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Thoughts…I have a lot of them

Don’t believe his innocent look. I called him just about every nasty name I could think of right before taking this picture

Sigh.

Look. I know what you all are going to say. Get a trainer. Take lessons. Do boot camp.

And I may. Or I may just sell him and move on. I’m currently up in the air on which is better for the both of us.

I’m a realistic person. Or so I try to be. Tuesday evening was glorious. 65 and sunny after 6 straight days of thunderstorms, lightening and torrential rain that left the area with 3″ of standing water everywhere. Thankfully the clay soil around here drains quickly and after 36 hours of sunshine, the arena was usable again.

Add changing pastures to the back “sacrifice” area during the rain to the 10 days off and I knew he’d need to get some energy out on the lunge before I hopped on him. I’m ok with doing that if that is what he needs.

I’m not listening. I can’t hear you

Except he lost his ever loving mind once on the lunge. He pulled a nasty buck/leap/bolt and maybe I should have been able to but he ripped the damn lunge line out of my hand and took off trailing it behind him.

I stood there and said out loud “I hope you break your f*%#ing leg on that line horse” as he tore around the arena screaming for Gem and Pete and eyeing ways to escape.

I immediately ran to the back fence line that happens to have a hole in it when someone ran the bucket on the tractor through it. Ahem. Oops. He eyed that hole as he ran around and then stopped at the far end to graze.

Lies. All lies.

Thinking he was done, I walked over to grab the trailing line only to have him give me serious side eye and tear straight for that hole. He jumped over the fence and into freedom.

Or so he thought. There is a small alley of grass between the arena and the large pasture fence so all he did was jump into a smaller contained space which is why we haven’t bothered to fix the fence yet.

I walked through brambles, cursing his existence the entire time, and called to him. At which point he looked really sad that his evil plan failed and came trotting over to me.

I marched him back through the brambles, over the fence and into the arena where I proceeded to lunge his hooves off him before taking his heaving, sweating carcass to the mounting block to be ridden.

Having a good roll after dinner

He wasn’t so proud of his little plan any longer.

He then got worked under saddle pretty hard. I held contact. I didn’t allow cantering instead of trotting. We worked hard. We worked long.

Finally I stopped and let him be done but I was angry. Angry that I couldn’t just enjoy a ride on a rare gorgeous free evening. Angry that he is still this obsessed with two horses who never call back for him, never run the fence looking for him, never care if he is gone. Angry that while he does not scare me he also isn’t being very enjoyable.

More nap time please

Sure he had 10 days off due to rain. Sure his friends were moved. But I don’t care. He should be able to function even with that.

Lessons may help. I’m not sure. They’d be at another facility so Gem and Pete wouldn’t be an issue. Who knows if he’d even behave like this while off property?

Boot camp doesn’t seem like a good idea. Sure it wouldn’t hurt. He’d get into a program, get fit and be tuned up while I could also lesson weekly but I’d fear when he returned home and I rode him away from Gem and Pete none of that would matter anyway.

I think back to when I met him. Horses were everywhere. Every paddock surrounding the arena was chock full of horses plus horses were in the barn as well. He was never out of sight of another horse. And he rode perfectly for me. I jumped. I cantered. He was foot perfect. I asked about other horses and got the answer that he didn’t care about them and chose to walk up to people instead.

Which is true. He will leave Gem and Pete in the pasture to come say hi to me every time. He will graze around the bend or 5 acres away and not care. But if he can’t see them he loses it.

So she didn’t lie. I’m guessing she never had him in a situation where he couldn’t see another horse and didn’t know it.

So what to do? Under saddle he was ok. I still had some issues with him trying to blow through me and canter instead of trot when he got tired but he went where I asked, returned to the trot quickly, jumped nicely over the vertical, had bend in my 20 m circles and I even worked purposefully on canter transitions and within the canter itself. Really the ride itself was good once we got there.

But the lead up. I nearly put together a for sale ad. In my head it was half written.

I don’t know. This month has been sporadic with the weather but let’s be real. My riding life will always be sporadic. I’m not a 6 day a week rider. Im a twice a week maybe possibly if something doesn’t come up rider. Those rides can’t suck. They just can’t.

Sigh.

Lots to think about.

