Monday, June 30, 2014

Schools out for Summer

So since school is over I've been seriously MIA.  Sowwy.  I've just been having such a blast not going to work every day blogging has been the last thing on my mind.  I'm down to babysitting three days a week, teaching lessons on the weekends, and enjoying two days off every week like a normal person :)  Therefore I'll present you with a bunch of pictures, and hopefully catch you all up on everything this week!

Mollie gets her grazing muzzle on:

We continue to have fly mask fashion dilemmas:

Montana is a very naughty boy, and then a very good boy, but always an awkward boy:

Mollie attempts to put more holes in her grazing muzzle, and instead puts holes in her face:

Then stands like a derp with a lead line around her neck as a "tie" because she has too many rubs to wear a halter:

I dog sit and the Chloe-Bear comes to the barn!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Two Steps Forward...

...and one step back.

Last weekend was awesome in the world of ponies, and I was feeling pretty good about everyone's progress so it only makes sense that this weekend didn't quite live up to my unrealistic higher than average expectations.

Saturday started off with a visit to Mollie's barn for a quick hack before lessons.  She's still feeling off but lacks any sort of heat/swelling/anything that might explain why she's NQR.  I had my BO take a look at her, as I still can't tell if it's left or right, and she was just as stumped as I was.  Sometimes it looks front L, and sometimes front R, which leads us to think maybe it's a little of both.  Fingers crossed that this is just because her feet are a little over due, and the farrier is coming out this week so that will fix things.  Immediately after trotting around/cantering my BO did find a digital pulse... in all four fricken legs.  I'm trying to forget about that though, because at rest there's no pulse.

My day of blah continued when one of my lesson kids fell off :(  It's the first time any of my kids have fallen while in a lesson with me, and while she made it pretty easy (rockstar didn't shed a single tear!) I still felt awful.  It was her first fall as well, and she's only 9, so the fact that she didn't cry, got right back on, and rode around like nothing happened is pretty remarkable.

Calvin in the back and his "brother" Blaze
I also rode Calvin at lesson barn on Saturday, and he just wasn't feeling so hot.  He seemed really uncomfortable through his back (again) and tight/short on his left hind.  He also tried pulling some crap a few times and while it wasn't awful I wonder if he's ever going to be a horse someone cold can hop on and go.  He just has so. many. quirks.  I'm wondering if part of his loose-ness and relaxation last weekend came from being lunged 3 times during the week, and am going to try to incorporate more of that.

High note, this was my view Saturday night
Sunday was marginally better, and at least I can say no one fell off ;)  Lessons were good, I actually will go as far to say I had a mental breakthrough with one of my tougher students (Hallelujah!!), and decided to hop on Montana at the end of the day since his dad was away all weekend.  One of the lease kids was there as well so I was excited to have someone to ride with.

Montana wasn't.

Actually, I shouldn't say that.  Montana was ecstatic that he was in the same "paddock" as Blaze, and became infatuated with him.  I had about 5 minutes of nice walk/trot work until his remaining working brain cells totally flew the coop and latched on to Blaze.  He started to get a little naughty, but didn't do anything awful.  I honestly don't even think he was really trying to be naughty, he just could not focus on anything other than getting to his new found buddy.  We ended by just standing in the middle of the ring for about 5 minutes watching Blaze work.  I know what we'll be working on this summer ;)

To finish off the weekend I went over to Mollie's barn, and hopped on in her halter and bareback.  I thought she actually felt better than she had the previous day but there was no one around to look at her for me, so I'm going to ride her for the BO again either Tuesday of Wednesday, and mystery lameness continues to be a mystery.

