Wednesday, December 31, 2014

I Lived

It's that time of year, that time when everyone calculates up all the things they've done this year and posits what they will do next year.



I have accomplished jack shit this year. 



Although, I have picked up a lot of Jack shit.


I've had crappy year, thanks to my Crohn's disease (pun intended).  People ask me what I've done, why I haven't shown my horses, and I just laugh. Many days I'm doing good just to get off the couch, consistent riding just isn't in the cards.


"What are you doing with that big red horse you've got?"

I'm teaching him to drink out of a wine glass. It's an important skill. 
I learned he really likes mimosas.

"Well, what about that nice bay you were showing 3rd Level?"

He learned to play polo. 

Way easier than 3rd Level.


"Tsk. What about that fancy hunter pony you bought?"

He's toting my kids around. That's what I bought him for. 
Shorts and boots, the official uniform of backyard riders.

My goals disappeared the day I was diagnosed with Crohn's disease. It's not that I "gave up" or "resigned myself to my fate". I fought long and hard against this bullshit disease. I fought against the constant fatigue, the arthritis, the never-ending trips to the bathroom, the degeneration of my spine, the side effects from the medications for the disease and the medications for the damn side effects.

 I fought and I fought and I fought, and then one day I woke up and realized that this was forever. There is no cure, and even the treatment sucks. And there isn't a damn thing I can do about it. It sounds defeatist, but it's actually a relief. Now that I'm not fighting an impossible fight, I can just get on with my life.

So, these are my goals for the New Year: I will drink too much, laugh too loud, live my life and I will just enjoy my horses. All the rest will fall into place.

Instead of fixing the barn clock, I painted this quote on it.


Cheers!

Friday, December 19, 2014

I Think I'll Eat A Worm

Jack ate a worm today.

I was cleaning the heated water tank, which involves flipping it over, when I discovered a bunch of nice fat earthworms in the warm, wet soil underneath it. I have a frog who just loves worms, so I grabbed one for him. At this point, Jack came wandering up to see what I was doing. Naturally, he wanted to know what was in my hand. After all, it might be a treat! 

I opened my hand to show him, thinking he would just sniff the worm and then move on. Nope! He slurped that worm right up and then went back to my hand to look for more. 

I am simultaneously disgusted and impressed. On one hand, ewwwww! A worm! On the other hand, I probably don't ever have to worry about Jack being a picky eater. 

So, tell me I don't have the only horse with the appetite of a garbage disposal. What weird things has your horse eaten?

Oh, and Mr. Frog did get a worm. I picked up another one and was careful to keep it away from Jack. 


Happy Mr. Frog

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Guest Post From Schneider's Saddlery

I get a lot of offers from various people and companies who want to post things on my blog, but most of them are pretty irrelevant. Seriously, why would I want to advertise an Off Track Betting site or review a romance novel, do these people even bother to read my site before hitting "send" on the email?  
Anyway, last week I received an email from Schneider's Saddlery (Slight correction, it was Schneider's Online Marketing Firm) They wanted to post "free, non-advertorial content" to my blog.  I'm not going to lie, I laughed when I read it.  I can write my own free, non-advertorial content, why the hell would I want theirs?  I sent an email back to Schneider's Online Marketing Firm saying just that and figured that was the last I'd be hearing from them.
Surprisingly, it was not the last I would hear from them.  I received a reply the next day outlining, in excellent detail, the type of content they wanted to post and why it was relevant to my blog.  They even used my horses' names and referenced individual posts I had written. Huh, they actually read my work. In all my years writing this blog, no other solicitor has done that.  So, I said they could send me an article and I'd post it.
Moral: Flattery will get you everywhere, at least with me.
Shannon
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About the Author: After being founded in 1948 by Milton Schneider, Schneider’s Saddlery is a family owned company committed to quality, value, and customer service. The family is committed to equestrian culture; offering riders and trainers the tools they need to care for their four-legged companions. This post is brought to you, in part, by Schneider Saddlery
Off The Track Thoroughbreds: Adopting A Champion

