Sunday morning was grey with a low hung sky and a constant threat of rain. I wanted to get a ride in though and had already set up exercise 7 the previous night. I even carefully measured out the distances.
It seemed so simple. Three trot poles, a 25′ gap, three more trot poles (only I used three and two because I only have five poles).
I warmed her up walk and trot at large in the arena. She was relaxed and listening so I had her go straight through the poles at the trot. I remembered to keep my hands low and forward even in my dressage saddle without the neck strap. She felt fluid and didn’t hesitate at all.
But it was very apparent that my planning skills were out the window. I left Gem completely out to dry after the end of the last pole and she had no direction as to a left or right turn. I’m not sure where my squirrel brain was focusing.
After a few times over I got busy doing the exercise. This called for going over the first set straight, then making a 20 m circle to the right and completing it over the poles. After that you go straight to the next set and make a 20 m circle to the left.
And my brain got fried.
Gem was being good and listening although what she was listening to who knows because I certainly wasn’t providing any direction.
I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what I was doing. I tried going straight over the poles and then making the turn right, circling, and coming back to the poles but it felt too abrupt and awkward. Trainer is always getting on my about taking my turns too tight without enough prep. I need to turn her ears first, then her head, shoulders, ribs and very last her butt.
Going straight through the poles and then turning made this impossible, so I tried turning through the poles. Since the poles were on a straight line and I was turning, it threw off the striding and Gem got all sorts of discombobulated.
Plus my brain couldn’t handle the idea of bending over something straight.
I decided to break it down to the walk and figure it out at a slower pace and finally got something that felt maybe right and asked for the trot again.
I never got it right though and it was all my fault. Gem was doing what I asked even when what I asked was confusing and misdirected. I just couldn’t get my brain straight to plan ahead enough to execute it. I’d find myself so focused on the turn to get into the poles that I’d have no time to plan for over the poles and Gem would then go straight and that would not allow me time to make the circle.
By the time the sky opened up I had managed a few go arounds in each direction that felt sorta kinda ok. I really like the exercise though because it kept Gem focused on me. Each time over the poles ended in a different turn. Sometimes we went straight through, others we made the circle over one set and went straight over the next and other times we did both consecutive circles.
I’ll try this one again when my brain is more focused and see if I can figure it out.
For those of you participating in the challenge get those hours submitted for the month of February to be eligible for the drawing. This is a random drawing worth up to $20. So far, I have Emma with 8 hours for the month which makes for a pretty easy random drawing 🙂
So get those hours submitted to me by 2/28/18 at midnight. Drawing will be held 3/1/18!
It has been super interesting to read the other blogs going around with this idea, so I thought I would hop on and give it a go! Here are 30 things you never knew you wanted to know about me:
1) While I grew up riding, I ditched horses all together in high school. Instead I did competitive whitewater slalom in the C1W division which stands for women’s closed canoe. Back then this wasn’t an Olympic event even though the male division was, so it was small and hard to compete in due to the lack of interest. I haven’t followed it in years so I am not sure if that has changed or not. Either way I loved it. What I lacked in brute strength I made up for in technique and I killed at the more technical courses. I even won the Junior National Championships one year in Southbend, Indiana.
2) My entire high school and early college years were filled with camping, canoeing, caving and hanging out with the few others in my school that were into those things. Out of the 750 people in my graduating class, I was the only one who joined the Lifetime Activies Club. Most of my friends were in the year or two ahead of me. Our group was small, but tight knit with the main core being four of us. It made for a sad senior year when they were off to college.
3) I don’t drink. Not because I look down or anything on alcohol. It’s because I don’t like it and see no point in consuming something that tastes awful.
4) I spent my junior spring semester in Rome, Italy. It was amazing and I hope Wyatt chooses to do a semester abroad as well.
5) The summer I came home I met Dusty and we married the next October.
Taken on our honeymoon in France. Hubby had only taken a few lessons prior to this trip and then rode for five days all over the French countryside from mountains to coast. Now that’s love.
