2018 Volunteer Challenge

May Volunteer Hours

It’s that time of the month again! No, not that time. It’s time to pick a winner and give out a prize!

I have Emma (13 hours), Amy (8 hours) and Bette (13 hours) down for getting hours this month. Anyone else????

Remember the monthly drawing is purely random so even one hour gets you in!

I’ll pick the winner on Friday, so get your hours in to be by midnight.

Riding/Horses

The Queen Herself

The blog is becoming very Eeyore centric which is fine as he is my main mount now and well, life is becoming fun with him around both on the ground with his antics and under saddle with his obstinate but still somehow easy going nature.

However, Miss Thing is still around and living large. The last ride I had with her pretty much solidified my decision to no longer do arena work with her. She doesn’t enjoy it and at 20 years old now she doesn’t really have to do much of anything. I’ll still take her on trail rides and to some hunter paces as able but her main job now is looking pretty and eating grass.

Enjoying a roll in the spring time grass

What has been amazing though is that our entire relationship has changed. Ever since her partial retirement, she has started greeting me at the gate even when it isn’t dinner time. I don’t remember the last time I had to spend 40 minutes trying to catch her in the pasture. When I am outside she always looks up and notices me and if I call out a greeting she comes over instead of her usual hiding behind a tree or Pete to avoid being seen.

Looking like her gorgeous self

Last week, we had our first mutual grooming experience. She had just been put out after dinner and lingered by the gate which typically means she wants some attention. I went back in and began scratching her itchy spots. In the past, she would tolerate this and eventually move on after a few minutes. Last week though she propped a hind leg, let out a sigh and leaned into the scratches. After 10 minutes, with my hands starting to cramp, she looked over and started grooming my shoulder.

Why, hello there human!

Eeyore then wandered over because Big Goof can’t be left out of anything and started grooming on Gem as well. Pete eventually joined us and all three horses began grooming at which point I bowed out and left them to it.

All I was doing was brushing her out and applying some fly spray. From the look on her face you’d think I was about to torture her. 

Honesty, I put the change to the fact that I am no longer asking Gem to do what she hates doing. The pressure is off of her and she can enjoy my company knowing full well that she won’t be forced to do dressage or jump again. It makes me a little sad that I put her through it in the first place, but then I realize that we were doing 18″ jumps and fake-ssage at the walk and trot so really she could have gotten over herself just a tad.

Regardless, are relationship has reached a new level of understanding and companionship that took 9 years and a lot of blood, sweat and tears to get to. I’m hoping we have another decade together to putz around when able and groom/enjoy each other.

Riding/Horses

A Very Wet Lesson

It poured all night Sunday to Monday and by morning it wasn’t looking any clearer. By 9:30am I was starting to think my morning lesson would be cancelled. I needn’t have worried though. Trainer is the best person I’ve ever met and once I verified that the footing was solid under the 3″ of standing water, she was game to come over and get drenched.

While the arena bugs me with the fight against grass, the base is solid and safe to ride on even under water. 

This is noteworthy because had it been with Gem I’d never have even thought of riding. The puddles would have made it impossible to get any actual work accomplished. But Eeyore is a different beast and after riding through a few puddles on Saturday I knew he’d be ok. Maybe not thrilled, but ok.

A very different beast. He stole the hoof pick while I was grooming him. 

I was a bit nervous going in. Trainer had come over to meet Eeyore once before and had seen him crippled but never under saddle. Would she think he moved like a camel? Would she tell me I made a mistake? There was only one way to find out!

Eeyore didn’t disappoint. He never so much as batted an eye at the puddles. He quietly squealed his disapproval of being worked in the rain a time or two but other than that he went to work happily enough. In fact, he was the most energetic I had seen to date and even dolphin leaped into the canter the first time. No worries though. If that was his worst I’ll take it! I never once felt out of control or uneasy on him.

I broke out my riding rain coat but quickly realized it was too hot for it. 80 and raining is hard weather to prepare for. 

There were three main things I wanted eyes on the ground for and Trainer was on board to see where we were at with him. She is a very hard sell when it comes to horse partners so I was interested in getting her overall judgement too.

The first thing was his trot. Of course the rain, cooler temperatures and earlier hour had him much more energetic to start than my previous rides, but he is still Eeyore and I’m still me so cooler weather didn’t make him magically more forward or me less of a nag. She was impressed with his natural rhythm and inherently steady pace. Both things that will serve us well as we progress in our training. However she noticed that he tried to ooze back to the walk and caught me nagging quite frequently. In the end she told me to be crisper with my ask, more proactive with asking for more before he starts to slow and then letting him be able to maintain it. It helped and prevented him getting annoyed. All in all though she thought the pace of his trot was just fine for the majority of our work.

Tried taking a picture of the drowned rat version of Einstein. Big headed Waggy got in the way. She is the most jealous dog I have ever met. 