Every year, the Jockey Club registers between 25,000 – 35,000 foals, most of which never place at the track.  Even if the horse does run well and becomes a professional racehorse, their short careers often lead to retirement as early as age six. In fact, the number of retired off-the-track Thoroughbreds (OTTB) is so high that more than 10,000 of them are put down each year. 
This makes the breed a popular one for riders, not only for those seeking to rescue one of these beautiful creatures, but also because their relative availability often makes them a less expensive purchase than European breeds.  This doesn’t mean that they are the right choice for every equestrian, however.       
Julie Goodnight, one of only three people to receive Equine Affaire’s Exceptional Equestrian Educator Award, claims that in order for an OTTB to be the right match for a prospective new owner, the person should be a confident rider who is not intimidated by a horse’s speed and need for retraining.
New Owner Preparedness
In addition to being a competent rider, someone adopting an OTTB must have the patience required to assist their new companion in adjusting to an entirely new, unprecedented lifestyle. During this period, you should let your horse relax and adjust to his new role and environment.  He should have plenty of time to play, rest, enjoy the outdoors and begin to understand that his life is no longer just about going as fast as possible.
Along with patience, a new owner of an OTTB needs to be able to provide an environment for their horse that will help the animal to thrive and get used to his new role.  Your ex-racer will develop a bond with other horses he’s introduced to, and will look to their behavior to model his own.  
Once your new horse is starting to adjust to his environment, you’ll likely have to spend a lot of time re-training him on how to be ridden.  If you pull on an OTTB’s reins, they will typically not respond as you might expect them to. 
On the track, Jockey’s would bridge the reins, holding them taunt on the sides of the horse’s neck.   So to your newly retired racehorse, this pressure would indicate that they should move faster.  This leads many owners to assume that their OTTB is being defiant when instead they are reacting to different training.
Common OTTB Behaviors
I spoke with Tracy Palmisano, an experienced rider with more than 30 years spent on top of a saddle. Nearly a decade ago, she adopted an OTTB named Fargo from CANTER USA, an organization dedicated to rehoming retired racehorses.  During the six months it took for Fargo to adjust to his life away from the track, Palmisano observed her horse’s behavior closely and witnessed several common traits among retired racehorses.
“Before I got Fargo, I knew that OTTBs often demonstrated some behavioral tendencies that stemmed from their tenure at the track.  Because active racehorses are kept in stalls the majority of the time, they have a lot of pent up energy that they can’t burn off running in a field.  So, they use their excess energy in other ways.  These behaviors typically continue after they are rehomed and stop or occur less frequently as the horses get increasingly used to their new homes.”
“A lot of OTTBs will chew wood, walk along a fence line incessantly, paw at the ground, weave, crib or, in Fargo’s case, walk the stall.  Fargo’s stall walking was so unrelenting that he initially lost an alarming amount of weight despite being fed more than 10 pounds of grain per day.”
This excess energy is one reason why it’s so important to give a newly adopted OTTB plenty of time to adjust to their new life.  Racing is an unforgiving career, and it can take your new companion a few months to adapt to the calmer “civilian” lifestyle.  Once they begin to adjust to their new home, however, an OTTB’s intelligence makes them surprisingly quick learners.
Health Issues
One issue that new owners of OTTB should be prepared to deal with involves weight loss.  A racehorse enjoys a diet that is high in protein and vitamins that aren’t as prominent in the fare that OTTBs ingest every day.  It’s not uncommon for well-performing race horses to receive additional supplements aimed at increasing muscle mass and stamina.  As your horse adjusts to his new diet during what is referred to as the “letting down” phase, they’ll likely experience significant weight loss. 
While this may be alarming to a new owner, this is a common occurrence that will most likely resolve itself over time.  Once your OTTB is fully transitioned over to his new diet and used to his new fare, he will put the weight he lost back on…very possibly with a few extra pounds, too. 
According to Goodnight, racehorses can develop bowed tendons and various chiropractic health issues that can end their racing careers.  Fortunately, there are treatments available that can heal many of the chiropractic maladies an OTTB might have.  Once dealt with, however, your OTTB should be able to make nearly a full recovery. 
Finding A Second Career
Obviously, OTTBs have the natural gift of speed, but their natural athleticism and intellect makes them versatile companions.  In general, these former racehorses are excellent at jumping and dressage, but they can also become reliable trail horses.  
Once they’re properly trained, OTTB’s also make excellent therapy horses due to their sensitivity to even the slightest changes in the behavior of their rider.   Their intelligence, curiosity, and playfulness makes the OTTB an excellent companion for the patient rider.
If you’re a green rider, adopting a fresh OTTB is likely something that you might wish to reconsider.  While they make wonderful companions, the stress of track and their natural love of speed could make training them difficult. 
If you are an experienced rider who isn’t intimidated by speed, getting an OTTB may very well be the challenge you’re looking for, one where you’ll be rewarded for your efforts with an intelligent, playful four-legged friend.  Because racehorses typically retire at a young age, you’ll be able to enjoy his companionship for years to come.

While not for everyone, every one of these creatures deserves a loving, fulfilling second life. If you’re interested in learning more about adopting a Thoroughbred, a good place to start is the official CANTER USA website. 

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Don't Forget: You Have TWO Legs

"Inside leg to outside rein" is the dogma of dressage. We DQs chant it like it's the rosary. To extend that blasphemous metaphor even further, we cling to it as our ticket to absolution. When we stand before the Pearly Gates of Dressage Heaven, we will shout "St. Podhajsky! I always rode from the inside leg to the outside rein!"

And St. Podhajsky will reply, "But you let your horse's hind end swing out and he dropped his inside shoulder because you forgot you had two legs, you nitwit!" and then the Gates will swing shut and we'll be relegated to Dressage Purgatory where everyone rides in draw reins and over-pronounces "Baucher".

Seriously though, there is no place for dogma in riding. Every horse and rider is different, and when you put those horses and riders together the combinations are infinite. The inside leg is important, but many horses can and will evade your inside leg, and many riders will then forget to back up their inside leg with their outside leg. 

So, if you find yourself riding around wondering why your horse isn't responding properly to your inside leg and outside rein (as I frequently do), try putting your outside leg on, too. I find it's easiest to counter flex on a circle, then keep my outside leg in place as I flex back to the inside. As soon as I begin to lose it, I counter flex again. 




I hope St. Podhajsky approves. 

