Wednesday, May 28, 2014

My Very Big Mistake

I am a very forgetful person. Always have been. I haven't learned to be more mindful despite my best attempts and the best attempts of my DB, parents, teachers, etc... But what I have learned is how to better manage the fact that I am highly forgetful by developing the habit of pausing many many times a day to ask myself what I am forgetting or by setting an alarm. I set an alarm when I put water on to boil. I set an alarm when I turn the hose on to fill the trough. I stop on my way out the door to look back and make sure I turned the burners off on the stove. Even so, often my alarm goes off and it will take me a solid second to remember why I had set it in the first place. I haven't learned to remember but I have learned to remember to ask myself what I have forgot. At the barn I have strict system in place to keep my sieve like mind in check. Before I leave the barn I systematically go through and look at each horse, make sure they have water and make sure their pen/stall/pasture is latched by actually physical touching the latch of the stall door or by staring at the latch, blocking all other thoughts from my mind and consciously thinking "latched". I also stop at the driveway gate and run a double check- stall doors, check, gate to grain room, check, gate to barn, gate to paddock, gate to pasture, main gate, check then finally gate to drive. I do this every single time because I do not trust myself to remember. And I know that it is critically important that I do remember.

But on Friday night I failed to check. I failed to double check. I had let the horses out through the far gate (from the field which has next to no grass) and on to the deep pasture for their short nightly graze. I then went and caught Marm and took her through the near gate for a ride. I then caught Abby and took her through the near gate to tie her to the trailer and brush her down. Finally I went and caught Hola and took her through the near gate and gave her grain. I then took all three through the barn and turned them back out on to the field with very little grass through the paddock gate. I fed them hay. I fed hay to the other three horses. And then I realized it was 9:15 and I was running late. L had just come home and told her the only thing left to be done was to feed grain to the other three. I jumped in my car and sped off to meet a lady I had scheduled to meet to buy new head stall. I didn't stop and ask myself "what am I forgetting" or nor did I run through the check list of "gate check, gate check, gate check" and lastly I didn't mention to L that I had turned the horses out at all.

On Saturday morning I received a call from L saying that my three horses- Marm, Hola and Abby- were out on the front pasture....the deep, lush, bright green spring pasture. And they had been there all night long because the far gate had been left open. My heart stopped beating. My mind raced back over the night before. And I realized that I had broke the cardinal rule every single horseman who ever lived- I didn't closed the gate.

Before I even got the barn I had called my vet and was waiting for a call back. I knew that I was going to have to just cross my fingers against the high likelihood of colic and focus all my efforts on stopping that sweet rich grass from reeking havoc on my horses tiny, fragile, but oh-so-critically important laminae. The war against founder was about to be waged.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Good Training, Good Horse

Over the past week I have started back riding Abs. I started with the idea that I would give her a solid two weeks of lunging before riding to help get her belly and weight better before adding a rider. That plan went out the window after two days. First, I hate lunging. I understand the benefits and if I had a larger space and better ground I probably would not have quit but I just don't- I have a small space on hard packed gravel with loose pea gravel on top. It was a recipe for disaster and I knew this but thought if I took it slow enough she'd be alright. On Monday and Tuesday of last week I started with a good rub down before putting her on the lunge line where she got four minutes walk right, four minutes walk left, four minutes trot right, four minutes trot left and five minutes each way at a walk followed by a 10 minutes cold hose of her legs with a fleece cooler over her back. I found my iphone timer really handy for making sure I was keeping it even and on schedule.

On the second day she somehow caught the clip of her left hind shoe, bent it out in to a makeshift blade and then gouged her back right cornet band. *bad word* And the next days she was stiff and sore behind. So on Thursday she got a new set of shoes and I abandoned lunging (and that whole arena) for good... but... One of the reasons I wanted to lunge was also that I didn't have a saddle and needed time to look for one that fit both my squat pony and my squat budget (which I thought should I only take a year or two).

On Thursday she got a new set of shoes and on Friday, (not wanting to loose momentum) I borrowed a friends saddle and trotted some large circles in the hay field where she was still a little off behind but quickly worked out of it. When I put her away on Friday night I spent a good 15 minutes cold hosing her legs, hocks and stifle and gave her a really vigorous rub down. I used the last of my Absorbine liniment on her that night a well and started researching what product I wanted to get her on both topically and internally to help support her joints, muscles and ligaments. More on that next time.

But first I needed a saddle. I was dreading the very thought of saddle shopping so much that I thought I would try a few English saddles as they are so much more abundant in my area. Probably 1 in 20 saddles for sale is a western and of that one in twenty only 1 in about a hundred would be of the type, quality and price I'd consider. I tried a handful of dressage and all purpose with no luck before sucking it up (or rather asking my darling man to suck it up) and went looking for that elusive reiner or cow horse.  A good friend of mine had a Bob's cow horse that she used on her old mare who was built very similar to Abs so I held out hope that it might work but she was gone for the weekend barrel racing so I stopped in at a local shop and low and behold a Bob's! A well used and plain Bob's at a reasonable price! Counting my lucky stars, I took out that saddle as well as a cheaper no-name brand western (wishful thinking). That night I rode around a little in the front pasture and reveled in the feeling of that big cushy seat. It looked to fit Ab's reasonably well. It fit my ass perfectly. I love love love me a Bob's saddle. You just cant beat them for comfort.