6) Wales was my favorite place I visited. I went to Cardiganshire because I had a Cardigan Welsh Corgi back home. Any better reason to travel to a foreign country? It was quaint and perfect and was the first time I experienced the ocean hitting green cliffs instead of white sandy beaches. I want to retire to that same village some day and live the rest of my life in a slow and peaceful manner.
7) My best friend died three years ago of metastatic colon cancer at the age of 33. Even now I catch myself reaching for my phone to call her and laugh about a memory or ask her to verify something. She was an inspiration. After her first diagnosis at the age of 26 she took up 5ks, travelled the world, got married and became a model for the Colon Cancer calendar all while still working and suffering through chemo, radiation and multiple surgeries. I miss you Christy!
8) Owning my own business has been both the best and worst thing I’ve ever decided to do. It’s hard. It’s rewarding. It’s like an abusive boyfriend.
9) Food is my weakness. Spending money on stuff is hard for me. I don’t hoard and I don’t care for the next newest thing. But I’d gladly hand over all my money to eat out and have to seriously stop myself from doing it or else I’d eat out breakfast, lunch and dinner every day. It’s a problem.
10) I live by the sun. Ever since I was a kid I’d wake up as soon as it was daylight and crash once it got dark. It makes me really fun in the winter when I curl under the covers at 8pm 🙂
11) I became a podiatrist because I was bored. I had graduated with a highly useless biology degree and got married. The whole stay at home wife thing got old real fast. A 1,000 sq ft home can only get so clean. Six months later I went and got a job as a receptionist and it happened to be at a Podiatry office. Two years later I went to Podiatry school.
12) I’ve lived in PA, OH, WI and now SC. In total we have lived in 7 different cities and in 8 different houses. I plan to live in our new farm until Wyatt goes to college and then move to a smaller plot in the mountains along the NC/SC border.
13) While I rarely ever swear on the blog, in real life the F word comes out of my mouth nearly every other word unless I’m with a patient or around Wyatt. Dusty used to care that I swear more than a drunken sailor but has gotten used to it.
14) I’m a very straight forward person and I despise drama more than almost anything. Solutions are my game: if you come to complain to me be prepared for brainstorming and a way to fix it.
15) I come by that honest though. My paternal side comes straight from Italy and Sicily. My grandmother, great grandmother and great great aunt on my dads side were all tough as nails, don’t mess with me women and I am proud that they consider my a worthy successor. Not everyone can handle it but those that can will find a friend for life.
16) Things are not my thing. I don’t collect anything and knick knacks drive me crazy. This is the first house since OH (circa 2006) that I have put anything on the walls even. I’m enjoying slowly decorating now though and really love art and family photos.
17) Reading used to be my favorite thing before medical school, residency and being a mother. The Disc World Series by Terry Pritchett is my favorite series and each time I read through it I find nuances I had previously missed. Terry Pratchett is the only famous person who has died that I cared about.
18) Speaking of famous people, I ditched cable in 2010 and haven’t looked back. We only got Netflix a few months ago for Wyatt and the only show I’ve watched on there has been 13 Reasons Why. I don’t follow pop culture and name dropping makes me want to vomit. Degrees, names, and positions do not impress me. Behavior, attitude and work ethic do.
19) If I could have any job on the planet, I’d be a drummer in a rock band. Totally random I know but I love percussion and think it would be awesome to be a part of a rock band but not in the spotlight as a singer or lead guitarist.
20) While I love public speaking, I despise being the center of attention. I wanted to elope to avoid the ceremony. I don’t like everyone around the arena during a jumper round watching. Judge me all you want. That I could care less about. It’s the watching that gives me pause.
21) I’ve been published in two medical journals, presented over a dozen scientific abstracts/posters and was awarded a presentation spot of an original manuscript at our scientific conference. I’m very proud of the research I did. It makes me a snob though when I read articles as most are under powered, draw poor conclusions based on the data given and are skewed by significant author bias.
22) The woods are my soul place. Give me a trail through deep woods and I could walk all day long. Something about it recharges me.
23) My parents and older brother with his wife and kids moved to SC a year after I did. Prior to that I hadn’t lived close to them in 7 years and really missed it.