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!

May your day be filled with good food and good company, and may none of your weird family members shove their faces in your bowl! 


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Transformation Tuesday: Jack!

I was scrolling along through Facebook the other day when I came across this picture of Secretariat:



Secretariat has always been my all time favorite racehorse, so when I had the opportunity to acquire a chestnut descendant of his, I hooked up the trailer and went to get him immediately. That's how I acquired my "little" Jack. Of course, Jack had a lot more going for him than just his color and bloodlines, but they definitely tipped the balance over to "must have!".



At three years old and just off the track, Jack did not look much like his famous ancestor. He looked like a giant, gangly teenage boy. The next year did not do much to improve Jack's looks. He shot up from 16.3 hands to 17.2, and just got more and more gangly as he grew taller. 

With the growth spurt, he got even clumsier. I won't lie, there were several times I watched him shamble across the pasture and despaired that I would ever turn him into anything remotely resembling a dressage horse. 

But in the last few months I've noticed Jack really starting to come into himself. He's still a giant goofball who doesn't always know where all his body parts are, but more and more I've seen him moving like a grown horse and not a clumsy teenager. I decided to take a picture to compare his new physique to his old pictures, which required him to pose for the camera.

Unfortunately, I didn't have a handler on hand like Secretariat up there. Since Jack is a very friendly fellow who doesn't understand that he is not actually a lap dog, I ended up with several fuzzy pictures of his ears and nose before finally bribing him to go away with food. 

Then I had a new problem, how to get him to lift his head out of the hay long enough to get a similar picture. I tried jumping up and down, yelling and waving my arms:



I tried throwing rocks in front of him to get him to look up:



I tried throwing rocks over him to get him to lift his head out of the hay:



This was proving to be more difficult than I had anticipated. 

Finally, after I had exhausted my supply of rocks and was about to give up, he sort of looked up:

"Wait, were you just throwing rocks at me?"


It's not perfect, but I'll take it!


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Winter Has Arrived

And it's way too early. 

November in NJ is usually crisp and cool, but not terribly cold. Not this year. Monday was 50 and raining, then the rain cleared out and the temperature plummeted to 25. Brrrr. 

I spent most of Monday winterizing the farm: mulching the garden, bedding stalls and installing the heater for the stock tank. 



This is the first year I've had a stock tank. I used to use muck tubs as my water tanks because they're easier to dump and clean. I even had heated muck tubs for the winter. They were nice, the heating unit is built into the tub, so all you have to do is plunk it down and plug it in. So convenient. Unfortunately, Jack likes to go "swimming" in any water he can find, and the little tubs can't withstand 17.2h worth of 4 year old exuberance. I had to get a big stock tank to keep Jack from breaking any more tubs. 



The stock tanks have a drain in the bottom to install the heater (sold separately, of course). You have to drain the tub, flip it over, pull out the plug assembly, install the heater into the plug hole with all the gaskets in the right places, then flip the tub back over and fill it back up. After filling it, I hunted down an extension cord and got ready to plug it all in.....



had flipped it over right on top of the €£%}<€£*~?€! plug! And, with the heater installed, there's no longer a drain plug. I had to heave the whole stupid thing over, clean the mud off the plug and refill it. 

Once that was done, it was time to break out the winter blankets for the horses. This was when I discovered that Spots has apparently never worn a blanket before. 

Honestly, it never even occurred to me that this might be a problem. He has tolerated every single thing I've done to him so far, and I've lived in NJ and been a DQ long enough that I just automatically assume that all horses know about wearing blankets. 

As soon as I approached Spots with the blanket, his eyes started to roll and he got all snorty. No big deal, it was a new blanket and sometimes they act goofy on the first blanketing of the season. I showed him the blanket, scratched his wither and got him settled down, then started to put the blanket on. That's when all hell broke loose.

It became very clear very quickly that Spots was having none of this "blanket" business and it was already after dark. Since I was not prepared to introduce Blanketing 101 to him in the dark, it wasn't raining anymore and he has a thick winter coat and shelter, I decided to just let him be and revisit it in the morning. 

This morning I found him bright and chipper and not at all cold, although he did side eye the hell out of me to make sure I didn't have any of those horse-eating blankets with me. He also figured out very quickly that the two blanketed Thoroughbreds were cold and didn't want to leave their stalls, which meant he could use his cold-hardiness to execute raids on the hay piles in their stalls without being chased. 



I am going to work with him on the blanketing, because it's something he needs to know and I just bought him a brand new, non-returnable blanket. I didn't work on it today, though, because we're having 30 mph winds and I decided that was not the ideal condition in which to teach a horse that blankets aren't scary. 










Saturday, November 15, 2014

Back On The Treadmill

Spider and I are back in the ring again after our all-too-brief fling with polo.  We'll have a polo play-date again soon, but for now it's back to the treadmill.

My 6 year old daughter took this picture with my iPhone. It's better than some of the "professional" work I've seen.

One thing nobody ever tells you about training the upper levels of dressage, is that it's exactly like training the lower levels of dressage. Sure, the level of collection is different and you get to do some tempis and half passes, but it's still the same stuff.

Flex, release, bend, give, ask for more. Flex, release..... Same stuff, different day. 