The second item to cross off was his obstinate refusal to bend left when we hit the barn side of the arena and thus headed away from the gate. Which is odd since he didn’t do that going right. Again, laser eyed Trainer honed in on the issue. Me. Shocking I know.

I’ll back up a tad for this one. Gem hated my leg even thinking of touching her side. It forced me to ride with a too forward lower leg and absolutely no leg aides. Eeyore though needs those aides to keep his body in line. Thankfully Trainer never once told me I needed to bring my leg back under me so win for that! The position nazi had nothing but good things to say. However, since I’m not used to using leg aides I sorta dropped the ball.

While I was playing in the rain, the hubby built me a sliding barn door for the pantry. This part of the house was once a garage and the floor slopes. The bar at the top is level so that the door stays where we put it, but the bottom is not. Gotta love old houses. 

Eeyore is responsive to my left leg and dull to the right. This results in him blowing through my right leg aid. On a left hand circle it means his hindquarters bulge out and we lose our geometry. On a right hand bend it means he circles in making the circle teeny tiny. I really needed to be firmer with my right leg, set him up way earlier than I thought and keep that inside rein still. The moment I went to bend via the inside rein all it did was let his hind end slip out to the outside and make matters worse.

She recommended that I set up cones to mark a circle and then work on staying on the inside then the outside of them to really focus on controlling this.

The last item was his head. For the first 40 minute he was light in the bridle, offered up some really lovely low stretching and elevated his back. Then he got tired and decided that real work is hard and he couldn’t hold his head up at all. His chin was dragging on the ground.

A good sign of a great ride: muddy and wet tack. 

Having never dealt with this before, Gem is a natural giraffe, I was clueless what to do though I suspected the answer was more leg, more forward. I was right and wrong. Yes he needed a cue to move his lazy butt. He also needed me to hold my core, bring my darn elbows back to my side and loosen them and refuse to get tugged on. This was hard. Very hard. My core was yelling obscenities at me and my shoulders weren’t far off.

We livened him back up with canter both directions which worked for a while but he quickly remembered he was tired and couldn’t horse any more. It was a rough last 15 minutes but I think we both started to improve by the end. Trainer plans to hop on him on Thursday to get a good feel and figure out some tricks for me.

Her end analysis? He is mostly a good boy who wants to do the right thing. Until he gets tired and then he quits. She saw his worst behavior I’d ever seen and it was laughable. She thinks he is a good match for me and we have some work to do but it should get there in time. He isn’t going to let me get away with being lazy but won’t punish my mistakes either. Exactly what I was looking for.

If it ever stops raining, 10 day forecast says rain at above 60% chance every day, the plan is to do another flat school at her place to judge how he does away from home plus have her get on him, then do some jump schools and mid summer hit up a cross country course.

The best part? Even soaking wet and covered in mud I walked in the house with a big grin on my face and a hankering to ride again. It’s an unbeatable feeling.

Too bad our three hate each other
Riding/Horses

I Have A Problem

When I started horse shopping I made it a point to be realistic in what I both needed and wanted in my next riding partner. The fear of getting something not suitable was strong.

One of the main characteristics on my list was the ability to have time off and not come out a lunatic. My riding life was defined by squeezing in two rides a week if I was lucky with a lesson once or twice a month. I made sure to ask every single seller if a schedule like that would be suitable for the horse I was looking at.

Thursday evening I rode Eeyore for the first time. While it had its frustrating moments, it was a thoroughly enjoyable experience. Friday was a surgery day from the netherworld. I knew it would be going in though it was made worse by an inopportune shift change between my surgical cases resulting in me losing my A team and getting the F team. This made an already stressful and complicated revision case all the harder and I didn’t leave the OR until after 6pm resulting in me not getting home until after 7pm for the second day that week. This occurrence gave Eeyore a day off.

Saturday was looking ominous however the storm blew through over night allowing the sun to shine throughout the day. By late afternoon I was itching to mount back up and had an even better second ride on the Big Goof. We did walk and trot much like the prior ride only with crisper transitions and less protests on his part. It felt so nice that I ventured to canter both directions and then much to his dismay I broke out three ground poles to work over.

Were it not for the sweat pouring down my back and a dinner that needed made, I think I never would have gotten off him.

And there in lies my “problem”. I searched high and low and focused my efforts on finding a horse that didn’t need ridden very much. A low key horse with more whoah then go. After all, that’s how my riding schedule had paned out before. But low and behold, with a horse that is inherently well behaved with bad behavior resulting in slowing down and never a single moment of anguish on my part, I find myself forcing myself to not ride instead of dreading tacking up. Instead of using anything as an excuse to put off riding another day, I find myself sneaking in time that I could use mounted up.