24) Bones has been gone for two years now and I still get tears in my eyes if I think about her too much. She was my heart.
25) I have two tattoos and a plan for a third. In college I had the cartilage in my ear, both nipples, nose, belly button and my lady bits pierced as well. They were all out before I met Dusty.
26) All my clothes are over a decade old. I hate clothes shopping and couldn’t pull an outfit together off the shelves if paid to do so. My mom tells me I mannequin shop: if I see an entire outfit I like on an mannequin I will buy it all. If it isn’t on a mannequin I walk out with nothing.
27) At 36 I am finally learning how to cook thanks to Hello Fresh.
28) I hate tomatoes. Tomato based products are fine though.
29) I’m forgetful. It’s usually because there are a dozen completely unrelated things running through my mind at any given time. I tend to read texts and forget to respond for days. Emails are even worse. If it wasn’t for my bullet journal I’d probably forget to do anything at all. I’ve locked the keys in my car numerous times, the last being the truck when at a hunter paces couple of years ago. It’s bad.
30) I love this planet. I used to wish magic was real and while I still wish that magic wands were around, the simple fact that this planet even exists is magic enough for me. Gorgeous sunsets, flowers blossoming, snow, rain, the warmth of the sun on my skin, the music of birds singing and ocean waves crashing, the majesty of tall mountains and the hidden life of the desert. It is all so special and it kills me that we are ruining it. If I had only one wish it would be to protect this planet and the nature it houses.
Spring is finally arriving down here and it is my favorite time of the year. Sure it is still oddly overcast and rainy, but it is warm and the flowering trees are starting to burst forth in all their glory.
Tuesday night I headed to RB for the first time in what felt like forever. I had texted with Trainer about Gem’s newest behavior with jumps: namely the fact that she is going over every time but then flying away on the back side. I’m not sure how much to get after her about this since it has taken us just over a year to get her enjoying the jumping game. Trainer was in agreement that we can’t really shut Gem down too much right now in fear of ruining the progress we have made, yet we do need to do something about this new behavior.
The issue we face is that Gem doesn’t do repetition. After the third or fourth time through a particular exercise she shuts down. I’m not sure if this is boredom or what but she shuts me out and decides that it is best to just race through it because you know we are just going to do it again so why bother? This is neither fun nor productive. The problem is that she needs grids in her life, yet the very essence of grid work is repetition. No amount of changing from turning left to turning right helps either. By the end of the lesson Trainer said she was going to have to set up a few different grid patterns scattered throughout the arena next time and have us randomly go through them to keep Gem entertained and focused.
She is a difficult mare, folks.
But back to the lesson….
Trainer always has me start out with flat work. I love that we spend the beginning focusing on bend, installing the half halt and working on m own position. Sometimes that is all we get to do if Gem is being particularly hard. Tuesday Gem was being really wonderful and I even got multiple compliments on my lower leg position!! It is really coming along and starting to feel more natural to carry it under me instead of letting it slip forward forever in a chair seat. After about 15 minutes of figure 8s and circles we moved to the exercise at hand.
This started off with four trot poles set on the short side of the arena in the center-ish. The tricky part for me was making the turn off the rail, dodging all the really fun looking but death defying jumps throughout the arena and forcing Gem to trot through the puddles left by yet another rain storm. There was a lot going on that made the path hard to get right enough to put Gem;s eyes on the poles before we got there. The other learning point was that I need to get better at lowering my hands and pushing them slightly forward to allow Gem to drop and stretch her neck as we went over the poles.
On Gem’s part, she didn’t change her pace or rhythm going over and was a really good girl once she understood what we were up to.
Trainer had me working on alternating between posting and two pointing through the poles and really concentrating on sinking my heels down while giving with my hands. Having the neck strap was a big eye opener for me which I will get into in a bit.
Once we had gone over several times, Trainer added a small cross rail at the end. The first time up Gem gave it the hairy eye, but still said yes and went over. I don’t even know if I can explain properly what I was feeling but it felt so good! Like coming home, you know?