Every ride starts with establishing the framework, and then we can maybe do some fun stuff. Or maybe not, depends on the day and how the horse and I are feeling. Forcing, or even attempting, the lateral work and changes when the horse is still tense or not in the right frame just makes for crappy lateral work and failed changes. 

Bad days feel like I'm back at Training Level: endless circles just trying to get the horse engaged and on the bit. 

But all the "bad days" spent establishing and re-establishing the connection are what make the good days happen. 

Training isn't linear, it isn't really a scale or a pyramid. It's a big circle made up of lots of little circles, like those Spirograph toys.

Remember Spirographs? I was obviously not very good at them...



Collection isn't the end, it's just a new beginning. You're always circling back to the other stages of training.



Sunday, November 2, 2014

Marco!

Polo!



Polo was so much fun! I still have no clue what I was doing, but I had a blast!

It was a rainy and awful day, and my one friend who knows how to play polo and has a polo pony totally punked out. So, it was just me and my other equally polo-ignorant friend with our 16.3 hand, 3rd Level Dressage horses in their huge dressage saddles and double bridles. 



We were a little out of place, to say the least. We were also the oldest people there by at least a decade or two. But, we got to be positive ambassadors of dressage! Everyone was very impressed that two Dressage Queens came out in the rain with two very well-behaved horses to learn to play polo with a bunch of teenage Pony Clubbers. We got a lot of questions about our horses and equipment, and hopefully we inspired a few people to give dressage a try, instead of just believing the stereotype that we're all snobs on giant crazy horses. 



The day began with unmounted stick and ball handling (a phrase that made me giggle because I still have the mind of teenager). After the instructor was confident that we kind of knew what we were doing and might not hit ourselves or our horses too hard with the mallets, we mounted up and practiced hitting the ball while walking slowly. 

This is where I learned that my horse is too tall and I'm too short to hit much of anything effectively. I'll have to teach Spots to do this for the next time I want to go play polo. But, I did manage to thunk the ball around a couple times, so that was good. 

After lunch, we went out to scrimmage, which was awesome! It seemed to me that it was pretty much a melee because I never really got a firm grasp on the rules or what I was actually supposed to be doing, but Spider and I were quite content to run around a field chasing after the ball and trying to block other people. Turns out, having the largest horse on the field is advantageous when you're trying to keep other people away from the ball. 




I even managed to hit the ball a few times! And Spider learned to artfully dodge my mallet. Clever boy!


It was especially great to get out of the arena and really put my dressage training to the test. Dressage can feel like a treadmill sometimes: constantly moving forward, but never really going anywhere. Being able to take my dressage training out into a polo field and hold my own, that's what it's all about. 



Dressage isn't just for competition, and it shouldn't be used that way. Get off the treadmill! Take dressage out of the ring, whether on a trail ride or a polo field or a barrel race is up to you, but just get out there and test your training. I guarantee you'll have a blast and return to the sandbox reinvigorated and with a renewed sense of understanding and purpose in your training. 

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

WW: Practicing Polo!



Well, this is going to be a Wordy Wednesday because I've never been very good at wordless-ness. 

Spider and I are going to a clinic to learn how to play polo on Saturday with a couple of our friends! It's going to be so awesome! 

My one friend is bringing her 3rd Level Swedish Warmblood who is the same size as Spider (16.2), so I won't be the only n00b on a giant dressage horse. My other friend is bringing her retired polo pony (she played in college), hopefully that will give us some credibility so we don't look like silly DQs. 

My friend with the polo pony brought over a mallet so I could gauge whether or not Spider was going to dump me as soon as I started swinging a giant club around his head and legs. He didn't, which isn't really surprising. In the grand scheme of crazy stuff I've exposed him to, this isn't even a blip on his radar. 

There will be plenty of pictures and maybe even video of the shenanigans, stay tuned!




Wednesday, October 22, 2014

My Anaconda Don't Want None Unless You Got Buns, Hon



"You can do side bends or sit-ups, but please don't lose that butt"



It's Twopointober (I think that's how you spell it), hosted by L. Williams at Viva Carlos and Hillary at Equestrian At Hart. I'd love to link their blogs, but I'm still on my phone and too inept to link. Anyway, the point of Twopointober is to track your ability to stay in two point over the course of the month. 

A lot of dressage riders don't use two point, or think they can't or shouldn't use it. I think it's quite under-utilized myself. I two point when I let my horse stretch during and after the ride. I also use two point on young horses when they're just starting to canter under saddle, as I find it helps them find their balance more easily. 

That being said, I don't ride in two point for long stretches of time. I use it for a minute or so at a time just to get out of my horse's way while he's stretching or relaxing or finding his balance. I found the idea of seeing how long you can stay in two point rather intriguing. 

So, I decided to try it out, to see exactly how long I could go in two point. Unfortunately, I didn't have my phone on me at the time and I don't wear a watch. But, I did have the radio on! So, I decided that I would two point through the next song that came on the radio. I figured that was a realistic goal, a song is usually only a couple minutes long....

The next song that came on was that awful new Nicki Minaj song "Anaconda", but, considering the subject matter of the song and video, I found it hilariously appropriate. I already had Spider in a long and low canter to loosen him up after our ride, so I popped up into two point and twerked my way around the ring. 