In other words, the Big Goof is going to find himself with a harder work load than was anticipated. I still keep the rides short and give plenty of walk breaks. Saturday I rode for about 40 minutes with at least 15 of that in the walk so it’s not like I’m on him drilling or pushing his cardiovascular limit. It is still me we are talking about here.

I never anticipated this side effect of getting a horse I am more compatible with. He seems better for the frequency having already understood what lines I drew in the sand. He was much lighter in the bridle, actually showed true bend in the circles and handled the trot poles like a pro. He still wanted to peter out a lot but I believe a big part of it was my fault.

I’m used to my high octane Gem whose trot is fast and erratic. Eeyore is much slower by nature and when we were trotting I found myself nagging him for more. I felt like we weren’t moving at all but I believe that is his speed and my nagging annoyed him as he was actually trotting. Just not at Mach 10.

I really need Trainer to help me get to know him better but for now I’m enjoying each moment spent with him. After we left the arena I was super tempted to hit the trail surrounding the property, something I had yet to brave, but he was sweaty as was I and the Dynamic Duo were eyeing me up for dinner time. Eeyore needed a post ride shower as well so instead I settled for Eeyore snuggle time and plan to hit the trail another day. It may be sooner than he thinks though. Every day I find myself excited to ride and that is a brand new feeling.

Riding/Horses

First Ride on Eeyore!

Last night I swallowed my nerves, fiddled endlessly with tack, and eventually hopped on Eeyore for our first of hopefully many, many rides together.

And it went…..pretty good.

In 45 minutes I learned a lot about myself, him and my past experiences. There is a lot to say and a lot of thoughts to sort through, but today I just want to gush a little about my big goofy man.

He started out pretty worried about what was going on and called out to the Dynamic Duo several times. They never deemed it worthy to respond though and he quickly settled in. 

Because while he wasn’t perfect and I didn’t sit on him and magically start doing piaffes and jump around a 4* course, he never once made me feel unsafe, scared or nervous. He never once pulled a dirty move or became tense, hollow or braced. He never once spooked at anything, not even the pile of digging toys Wyatt had left in the arena that I was too lazy to pick up before mounting.

Sure he pulled hard to the gate and became a sloth going away from it.  Sure he tried to convince me he was unable to bend left while still actively bending left. Sure he put on a good show that he was exhausted after 20 minutes of walking. But even through his protestations about being asked to work after nearly two weeks of being a pasture puff and a light schedule preceding that, he did the thing. Sanely and with only minimal opinions that I suck.

Happy forward ears. I love the highlights in his mane. He is in Michelle’s PS of Sweden bridle and I like the dark brown on him but I still need to fiddle with the fit.

And that folks is a whole new experience for me.

I don’t want Eeyore’s life with me to degrade into a constant comparison with Gem. It isn’t fair to either of them as they are very different horses, but it will be inevitable in the beginning since Gem is my only experience to draw from. Where Gem’s answer to anything hard or new is to get hollow, tense and go fast, Eeyore’s response to most of life is to slow down, take it in and think about quitting. It was a refreshing new problem to find a solution to and while I didn’t cure it in one single ride there were a lot of glimpses of a lovely future admist this first ride.

Floppy donkey ears and a more relaxed neck about half way through the ride. 

After 45 minutes of a lot of walking and some trotting mixed in with a few “oops, this horse knows how to do a walk-canter transition when I accidentally pull my leg too far back” moments, I called it a night. He was sweaty, a storm was rolling in and it was 8 pm with dinner still needing made (of side note, if you haven’t made flat bread pizzas at home you really must. They are quick, easy and delicious!!! A hearty, filling home made dinner in 15 minutes) yet I didn’t actually want to get off him. On Tuesday evening, with my hot mess of a Gem, I had to force myself to stay on her and work through the tantrums keeping an eye on my phone until it was at least 30 minutes of ride time. last night though, I had to force myself to get off the horse. It wasn’t a perfect ride by any stretch and we weren’t making any ground breaking improvements, but it was fun. And safe. And everything I was wanting in my next horse.

I’m dying. And you suck. But please give me head cuddles and face scratches now. 

I have more thoughts on how it went and what all I learned about myself and Eeyore that will help me in the future, plus tack questions/issues and a plan for the near future with him but all that is going to wait until another day. It poured this morning and the weather says rain all weekend, but maybe I can squeak in another ride. I have a saddle fitter scheduled for June 2nd and a lesson with Trainer May 31 and a head full of dreams to start making reality. Eeyore may not be perfect, but he sure is perfect for me.

Riding/Horses

All The Excuses

Eeyore is back to his normal goofy, completely uncoordinated, forgets he has feet on terrain self. I love watching him run in for dinner as he inevitably trips over nothing and then flings his head looking around for someone to blame. He will learn with time. Or kill himself trying. Either way, it will resolve.