Hooray for awkward photos!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Filling in the Blanks

Since my post on Monday was supposed to be about the great day I had on Saturday, I figured I'd actually post about that before getting around to my foot.
My day started out at the lesson barn where I taught two lessons, rode two horses, then taught two more lessons.  A few of my kids have recently started to "move up" in their riding skills and it's been an absolute blast to see them working on new things.  Whether it's trotting off the lunge line for the first time, their first canter, or their first fence I've been loving watching how happy they are to make progress. 
Speaking of progress, a few weeks (months, eek!) ago I wrote about Pit Pat, one of the lesson horses I've been working with to get her "over fences ready" for some of my students.  It's safe to say she's gone above and beyond and is now packing a few of my kiddos over little fences :)
Pit Pat and my little sister this weekend
After the first two lessons I had very productive rides on Montana and Calvin.  Montana WORKED on Saturday because I felt like seeing how far I could push him.  I am constantly waiting for this horse to say he's had enough, to show me his limits, and to shut down but I'm repeatedly blown away by just how game he is.  While he may not always know what I'm asking him when I put the pressure on he always rises to the occassion instead of getting mad.  This horse seriously holds no grudges and is becoming a blast to ride. 

So handsome, and starting to fill out.
We trotted and cantered pretty much nonstop with my main goals to be straight and to start differentiating between trotting and cantering.  Up until this point there didn't seem to be a difference to Montana, so when we would ask him for anything faster than a walk we would just kind of go with whatever he offered us.  We were simply concerned with installing the go button.  Now that he has that down I'd like to see him responding to trot versus canter cues.  He did pretty well with this, and I think by the end of summer the goal of having him solid W/T/C in both directions with straightness is very reachable.
I rode Calvin after Montana and while he started out not so hot I actually ended with a very nice ride.  He was wiggling at the mounting block and instead of turning him back around I ended up mounting with him facing the fence.  The mounting block was directly to his left, so I couldn't turn him that way, and we had very little room to our right before hitting the corner.  I asked him to turn right, knowing he could make the turn even though it was tight, and I think the poor guy got a little claustraphobic/stuck.  He responded by crowhopping down the longside (nice work not picking up your reins before getting on, self) but once I grabbed my reins and got his head up he stopped.  And then just halted and trembled because he was pretty sure he was in trouble.  I patted him, assured him he was fine, and carried on.
For the first time I got him to stretch out the slightest bit at the trot, especially to the left.  He's still very worried about any slack in my reins and doesn't know what to do with his head/neck if it's not curled in a false frame.  There was one point though where I had an entire 20m circle of relaxed, swinging trot that was absolutely gorgeous.  Loving this quirky guy way too much.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

The Boot

Thanks Mollie.  But at least it's not broken!!
Happy weekend everyone :)

Friday, June 13, 2014

VCBH: Honesty

This week L. Williams from Viva Carlos asks us to "fess up" to our biggest horse care mistakes.  Seeing as I have plenty, I figured I'd pick the most recent one, which actually happened/is still happening this week.

A little background.

I am not a hypochondriac at all.  Like, not even close. I'm known to self diagnose and treat all of my ailments (unless it's really bad... it usually isn't) and therefore take the same sort of approach with Mollie.  I've always been very laid back, am known to "wait and see" before acting, etc.  This is not to say that I neglect my horse... just that I make sure whatever is going on isn't something I can fix before calling the vet out.

Therefore, when I lunged Mollie on Wednesday of last week and she started out a little ouchy up front, I thought nothing of it for a few reasons.
1)  I hadn't used her BoT hock boots before lunging
2) It had rained that day so she had been inside, therefore prone to being stiff
3) She has much less of a "warm up" on the lunge than she does under saddle
4) For the last few years Mollie has become accustomed to being ridden rather collected, in some semblance of self carriage, and not carrying weight on her sensitive front legs.  When plopped on the lunge line she just kinda tools around on her front end so that doesn't help anything.

She eventually seemed to work out of it, there was no heat or swelling, so I threw her back in her stall and thought nothing of it.

This weekend rolled around and Mollie was an absolute tool about being ridden so clearly did not appear to be in any sort of discomfort.  Teleporting across an arena sideways isn't exactly a red flag for "I'm kinda lame".