Turns out, that awful Nicki Minaj song is really, really long. About halfway through my thighs were burning and I was fervently wishing for Nicki to just shut up. Never have I been so glad for a song to end. Afterwards, I looked it up and the song is 4:13. Not bad for a dressage rider, I think. 

The next week I tried again, but this time I had my phone on me. I set the timer and off we went. Except, this time, Spider broke from canter and I couldn't get him started again in two point. (I'm a dressage rider, we use our butts for a lot of the cues) So, I had to ride in two point at trot, which is much harder than two point at canter. I made it 3:19 before collapsing back into the saddle. 

I was annoyed at my backward progress, so I resolved to fix it. I added some more squats to my off-horse workout routine. I started doing some more conditioning work in the saddle. Dressage focuses heavily on transitions, which is great for building strength and agility, but not so much for building stamina. So, I focused a bit more on trotting and cantering for extended periods of time. I also worked on keeping Spider going and transitioning between trot and canter while I was in two point. By the time the next week rolled around, I was ready to try again. 

And I had forgotten my phone, so I had to rely on the radio again. The next song to come up was Lorde's "Team" (I had to look it up based on the chorus, I didn't know what the hell it was.) I barely made it through that song, but then the next song was Meghan Trainor's "All about That Base". I friggen' love that song! 

I proceeded to shake it, shake it, like I'm supposed to do. Spider and I went around with renewed vigor, even transitioning between trot and canter and throwing a few flying changes in while we shook it. Between Lorde (3:13) and Meghan Trainor (3:08), I managed to stay in two point for a grand total of 6 minutes and 21 seconds. Hot damn! That ain't bad!





Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Jack Has A Boo-Boo.

Being an exuberant, and kind of dumb, 4 year old, Jack nearly always has a boo-boo of some sort, but this time he's got a boo-boo that's left him lame.

Picture not related, surprisingly.

Jack had pretty bad feet when he came off the track. The combination of frequent trimming and re-shoeing and some of the medications horses are given on the track can take a toll on their hooves. It's not uncommon, and it usually resolves with time and proper care. It doesn't mean that OTTBs have bad feet, just that some need a little more time to adjust to their new lives. 

In Jack's case, his feet were so bad that the only solution was to pull his shoes and just start over. That's what my farrier recommended and that's what I did. It's not like I'm in any hurry to get him to Devon, I have plenty of time to let his feet heal themselves.  

Pulling shoes on a horse with bad feet does two things: it means you aren't putting any more holes in an already compromised hoof wall, and the concussion of the bare hoof against the ground encourages new, stronger growth and re-shaping. It's especially helpful for horses with long toes and low heels, like OTTB's, as it encourages heel growth and breaks up the toe. 

Jack has been barefoot for over a year now, and his feet are improving by leaps and bounds. But, there are always hiccups along the way. Last week Jack was a little tender on his right fore. That tenderness gradually progressed to all-out lameness and it became pretty clear that an abscess was brewing. 

I have always believed that it is very important to know what you don't know, and I don't know Jack about the science of farrier-ing, so I called the farrier. (Nice pun, huh?)

Through a series of mis-adventures, the farrier was not able to get out for a few days. It ended up being a good thing, because when he did get here the abscess was ready to go and he was able to release it. Jack is much more comfortable now. 

However, while I was waiting for the farrier I got to hear absolutely everyone's two cents on what I needed to do. Their two cents basically amounted to, "zOMG! He needs shoes, stat!"  And then the conversation would go like this:

Me: "His farrier wants to keep him barefoot for now."

Them: *sniff, eyeroll* "Who is your farrier?"

Me: "Farrier McFarrierson." (Not his real name, although that would be awesome)

Them: "Oh. He's really good." 

Me: "Yup, that's why I'm paying him and not you."

Jack does not need shoes right now. He is not barefoot because I am cheap, he is not barefoot because I am anti-shoe.  He is barefoot because his farrier recommends he stay barefoot to help his hooves grow and heal. And, seriously, do these people really think shod horses never go lame or get abscesses?

Shoes wouldn't have prevented this abscess, anyway. It's too far back on the sole, and likely came from a stone bruise that a shoe wouldn't have blocked. (That bit of info came directly from Farrier McFarrierson)

Will Jack always be barefoot? I don't know. I pay my farrier to decide these things. I have a great farrier that I trust and communicate openly with. If the horse needs shoes, he will get shoes. For now, the shoes stay off because putting shoes on will just set him back. He's still growing out and re-shaping his hooves. It takes time. 



Monday, October 6, 2014

Life Hack For Whinos

So, as I was perusing Facebook today, I found an article entitled "15 fashion life hacks only the stylists know" or something like that. Normally, I wouldn't click on a fashion article, but George Takei shared it and he's usually hilarious, so I clicked.

Most of the hacks were things I'd never need, seeing as how I'm not exactly a fashionista, but one caught my eye: "keep your tall boots in shape by putting empty wine bottles in them". That is brilliant!!!

I have loads of wine bottles!

Ironically, I had just taken the recycling to the dump and I didn't have an empty wine bottle to try this with. I had to open a bottle and empty it myself. It was a real hardship, and I apologize for any grammar and spelling errors. 

