh no, the best part was yet to come- I couldn't get my pants back up. I was hopping up and down the trail, yanking on my jeans and trying to unfurl the tightly bound roll my underwear had become with my backside stinging like the dickens and my horse threatening mutiny if I did not get her moving before she was drained of every last drop of blood in her 1000 pound body all the while I'm craning my head over my should certain that at any moment some tender eyed group of boy scouts would walk around that bend in the trail and catch me with my red spotted behind on full display and cussing like a sailor. But alas, I was granted some small mercy and managed to get my jeans back up... though my panties were quick literally and figuratively still in a knot.

I got back on. We hauled ass back to the trailer. I took this video just as we were getting back the parking lot.

That afternoon I headed across the line to find me a new pair of blue jeans. By the time I got to the Bony Pony in Mt.Vernon my back was feeling more than a little tweaked but I just went slow and kept moving hoping it would loosen up. I did find a nice pair of Wrangler Q-Baby jeans in a dark dark blue that I planned on showing in the following Sunday. My fun purchase of the day was a pair of good ol' fashioned Wranglers that are so old school they are back in style! That night my man took me to an amazing Italian restaurant and then we did something I've been begging him to do since we met... we went bowling! By the time we got home my lower back wasn't just protesting... it was threatening an all out strike. The next morning I took the bull by the horns and made an appointment with a physiotherapist. Come hell or high water I was showing my horse... that is if I could get my foot in the stirrup.