Therefore I was kinda surprised (maybe I shouldn't have been) when I went to ride Mollie on Tuesday of this week and she was noticably lame up front.  I'm notoriously bad at figuring out if it's left or right sided, so I'm just going to go with "up front", seeing as we're fessing up.  While I could kind of "ride her" sound she definitely wasn't sound when left to her own devices.

So what did I do to take care of my poor ouchy pony?

Not a damn thing.

Now before you go calling the equine DCYF, I'm going to try to justify this.

1)  I didn't BoT her before this ride, yet again.
2) There was no sign of heat/swelling/squishiness/ouchiness anywhere visible on her legs
3) I did see what looks to be a bruise on the outside of her front right hoof... I've never really seen a hoof bruise in this location before, and obviously I neglected to take a picture (this is a post about sucking as a horse mom, remember?) but I noticed it none the less.

Seeing as there was nothing glaring that could have been making her sore, I chose to do nothing.  Because really, what would the vet want me to do besides give her a few days off to wait and see?  So that's exactly what I'm doing.  I could poultice, or soak, etc. but there's nothing that indicates she actually needs any of those things.  I'll be back to the barn on Saturday and will hopefully have a better idea of what's going on.

Or maybe she'll be magically better, because you know, that's what all neglectful moms hope for, right?

And now a flashback to fly mask problems past.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

New Men in my Life: Part 2

In continuation of last week's topic, today you'll get to read about the second new man in my life, who I am quickly falling in love with.  This may or may not become problematic, as his end goal is to be sold.

**Note to self, I am not to buy this horse because I don't need another one.**

13(ish) year old Quarter Horse
Dun, complete with dorsal stripe
and tiger stripes on his legs
Anyways, look into his eyes and tell me you don't want to take him home?  Ironically, when I started teaching lessons at the new barn I didn't see anyone ride/work with Calvin for months.  He was half leased to a girl in her teens and she was the only one who rode him because for lack of a better term he was, "selective".  I decided I didn't really like him because he was a grump on the ground and he was always filthy.  Those are good reasons, right?
It became apparent about two months ago that Calvin was being pretty naughty.  He was dumping his lease kid regularly and from her description/a few eye witnesses, they were dirty spills.  I have very little tolerance for a horse that uses dirty moves against anyone, never mind kids, so I irrationally hated him even more.  About a month ago half lease kid fell off him again, and the BO and I were the only ones at the barn.  She came into the outdoor ring (where I was riding) leading him, with tears in her eyes, and my heart broke for her.  She had become absolutely terrified of this horse and because I've totally been there before, I really really wanted to help her.  I gave her a little mini lesson and for whatever reason I seemed to "click" with Calvin from there, and was able to figure out some of his buttons from the ground.
It became clear from that point that Calvin's lease kid was done with him.  I know she didn't want to give up, but fear can be crippling as I think many of us know.  Being the main "instructor" at this barn meant Calvin became my new problem child.  The first time I rode him I was ready to go in guns blazing.  He was getting an ass whooping and an attitude adjustment, stat.  And then I got on him.  I immediately realized he was one of the most tense, worried, insecure horses I'd ever sat on.  And he also felt like he had horsey-scoliosis.
He was constantly balled up and tucked his head to his chest, breathed heavily the whole time, and tensed up every time he made a mistake.  Anytime I lengthened my reins to encourage him to stretch out he'd panic.  Everytime I took too much hold on the reins, he'd panic.  It quickly became clear that he was not a kids horse, but he was my favorite kind of ride.  Physically, he's not a tricky horse.  And in all honesty he's only pulled one "move" that could have unseated me.  But he's a mental ride and needs to be ridden every. step. of. the. way.

Being awkward during our second ride together.
As I mentioned in the beginning, I'm completely falling in love with this horse.  The once cranky, miserable guy who turned his butt to you with his ears pinned when you went to catch him willingly walks away from his hay pile to meet me at the gate.  He's gone from snapping his teeth on the crossties to reaching around to nuzzle me anytime he can.  The horse who once fidgeted everytime I asked him to halt will now hang out for half an hour while I sit on him, pet him, and chat with others.