But, it totally works! And I think it does a better job than the actual boot shapers I bought!

Wine bottle boot is on the left (right foot boot), boot shaper is on the right.


It keeps the ankles in a more natural shape, I think, and rounds them out better than the boot shaper. 

As an added bonus, the bottles come filled with wine!



Thursday, October 2, 2014

TBT: No Internet, Again.

My foray into the 21st century of internet use is already over, the stupid thing is out again and I'm back to using the Blogger app on my phone. It's not a terrible app, but I like the full web version better. 

This time Verizon says it's their servers and they're going to send me a new modem. How sending me a new modem will fix their servers is something of a mystery, but whatever.... Moving on...

Yesterday I was able to get in contact with Spots' breeder through the magic of Facebook! Is there anything FB can't do?

The breeder was very excited to hear from me, since she had lost track of Spots a few years ago as he changed owners. She still owns his mother and was able to send me pictures of him as a foal:


How stinkin' cute is that!?

I really liked this one, because he still uses this same expression with the side-eye and the ear: 


So, there you have it, Throw-Back Thursday to the days before internet with a bonus of Baby Spots!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

I Have Internet Again!

Hooray!

I have no idea if it's actually fixed or not. I've been calling and complaining for weeks, and Verizon's only response has been, "Umm...... yeah... we're totally fixing that..."(I paraphrased, but that's the gist of what they told me)



Today, Verizon called me up and, I kid you not, a customer service representative said, "So, your internet works now, right? Because our computer says it works".  (That's a direct quote)

Yes, it works.  We'll see how long it lasts.

Moral of the story: If you can avoid it, don't use Verizon as your internet provider. Sadly, I cannot avoid it, because I live in Podunk.

Anyway, now that I have internet again I can write nicely formatted posts with pictures that didn't come from my phone and links and labels!  How exciting!

I also updated my "Cast and Crew" page because it was terribly out of date, and I have to go back and add labels to the posts I wrote on my phone. (And possibly re-format them because that stuff drives me a little nuts).






Sunday, September 28, 2014

Confessions Of The Worst Dressage Queen Ever



I view bridles as straps of leather on which to hang a bit. I'm not impressed by the latest noseband technology or ear cutouts. And I have zero interest in sparkly bling-bling brow bands.

I never clip my horses. Ever. I don't even clip their fetlocks and whiskers for shows. I have never been marked down in a dressage test for having an unclipped horse. I figure if you've gotten close enough to the judge for her to see your horse's whiskers, you've gone off course. 

I ride in jeans. A lot. It doesn't make me ride any worse, nor does it mark up my saddle. It's a lot easier to get things done around here without a wardrobe change for every activity. 

My horses live outside 24/7. I don't blanket them unless it's below 35 and actively raining or snowing. Horses come from the factory with their very own built-in blanket and, judging from the way they destroy and find ways to wiggle out of the blankets I buy them, I get the impression they're not too keen on the after-market additions. 

I rarely bathe my horses, although I will hose them off if it's hot. I haven't used soap to bathe any of them at all since sometime last year, probably the last time Spider went to a show. They all have beautiful, shiny dappled coats despite my "neglect". 

I don't pull manes, ever. You can't tell me it doesn't hurt the horses. I've been waxed, it hurts! And just because your horse doesn't react, doesn't mean it doesn't hurt.... I don't deck the lady that waxes me, but that doesn't mean I'm having fun. I cut their manes instead. You can't tell if it's pulled or cut once it's braided, anyway.  

I know I'm not alone, here.... Share with the class: What are your Bad Dressage Queen/Hunter Princess/Eventer Confessions?

I'd make it a Blog Hop, but I'm still posting from my phone like a caveman with a phone but no internet. 








Wednesday, September 24, 2014

I Have No Internet.

I have no internet.
That really sucks. 

I was going to make a haiku about it,
But then I realized I'm not very good at haikus and should probably just post something from my phone. 

Here's a recent picture:


*Note to self: Don't try to take selfies around Jack and Spots. They will totally photobomb*

Hopefully we will have internet soon. Verizon has 24 hours to fix this or I'm bailing on them. It's been over a week, and they claim it's an outage. Pbththththtb. 

(I just found out that my phone autocompletes "pbththththtb". Heh. That's kind of cool!)



Monday, September 8, 2014

I'm Seriously Considering Taking Jumping Lessons

I'm in a rut. I'm bored. I shouldn't be. I've got three great horses at completely different places in their training and I really should be very interesting.  But it's not. I'm just not feeling it. 



I think I need to shake things up. 

Perhaps I'm having a mid-(horse)-life crisis. I've been riding horses for as long I can remember. I grew up riding Western, then discovered dressage as a teenager. I've been riding dressage ever since. 

In short, I'm stagnating. It's about time I learned something new.  

Well, actually, I haven't always stuck to just dressage. There was that one time in college that I briefly worked for an Olympic Eventer. After a couple of sessions over fences, I was told that I should probably just stay with dressage. 

I'm a chicken over jumps, and generally refuse to jump anything higher than my own knees. I also need at least one beer to be anything close to enthusiastic about any jump at any height. Which is why I think I really should take more lessons. 