My issue with my jump position was two fold: 1) in an attempt to “release” and not hit Gem in the mouth I would throw my hands way out by her ears which would not only throw her away but also lead to 2) my upper body would be thrown too far forward due to this which would also cause my butt to come too far out of the saddle. All this lead to the bigger issue at hand: instability and an inability to really follow Gem wherever she decided to go.
Of course this all wasn’t solely due to me sucking. A big part of it was that Gem was so squirrely in front of a jump that I had to basically sit on her until we were mid air and then do whatever I could to get over to the other side. Now that she is firmly saying YES every time I ask, I could focus on fixing my own bad habits born out of necessity.
And that is exactly what we did and it felt so good. I felt invincible up on her. Like I could handle anything she threw at me and that made me more aggressive to the jump and made Gem more confident as well.
And all this was due to the neck strap.
Coming into the ground poles, I would post until the jump and then grab that neck strap, sink my heals down and sink really low to the saddle. All this gave me a base of support I have never felt before and even got a huge grin, clap and exclamation from Trainer. It looked as good as it felt although I have zero media to prove it. Having the neck strap to grab meant that my hands stayed low and back while still giving to Gem and this had the domino effect of letting me sink into my heals and keep that butt low. Trainer kept yelling out “sink low to that saddle”.
Once my base felt secure, I knew that no matter if Gem tried to duck left, right or go flying away in a hand gallop that I would be following her and could control the situation. I never lost a stirrup. I never felt scared.
AMAZING doesn’t even come close to it. ADDICTING is better.
Once we nailed the single cross rail, Trainer added a second one one stride out. The first time through the new set up, Gem was pretty unsure but again said a hesitant yes and went over.
Lest you think everything was sunshine and roses, throughout all of this Gem and I were arguing. Going through the mini grid was the easy part (ha!! who am I?!). The before and after were what nailed us every single time. After the first few go throughs, Gem decided that she had this and I was no longer necessary. She would land at the end of the grid and then try to take off a million miles an hour back to the start. The problem is that this leads to motorcycling around the tight turn off the rail, between the oxer and then to the poles. A shitty turn led to a shitty entrance to the grid and a shitty run through it.
I really had to sit Gem back hard to get her to stop and pay attention to my direction. A few times I even halted her to get it through her head that I was still making the calls here. As we kept going, it kept getting worse and worse. Finally Trainer had me mix everything up. Instead of exiting the grid, turning right, making it back around in a circle to the start again, I would turn her right and make a 20 meter circle or make her walk through the middle of the arena all the way back to making a left hand entrance or do a figure 8. Anything except head right back to the start of the grid so that she had to listen to me for direction.
It was both frustrating and a crap ton of fun all at once and I couldn’t keep the grin off my face at the end. The difference in both gem and myself from a year ago continues to astound me. As she gets easier and more rideable, I can focus on myself which makes me more stable and effective which boosts her confidence in me and what I am asking and that it turn makes her say yes more often and the cycle continues.
Time and money are always in short supply and with the new farm it seems like everything is an experiment on what will work out in our given situation. My latest quest was to find a bedding solution that I didn’t hate.
There is a Tractor Supply less than 1/4 mile from my office which makes it super convenient to use as my major farm supply store. For the first 6 weeks on the farm, we used their premium pine shavings at $5.48 per bag. It took two bags per stall to get a decent amount of depth. If they were spending the entire night inside, I’d have used three bags per stall.
The shavings were ok. They smelled good, had zero dust and the bags were super easy to store and use. But they were very wasteful and basically required me to strip the entire stall each week to bare mats and use Lyme to help dry them out faster and neutralize any odor that remained. I was making 12 wheel barrow trips each week I cleaned the stalls and dumping in two fresh bags per stall to start all over. It made me die a little inside every time I threw out perfectly good, clean shavings with the bad as they were too big to shift through the pitchfork.
I needed an alternative.