Slightly less awkward, but still tense.
Calvin has reminded me of why I love riding and working with "problem horses" so much.  Very often the problems you think they have aren't what you end up combatting.  The horse that I thought was a huge asshole turned out to be one of the sweetest, cuddliest boys imaginable, and I really hope he continues to build trust in me, and become a solid citizen for all his future riders.
And I secretly hope he doesn't sell for a while so I get to ride him all summer :) 

Monday, June 9, 2014

Mollie Updates

I feel like the majority of my posts lately have been blog hops and talking about horses other than my own.  Seeing as Mollie would be horrified to know she's sharing her blog with others, I figured a little update was in order.

While she certainly hasn't been working very hard lately I have been seeing her a few times a week, whether it's to ride, lunge, or groom, etc.  I've been putting in the effort lately to get to the barn an extra time a week yet somehow this has resulted in something bizarre happening about once a week so it's like I'm not there any extra at all.  Argh!

At any rate, at least I pulled her mane.
For example, a few weeks ago I got to the barn after work one night, only to find out I didn't have my helmet and had no idea where it was.  Because I've been riding Gobi (at a different barn) and other horses at the lesson barn, my helmet has been traveling lots.  Up until now I was pretty good at making sure it made it back to my car but I slipped up that weekend.  This of course has me considering buying another helmet strictly to keep in my car...

Since I couldn't ride I lunged Molls instead.  And then offered her absolutely no assistance when she didn't feel like picking up her left lead.

I'm sure telling her to "fix it" was super helpful.

Then this past weekend I went to ride after teaching lessons and there was a mini-clinic going on at Mollie's barn.  This is fine, because we have a lovely outdoor ring to ride in.  Then Mollie decided she would absolutely DIE if she went anywhere within the half of the ring beside the woods.  That we ride through.  Every week.  Without issue.  This was complete with teleporting sideways, scooting, and much fire-breathing-dragon impersonating.

So yeah.  That's where we've been.

In other news, enjoy these fun pictures because it's all I've got.

 We're basically selfie queens.

 No matter how tightly/loosely Mollie's flymask is done each day, this is how she comes inside.  I'm not sure how she does it, or why she leaves it like this once she gets it off her ears.

Molls got a bath this weekend after our unproductive (shocking) ride.  I let her graze afterwards because they had already been turned in for the day and she had her pick of the property.  Naturally she chose to graze in this spot, surrounded by random 2x4s.

Friday, June 6, 2014

New Men in my Life, Part I

So I feel like it's time to introduce the blog-o-sphere to the two new men in my life but to keep things brief I'll do things one at a time.  The first is one you briefly met last week (or maybe two weeks ago.... what day is it?) and his forelock is as luscious as ever.

A little background on "Gobi" before I get the the pictures and videos that we're all really here for.  A friend of mine still boards her horse at a barn I boarded Mollie at many years ago.  She called me a few weeks ago and simply said, "I have a project for you.  He's really small and a baby."

How baby horses stand on standard horse cross ties.

Well, she was right.  I am only 4'11 and I somehow dwarf this pony, which I've never done in my life.  I have no idea how tall he actually is, but he's tiny.  Another fun note, when I got there to ride him I was informed his teeth had never been done (he's a rescue), he's around 4 years old, and they know he'd been backed but were not entirely sure he'd actually been "ridden".  So I tacked him up in a rope halter and lead, and off we went.

That face.  I cannot stand.

I have to say, for a wild baby horse, he was very well behaved.  He'd clearly had someone on him before because he had basics.  Leg means go, pulling means turn or stop, etc.  Not to say it was pretty, but he definitely wasn't naughty.  We even went over a little baby jump, just to see :)

**Side note, I do not recommend or think it is a good idea to jump green baby horses.  We simply wanted to see what he could do, and he could have easily stepped over the fence.   Wild baby horse has not been jumped since.**

Haiiii are you my mother?