So, I'm going to find somebody to teach me how to jump. I haven't got a damned clue how to jump, my "jumping form" involves standing up in my stirrups as much as you can in a dressage saddle and grabbing the mane. But I think it's a good skill to have and I think it will wake me up and get me excited about riding again, even if that excitement is just realizing that I should stick with dressage!

As I was writing this/having my midlife crisis, I was also talking to some of my friends about my new training goal of jumping. They unilaterally pointed out that I've got a really bad back and jumping probably isn't the best new thing for me to learn. 

I say, "poo-poo" to those nay-sayers. I'm only going to do very small jumps, because I'm a big chicken, and I fail to see how small jumps are any different from riding sitting trot extensions or re-training baby OTTBs. I think it's a good discipline to learn, and an intellectual departure from what I have been doing. 

In short, I say "Pbthththththb!" to them. And now I need to find a jumper trainer!

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Apparently, NJ Doesn't Understand How Seasons Work

September has been oppressively hot, and I have done nothing with my horses. Well, I look at them and pet them and think, "Tomorrow I will work you lazy lumps", but then tomorrow comes and it's gross and I sit in the kiddie pool instead. 

I had high hopes for September. My oldest went back to school, which means I no longer have to spend my day breaking up fights between her and her younger brother. Never let anyone tell you that you should have more than one child so that they'll "have a playmate and entertain each other". My children fight like cats and dogs if they have to spend more than an hour together. I have to put them on different floors of the house or in separate parts of the yard to keep the peace, and they still interrupt me every few minutes with, "He looked over here!" "She's on my side!" He threw a toy at me!" and then the inevitable chorus of "I'm bored!!!!!"

But, I digress... I was whining about the heat. It's hot. And gross. Usually I don't really mind heat and humidity, but it's September and it is not supposed to be over 90 degrees. My body is in full protest and refuses to even entertain the idea of riding. Instead, I've been doing farm stuff that involves the tractor doing all the work and fixing things that require a minimum of effort. 

Today's project was fixing some of the latches that hold the stall doors open. My horses are pastured 24/7, but always have access to a shed row barn. The barn doors are held open by latches that turned out to be a little too flimsy to hold up to the butt scratching of 1000 lb animals, so as they get broken I use baling twine to tie the doors open. But today seemed like a perfect day to fix them properly with sturdier latches, so I untied the baling twine and then realized I had forgotten a tool I needed in the garage. I left the unsecured doors to go root around for my tool, which took some time, and when I returned I found this:



The wind had blown the stall door shut, "trapping" this genius in the stall. Upon closer inspection, I found genius #2 behind him, also "trapped". 



Somehow, neither one of them managed to figure out that all they needed to do was push the door and it would open right up. They were both very grateful that I so heroically came to "free" them and rushed out as soon as I opened up the door. That's what they get for snooping around!


Monday, August 25, 2014

Saddles

I have seven saddles and three horses. Somehow, only one of those saddles fits only one of those horses.

Well, not really "somehow", that particular saddle was custom built to fit that particular horse because that particular horse can't fit into an off the rack saddle. 

That particular horse also refused to stand straight for the picture.

Spider's back is narrower than a narrow tree and he has a very high wither. 

I suspect that Jack is also going to be a special one and, once he's really working and done growing, I'll probably have to spring for a custom built saddle for him, too. For now, he can get by in the other saddles with some strategically placed padding. He has a high, long wither, but his back isn't quite as narrow as Spider's. It's the length of his wither that's going to mess up the saddle sizing. 

This was a very difficult shot to get.  Jack just keeps getting taller.

And then we have this mess:  

I never noticed how big his butt is before.

Spots has a wide, flat back and a high wither. My medium and medium wide saddles should fit him, but they don't because of that $&@"?! wither! 

I can sort of get the MW dressage saddle to fit with a pad folded up under his wither, but that only works for me. The kids' legs don't reach the end of the flaps on the dressage saddle and their pony saddle doesn't come close to fitting Spots. It fit Matilda perfectly, but she was built like a keg. Spots is built like a horse and not nearly as fat as Matty was. The kids are going to outgrow that little saddle soon, anyway. 

So, I guess I'm going to have eight saddles and three horses soon. 


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Today's PSA: Wear Shoes

I am the absolute worst about wearing shoes. As such, I'm always getting splinters and stubbing my toes and just generally getting stupid injuries that don't happen to the properly shod.  On the plus side, I'm always up to date on my tetanus shot!

So, a little over a week ago I was out wandering near the barn with no shoes, which is really the worst place to not be wearing shoes, when I felt a sudden sharp pain in my foot.  I hopped about for a minute, cussing and looking around for whatever it was that attacked me, but didn't see anything.  My foot was a little red, but there were no marks, so I assumed it was just a wasp or something and hobbled into the house to mix myself a wasp sting cure.  (AKA Margaritas)

The next day I felt a little under the weather, but I attributed it to the 3rd margarita I had and went on about my day.  On day two, I woke up barely able to walk, completely wracked with intense muscle pain all over my body.  I decided this was probably something more than a wasp sting or hangover and went to see the doctor. (Sometimes I make good decisions)

After reviewing my symptoms and doing some blood work to rule out horrifying diseases like ebola or something, the doctor concluded that I had most likely been bitten by a black widow spider. He also admonished me for not doing a better job of hunting down the offending insect to identify it.  You know you have a country doctor when you get fussed at for not properly IDing the creature that bit you instead of for wandering around with no shoes.