The hubby contacted a local saw mill to check with them. they deliver 18 yards of saw dust for $205. Nothing comes close to that price and the dust is small particle. The issue was that they only deliver during our working hours and storage of that much saw dust. Yeah, we have plenty of empty stalls to use, but the dump truck couldn’t fit inside the barn and that is a ton of wheel barrow trips to transport it from the dump site to a stall. I wanted to run out of other options before doing that.
Which brought me to the TSC Pellitized Bedding. It was on sale for 2/$11 which is basically the exact same price as the premium shavings, so we gave it a go.
Now…don’t be like me. I did zero research and ended up buying way too few bags to start requiring a second trip to the store and I had no idea how to use them so…um…I just dumped it on the floor and shook my head wondering why anyone thought it was a good idea to put hard pellets down. Not only is it not comfortable looking, but those things roll around and all I could imagine was a broken leg and a cast horse who fell in the stall.
Turns out there is a process to using them. Oops. I did research it before bringing the horses in and remedied my error quickly.
How do they stack up?
When on sale the price per bag is the same as the shavings and I have yet to purchase any more when not on sale so I don’t know the actual cost. I think it was $1 off per bag. It took five bags per stall to initially bed it down to the depth I was happy with, so that is an additional nine bags up front cost. They still come in super easy to store and handle bags which is nice and they live in the hay stall.
The savings has come in the weekly cleaning. The particles are super fine and basically I feel like I am in a giant cat litter box sifting through for the dry and liquid waste. It even clumps with urine like cat litter does. There is next to no waste which has reduced my wheel barrow loads from 12 down to 7 which is a big time saver as well as reduction to my manure pile (which I hate with an unhealthy passion, but needs to exist until I can save up to buy a manure spreader). Since there is no waste, I can top of each stall when finished picking and have so far only needed one extra bag total a week to do this, which saves me five bags of shavings a week. After two weeks I am already saving money even with the initial up front increase in cost.
It is horse approved as well. Every time I top it off, Pete comes back out of his stall covered in shavings from a good roll. He never did that with the regular shavings. I really like the feel of these as they are super springy and comfortable under my own feet, so I can only image how it feels to the horses.
The only real con I have found is that cleaning the stalls takes twice as long even with the reduced trip to dump the wheel barrow. Sifting through the piles, trying to sift off the excess clean shavings, and trying to locate the pee piles takes way more time than just scooping it all up as before. I thought it would even out with the fewer trips to the pile and less bags needing dumped back in, but the time it takes to soak the stuff before dumping it wastes any time gained.
In the end though, it is worth it. I like the bedding a lot more in general, the horses are happier and it is costing way less money. I’ve used it for three weeks now and will continue for now. I know there are fancier versions of the pellets out there, but so far this is working out just fine and has the convenience of me being able to pick up bags after work n my way home versus taking time off work to meet the delivery guy and spending half a day moving it inside.
Sunday was a whole other story and this folks is why I keep my Gemmie around. Well, that and nobody else would want her and I’d never forgive myself if she ended up in an auction or feed lot.
After a ridiculously disgusting Saturday (seriously weather yo-yoing from 79 Friday to 45 and raining Saturday then back to 75 and sunny Sunday is ridiculous. Take your meds please) Sunday dawned gorgeous. Just that morning I saw that RB is hosting a spring H/J show March 10 and I plan to be there so it was time to get jumping.
With my new found bravery, I set the jumps at 2′ verticals and set three in a generous circle with two on the long side and one set perpendicular on the short side. I really like this placement for Gem. It allows me room for my newbie errors which avoids me inadvertently punishing Gem, but still keeps me honest and steering. By having it on such a large circle, it forces me to ride her straight away from the jump and then set up my turn which helps fight my really bad habit of only riding up to a fence and then leaving Gem hanging on the backside with no directions.
Gem came out well behaved and listening. Sure she still wanted to go faster than I did, but she actually listened to my half halts and would slow down for multiple strides at a time. It felt good and rideable on the flat so I proceeded to the jumps and went right to start.
Gem was amazing. She locked on, never said no or tried to run out and while it wasn’t always pretty going over she did try her best.