Anyways, I've been hacking him once a week to get him going and rideable.  The goal is for this guy to be a therapy pony, which I think he'll really excel at.  He's quite unflappable so far and loves kids so hopefully it all works out.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Do I Even Ride Anymore?

I feel like I haven't actually ridden my horse in forever.

This is basically, because I never go to the barn.  Work is all time crazy right now (I think I said this the last 10 blog posts in a row now) but on the bright side, only 13 more work days till summer vacation!

13 days till I can stare at this every night :)

I have all these grand allusions that I'm going to ride EVERY DAY this summer because I will have SO MUCH TIME on my hands without working... but the reality is I'll be working almost as much this summer as I am now.  But hopefully since I'll be living closer to Mollie for the summer months that will equate to more riding.  Which is good because I have quite the line up of lessons/clinics for Mollie and I this summer so you know, we should probably start practicing things.

Chances are the clinicians won't ask how her grazing is going...

I guess you could say one of the "good excuses" I've been making lately is that when I do ride Mollie, she's been freaking awesome.  Between getting her teeth done a few weeks ago and seeing the chiropractor last week (post on that coming soon) her body feels ah-maz-ing.  I was just talking to our BO last weekend and saying I couldn't believe how great she felt.  Around this time last year we were both kind of miserable about riding and I remember thinking, 'this is it, this is as far as she's going to go, and now we're plateau-ing'.

I now realize this is ridiculous.

The more riding I do, and the farther I push Mollie and myself the better she's been.  Not that I expect we're going to get to Grand Prix anytime soon (or ever) but it's certainly nice feeling like there is still progress to be made and this isn't all for nothing.  Just this past weekend, when I did actually ride my horse, there was one moment when she was walking along on a long rein and I wanted to get back to work.  I shortened up my reins, sat up through my core, applied my leg, and she was just there.  Brought her back up underneath me, lifted through her shoulder, and became delightfully soft in my hand.  Moments like that are why I love this horse so much :)  She can be so cool sometimes.

That was a lot of babbling.  Enjoy these random photos from my life as of late.

I bought new boots.  I'm in love.

Also, I saw Tim McGraw this weekend.  Again.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Lets Talk Flap

Last week, Hillary over at Equestrian at Hart asked about flaps.  In all honesty, flap length and how my leg fit into my flap hasn't crossed my mind too frequently.  Both of my saddles have been mine for many years and I really wasn't very educated on saddle fit when I purchased them.  At the time they "felt good", the saddle fitter I use and respect told me they fit my horse, and off we went.  So now is as good a time as any to see what that actually means in term of flap :)

First up, we'll look at my dressage saddle since that's the saddle I primarily ride in.

So I apologize that these are not taken from the best angle, but I'm working with what I've already got. You can see that my knee fits "into" the knee block, which is how I think a dressage saddle is intended to fit.  The knee blocks are there to "hold" your leg in place, and an improperly placed knee block can seriously mess with your leg position. 
 If I was to take my feet out of my stirrups I would guess that the stirrup falls right around my ankle.  I was always told that dressage stirrups should be long enough that when your legs are hanging at rest, all you should have to do is "lift your toe" and be able to slide it into the stirrup without much (or any) bending of the knee to get there. Just my two cents.
My leg extends down a few inches below the flap, but because it's a dressage saddle, the flaps are super long.  Plus I have midget legs, so I don't know if this is a helpful comparison for most :)  Overall, I really like how I fit in this saddle and have never had anyone comment otherwise.

Now onto my jumping saddle, which is what I think people are discussing more frequently.

So the jumping picture isn't idea because it's a 3/4 angle, but I think it serves the purpose.  I would say I have about an inch of space between my knee and the edge of the flap... but maybe a little more.  I am extremely comfortable with this "set up" of saddle/flap/combo and feel very secure in it, which I think is evidenced by my leg position in each picture.
The bottom of the flap hits me about mid calf, but again I would point out that I have midget legs, and extremely short calves.  So while it may not be the best for comparison, it's all I have to work with :)