 On Sunday I invited B (a boarder and new friend) to come out on a trail ride on Miss Abby as her horse is off for the foreseeable future and I knew she was feeling pretty down. B is English rider with very soft hands and seat and a kind heart so I didn't hesitate to offer her Abby while I rode Marm. We went out for a nice hour long walk on the trail where Abby was just perfect. B couldn't get over how totally chill she was especially considering her years off and lack of trail experience. That day I rode in that light oil Bob's on Marm and damn if it also didn't look like a pretty close fit.

On Monday I went over to the neighbors to ride Abs in her arena. I wanted to get a good sweat built up to check the saddle and I wanted to actually lope a couple of circles where I didn't have to watch my footing at every step. Abby didn't feel at all stiff behind but I still tried to keep my circles more like large squares and I didn't turn around or stop her (except once by accident where I nearly went ass over tea kettle). The resulting sweat pattern showed that the saddle was making little contact towards the back end of the treet (which usually means it is too low/wide in the front). I probably could have made it work with a very mild bump up front but I had yet to try my friends dark oil Bob's cow horse. At the end of that ride I made sure to spend a lot of time walking her out rubbing her down (and a 10 minute cold hose).

On Tuesday I went back to the local tack store to return the light oil Bob's and ask if they could hold it for the day while I tried the dark oil. I hauled the big saddle in and set it down and was chatting with the lady for a bit and was kind of wondering why she wasn't doing any paper work for my return and had just started to awkwardly ask if we could reverse the preauth on my credit card when it suddenly struck me that I had actually taken out two western saddles. *face palm* I assured her I would be back before end of day to return that cheap western (which didn't even come close to fitting). I then went and picked up my friends dark oil Bob's. It is also not fancy but I had ridden in it numerous times before and knew it to be uber comfortable.

That Tuesday night I rode in the long grass of the pasture. I happen to know that patch of field really well and was pretty damn confident that the ground was solid so I went ahead and pretended like I was in the arena. That was the best ride I have ever had on Abby. The saddle was so comfortable and she guided so nice. I felt like we actually started to really click. I find Abby so easy to ride because we were both trained by the same person so communicating a cue is never an issue but I think the past I rode her and that night we rode together... I couldn't feel where I ended and she began and I stopped consciously cuing her and started thinking about where I wanted to go and trusting her to guide there off of my intent. It was beautiful and reminded me just what I love about reining. After that ride I cold hosed her legs for a good 20 minutes and gave her another good rub down. At the start she had been a little short behind again but as she has every ride she really worked out of it very quickly.

I don't want lay Abs up because I really feel my best bet to getting her right is to get her fit (as slooooowly as possible) and provide her with support in reducing inflammation through cold water, good rub downs before and after riding and internal joint/muscle support as well. Brown Eyed Cowgirls did a post that reminded me just how important it is to spend as much time and conscious effort in their care before and after a ride as you do during the ride itself. Sometimes what you know and what you actually put in to practice are two different things but I know that Abby needs as much support as I can give her and I am determined to do my best. In each of our rides we have spent the majority of our time walking walking walking... Our total "work" time (almost all trotting) is less than fifteen minutes. Just enough to get her to open her lungs up, dampen her neck and wet her back. She is still pretty damn fat and sporting that big ol'broodmare belly.  I plan on continuing that level of work for at least the next week and then by next weekend I might be able to ask for a real work.

Oh! And as luck would have it, that saddle really did seem to sit on her nicely and her sweat pattern was even. Finding a saddle that quickly and easily feels like winning the lotto. I know her back is going to change a lot as I get her fit but I feel like there is enough room in that saddle to be able to make it work for a good while.

Last night I didn't want to ride but did want to stretch her out so went for a 45 minute walk in hand on the trail. She happily walked out and, as I did, seemed to soak up the beauty of that sweet spring evening. I feel so blessed to have this opportunity. What a great horse. What a great life.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Carpe Diem! Showing Abigail

The Sheriff Dunit by Hollywood Dun It standing at McBride Quarter Horses
(unrelated to post just had to share a beautiful photo of a beautiful stallion!)
Last week I had epiphany! It went like this- I asked a friend of mine if she would be interested in showing Abby this year. She looked at me funny for a moment and then asked, "Why don't you just show her?" I replied with a long explanation about expenses, too many horses, too little time, needing to prioritize and a bunch of other legitimate reasons why I really cant afford to show- I really do have to many horses and too little time and I really should be focused on getting M sold and Hola started....


Then I had an epiphany. To be fair it wasn't like all of the sudden I just had some bright idea. It was that all of the sudden all of the support and advice I had been receiving from my amazing friends and family finally seeped its way through my thick noggin. I should show Abby. You know... my mare- the horse I put oodles of cash and time in to finishing as a reiner... yah, that one... I own a reining horse. Maybe I should... I don't know... rein on her? All of those reasons I had for not doing it might make sense in reality but when a "bucket list" dream is so immediately achievable it just seems almost disrespectful to life and to the opportunity I have to not seize the day! Carpe Diem! It seems I fell in to that old human trap of thinking that "next year" would be a better time... who knows what next year will bring! This year is the year I am living NOW. I want to show my horse. It isn't going to be easy and I might not be able to get it done but I sure the hell am going to try.