Luckily, black widow bites are not fatal in healthy adults. Unluckily, they are horribly painful. I could barely walk for about three days, and wasn't quite right for over a week afterwards.  The venom causes widespread muscle cramping that makes you feel like you did a triathlon with no training. I do not recommend the experience.

Always wear your shoes!


Spiders are lurking everywhere...


Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Short Help Is Better Than No Help


Although, this isn't quite what I had in mind as far as spreading the straw in the stalls goes. 

Monday, July 28, 2014

Spots Shows His True Colors

I tried Spots several times before we bought him. Having ridden sale horses and other people's horses for many years, I know how to push buttons on a horse and figure out what they're capable of pretty quick. He passed my tests with flying colors.

But, busy training and sale barns are very different environments from the Adult Amateur Backyard Farm, and sometimes a horse will find a whole new personality when they move into the Backyard Farm. 

Spots sure has. He didn't have much of a personality when I met him: he did his job, he didn't cause any trouble, he tried to figure out what his rider wanted, and he seemed to genuinely like kids. But, he wasn't exactly Mr. Personality. 

Now that he's here, his personality has exploded. He's an extremely friendly little guy, bordering on pushy. Being a chestnut, an Appaloosa, and a pony, he also believes that he's 10ft tall and bulletproof.

But, being only 7 years old and having mostly lived in training barns, his bravado only extends so far. He's still getting used to us, and our boisterous, completely random, and utterly irreverent atmosphere. 


His bravado has been seriously challenged by the chickens. This may seem silly to someone who has never met a chicken, but anyone who has owned chickens knows that they are little feathered jerks. Their favorite activity is randomly popping out of stalls and the feed room, squawking and flapping and generally causing a ruckus.  Their second favorite activity is running across the arena as fast as they can, usually while flapping and squawking, and dashing in between the horse's legs.  It's like having mobile cavaletti that squawk and flap.  And people wonder why my horses don't react to anything at shows.....

Chickens just don't care.

Poor Spots just doesn't know what to do about the squawking, flapping little terrors, but he tries to take it in stride.  Unless they randomly leap out of the feed room straight into his face, as happened the other day.

I was leading him past the feed room when the assault happened. I guess we must have startled the hen, who came flapping and squawking out the door and straight into Spots' face. He reared straight up, yanking the rope out of my hand, then turned heel and ran to the other side of the property as fast as he could. It wasn't very far, so I wasn't particularly worried about him. The barn is in the back corner of the property and that part of the farm is surrounded by a large, thick hedgerow.  I'm not really one to chase a horse around anyway, as it usually does more harm than good. Chasing a panicking prey animal just makes them panic more, and it's not like you can catch up to a galloping horse on foot, anyway.  Much better to close off any exits and then patiently wait for them to settle down and stop running.

Turns out that I didn't need to do any of that, though. When Spots reached the hedgerow he stopped, collected his wits, turned around and came trotting right back to me.  I hadn't even moved from the scene yet, as I was still cussing the chicken and examining the damage to my hand. He looked a little embarrassed, so I just pretended nothing happened and tacked him up as usual.  Although, the ride was a little short because it's hard to hold the reins with rope burn.

This is why you should always wear gloves!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Viva Carlos Blog Hop: Advice

Well, I didn't even manage a full week of my new blogging schedule, partly because my internet's being dodgy and I can't edit my posts the way I like to and partly because I'm too lazy to really learn how to use the Blogger app on my phone (the phone is currently my only internet source).

So, I missed Friday and Monday, but then I saw the Viva Carlos blog hop posted today and thought, "Hey! I can get myself  back on track with that!"

Here goes: fingers crossed that I can get this posted and properly linked from my phone..... 



What's the best advice you've ever received from a trainer or other rider?

Years ago I worked for a very large, and usually angry, Swedish ex-cavalry officer. His training method mostly consisted of using his substantial size to muscle the horses around. My job was riding the sale horses, mostly young imports from Europe. 

One day I was assigned to ride an 18.2h 5 year old who had just arrived at the barn a few days before. I was about 20 minutes into what I thought was going to be a pretty good ride, when the 18.2h youngster decided to have a meltdown. His meltdown involved leaping, bucking, and some other aerobatics that I have repressed from my memory. 

Fortunately, I stayed on, got the youngster back under control and finished up my ride. Unfortunately, my big, angry Swedish boss saw the whole thing. 

After I put the horse away, he cornered me. I thought I was really in for it. He never minced words and had a knack for insulting his riders in multiple languages. I would need to take my shoes off to count all the riders who had fled from his barn in tears, never to return, in the short time that I worked there. But all he said to me was, "That horse forgot you were there. Make sure they know you're there."

Although I didn't agree with most of his training practices, that advice has stuck with me over the years. Even today, most of the accidents, misbehaviors and even simple training issues I encounter are a result of the horse forgetting the human was there and the human failing to make his or her presence known. 

What's the worst piece of advice you've ever received?

"You can't do that with a Thoroughbred."


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