After the first two jumps I settled myself and really focused hard on my own position. I paid attention to sitting back before the jump instead of leaning forward (a very bad habit I do for fear of not getting into two point fast enough once she does jump), sinking those heels down, shoving my butt back (while I two point nicely on the flat it goes out the window in favor of standing in the stirrups over jumps which isn’t good) and grabbing that neck strap. It felt good to know she was going over so I could focus on myself.
After a few go rounds of doing each fence individually I focused on doing all three in a row with the turns. Going right she nailed it every time, coming back to the trot between fences so we could make the turn. I praised that crap out of her each time, loudly telling her how amazing she was and giving her great big pats.
I may have over done it because it definitely went to her head. Shortly thereafter she began celebrating after each jump and began to get a bit harder to get under control on the back side.
After a really good go to the right where she hit every jump near perfectly, made the turns and listened I gave her a walk break. She was starting to have that sweaty horse smell to her and I wanted to reward her effort.
Then we went left and it wasn’t near as good. Left is her harder side as it is and by that point she was feeling pretty proud of herself which typically translates into her believing I am no longer necessary and that she has it from here. Plus she was also just about done with me.
She stayed with me going into the first jump but then took off after and it took me circling all the way back to the start to get her to trot again. Needless to say we didn’t make it over the other two fences that time.
The next time she listened well enough to make the turn to the center jump but then I lost her after when she yet again took off. I’m not ready to start getting after her after jumps since she is finally saying yes 90% of the time now. Instead I let her canter back to the start and tried again all the while praising her for saying yes and going over.
It took a few more attempts to get her over all three going to the left but once she did I quit for the day. I was really proud of her for going over, trying hard and the fact that the jumps were set at 2′. I was never brave enough to go that high before.
I texted Trainer and set up a jump lesson out at RB which will be the first time I’ve trailered there since early November or maybe late October. Its been a while. But I want to be able to work a more complicated course before we go to the jumper show there in March. My plan is to hit up as many classes as possible this time: cross rails through 2′ both the hunter and the jumper classes both to try and stave off boredom as well as to get us as many low key miles as I can. I really believe Gem actually deep down enjoys this jumping game after all. It gives her a purpose in the arena and I can really feel her start to understand and take to it. She gets super proud of herself once she completes a task she didn’t think she could and it is big confidence boost for us both.
Also, the month is coming up fast and I don’t have any hours entered for the volunteer challenge. It’s going to be an easy random drawing with no names in the invisible hat. If you’ve volunteered in February get those hours submitted!
Was it fun to go back to the very basic of basics and spend 45 minutes fighting to get a true halt? Nope.
Did I have moments day dreaming of selling her and riding a better behaved horse? Yup.
Did I deserve a shit ride that night? Probably.
Friday night was the first time I rode Gem in two weeks. Not smart and I know that. Between the rain and the flu and then Wyatt stealing Wednesday night from me, it was the first shot I had.
Beyond the two weeks off, it was dark, the wind was gusting hard and it went from 50 and raining Thursday to 79 and sunny Friday. So many reasons to have a tense and unhappy Gem.
I rode anyway and should have had low expectations given all the above and nearly a decade of experience with her. Instead I planned to jump. I even added a third jump and jacked it all the way up to 2′ (I know I’m a wimp).
As soon as I got on I knew that plan was screwed. She was jigging instead of walking and the moment I asked for trot she tore off at a gallop. Sigh.
Now, the bright side? A year ago I would have slid off her in defeat. Not now. Instead I changed my plan. If she couldn’t be trusted to walk or trot we would work on halting.
She has been amazing at halting for several months now. Friday night? It all went out the window and it was like we went back in time 12 months. She would walk through my aides. When she did finally stop moving forward she would swing her big old butt around to face wherever she wanted, mostly the gate, and then back up.
It was annoying.
I hung in there though and kept persisting. Once she stopped moving and right before her butt swung around, I praised the ever living crap out of her. Then we walked quickly forward before she could do something stupid. Repeat.
For 45 minutes until she finally halted three times in a row and didn’t move a muscle until asked to. Then I called it quits, went inside to cook dinner and wished I liked alcohol. I could have used a hard beverage.