I had to take his water bucket out of his stall. The horse is in the stall for maybe 15 minutes at a time. He is the last one to come in and the firs tone back out so all we wait for is for him to finish eating. Yet he still manages to get bored and rip at his water bucket. The last day he had a bucket in his stall, I watched as he nearly ripped the wood boards out of the wall. If you are going to be a freak, you don’t get water bucket privileges.

His going fishing pose. Our skies have looked this grey and multi layered for weeks now. 

No riding has taken place yet and really the only reason is that I am avoiding it. I don’t know why. Well, I do know why. I test rode him and he was great. In fact I felt bolder, braver and safer on him than any other horse I had ridden and certainly more than on Gem. There is this nagging fear in the back of my mind that maybe he won’t be that way. Maybe he will be a raging lunatic for me and I’ll regret everything. Or I’ll go to a lesson and Trainer will call me a moron for buying this horse and tell me he moves like a camel.

The reason I am avoiding riding is because my little dream bubble remains fully intact right now and I don’t want it to burst.

Rainy days while at home on vacation lead to making pillow forts in the living room. 

I am expecting some rough times to start while we get to know each other. My rough times with Gem lasted 3 years, so hopefully we won’t reach that peak wonderfulness. But I am also not expecting everything to be perfect as I learn to ride a new horse and he learns to deal with me and his new life.

Honestly I had planned to lunge him last night and then hop on if he continued to look sound, but then I got home from work at 7:30 pm after having left for work at 6:45 am and just wasn’t feeling it. Actually first I need to figure out his bridle situation and hope that I have a girth that will fit him.

The only fun thing I did all last week on vacation was head to the Georgia Aquarium which is one of Wyatt’s favorite places 

Eeyore is a lot of things, but fancy and well put together isn’t really one of them. Which is fine. Fancy was not on my list of needs. His head though is a very odd size. His brow and throat latch are full horse sized, but his cheek and nose are cob. A full sized bridle is too big on the smallest settings and likewise the cob is too small on the largest settings. I have the cob bridle I bought off Michelle and never took out of the box plus the new full sized bridle I bought for Eeyore when I was up at TIEC, so in theory I should be able to frankenbridle something together for him. He will have to deal with Gem’s baucher although I was told by the seller he prefers a myler full cheek. I haven’t gotten around to getting one yet as I want to see if he will go in anything I have first.

So I have a plan. I just need to execute it and actually ride the horse I bought as my next riding horse. Even thinking about it makes me a bit nervous. He was so so so good when I tested him out but he was at his home then, got ridden by someone he knew first and well you just never know. I’ve changed his entire life and maybe I will have unleashed a dragon.

Riding/Horses

Yeah…This Isn’t Fun

Monday was the first day without rain in over a week and with a forecast calling for t storms through the next 10 days it was my only chance to ride. The arena was dry enough for an easy walk, trot, canter ride with only one visible puddle at the near side, so I grabbed my bestest mare and tacked up while Dusty grilled steaks for dinner.

Mare is not amused by this ending of her retirement however she looked pregnant and waddling in the video I posted yesterday and needs the exercise.

Now I know Gem inside and out and it’s been 3 months since I worked her in the arena. I knew this ride was going to be bad and planned a no stress no goals 30 minute ride.

Well, of course she had other ideas and it quickly degraded to the usual battle. I sighed. After months of riding sales horses that were all obedient at their core, I just plum wasn’t in the mood for this on a cool and rain free Monday evening.

Still my favorite black tipped ears and the arena is draining super well given the deluge we have gotten all last week. I haven’t messed it up too badly!

I tried to walk, she tried to trot. When I finally let her trot it was two strides super fast followed by two strides at a snails pace then shooting forward the moment I asked her to get going again. The seesaw pace is one I am very familiar with but now that I’ve ridden so many steady horses I just don’t want to any more.

I finally let her canter to stretch her back as she always appreciates that but then I lost all steering because my 20 year old mare is still green to the basics. Or just doesn’t care what I want.

Sigh.

I dismounted after about 20 minutes and looked longingly at Eeyore in his stall while I untacked Gem and headed inside for dinner. He came cantering down the hill for dinner without boots and with no bute on board so I’d say he is 95% back to good. I have to decide what my next step is for him: keep the boots, go with glue ons or stay barefoot and try to toughen up those hinds while the hoof wall grows down enough. I finally got a really good look at his right hind and there is no wall left at all on the inside half of it. No wonder he hurt so bad.

The forecast is depressing for the foreseeable future but that buys me a little time to figure out what I want to do. The vet recommended bare for at least two weeks to let the hoof harden up so I’m not in a super hurry to decide his fate on that.

I really really want to ride him though and while I don’t normally complain of rain as it provides enough grass to not need hay, I want sun for the next week so I can ride.