In the meantime I’m trying to find someone who can give a lesson in the evening after 630 or a weekend. So far no luck. The one person I found who has an evening schedule is full with people more advanced than me so I can’t fit into the group at the moment. I’ll keep plugging away at it and keep working at home as well but he isn’t happy and I’m not happy and something has to give or he will need a new home and I’ll be back to horse shopping.

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Yeah, I Caved.

Pyramid schemes.

They used to be the domain of the lonely, bored housewife who hosted Avon, Mary Kay or Tupperware parties to make some money while raising the kids. Amway made a big splash in the 90s and early 2000s.

And then social media happened.

All of a sudden it was easy to build a pyramid based business. People no longer needed to go door to door or host real life parties. It could all be done online. Nearly overnight dozens of such “direct sales” businesses appeared: Beach Body, Jamberry, Arbonne, Roden and Fields, Plexus etc…

You all have seen them flooding your Facebook news feed on the daily as another friend hops on the bus.

I’ve seen so many companies and turned down so many pleas to join and sell I can’t even remember them all.

Until now. I caved. I joined.

This is likely one of the only times I’ll mention it on here. I may announce a few things from time to time but this blog will be mostly clean of it. Except this post. This post I’m holding you hostage.

I joined Color Street Nails this past weekend. Why? Mostly because I want to earn some extra cash to spend on lessons without feeling guilty pulling from the family stash. Even if I only make $100 a month extra that’s still a couple of lessons locally or one lesson in Aiken.

Plus I actually really do love the product and have been using it for half a year now. I’m an open, honest person so no BS from me here on this. No sales pitch. Just honest facts about why I like it and think you may too.

I did these at work between patients and then immediately used hand sanitizer and put gloves on. Not the best idea but did no harm at all.

Color Street nails are 100% real nail polish dried 95% of the way. The strips are flexible and are the base, color and top coat all in one. The designs are adorable and way beyond anything I’d be able to do with a bottle or want to pay for in a salon. They also sell solids, glitter and French tips as well.

You open the package, choose the right size, peel off the backing and press to your nail. I like to hold it for about 30 sec and rub gently to make sure they adhere. Then you either fold and break the tip off or trim with scissors and file. The strip is long enough to do two fingers with, one should cover both thumb nails for example.

The envelope comes with two alcohol pads to remove oils from the nail, a file if you need to shape your nails and to use on the edge of the strip and enough strips for two full sets

Once on you are done. They will take 30 minutes or so to fully dry but you can’t smudge them or ruin them. I’ve put them on and then got up to finish dinner or did them between patients and immediately put gloves on. Probably not recommended, but I don’t have time to wait.

They last well too. Bottle polish may last me 3 days. If I don’t ruin it before it dries fully which never happens. I’m busy. I don’t have time to baby my hands for an hour. Generally speaking I’ll get 5-7 days with them looking really good and then the tips will start to wear off at which point I grab my file and file down my nail and they look brand new again for another 5-7 days. Generally by that point I either have to remove for surgery or I’m tired of the color and want to put something new on anyway.

This isn’t gel, vinyl or powder so they do wear more than those products but they also don’t require anything special to apply and you remove with regular polish remover.

That same purple set a week later when I found one of H’Appy’s shoes in the pasture. Still look great and I don’t baby them at all.

Simple, quick, gorgeous.

I get compliments every time I put a new color on.

The other thing I love?

Remember, I’m pretty cheap at heart. No way am I spending a fortune on my nails. These cost $13 for the design ones (my favorites), $14 for French tips, $12 for glitter and $11 for solids.

Each pack gives you two full manicures or a mani and pedi so in reality every time I make my nails pretty it only cost me about $6.50.

The price is great.

They always have a buy 3 get 1 free special

If you have any interest I have a ton of free samples heading my way that I can mail to you. You can also shop online but be warned that whatever lame person made the catalogue did a crap job. Every set I’ve gotten has been 10 times prettier in real life.

The link to my personal store is below

Shop here!!!

I’m also on Facebook with a closed group where I’m posting instructions and information and will be having some give aways. I will be getting 5 free sets  and will give a free set to the first 5 people who order.

Or host a party for your friends, I do all the work and you earn free stuff.

Honestly guys this is the only way I can have pretty nails with my job and the horses and not break the bank or ruin my nails with gel or powder.

If at all interested give me a shout out in the comments, email me for a sample (agemofahorse at gmail dot com) or join my Facebook group.

I doubt you’ll regret it. It such an easy, inexpensive way to put a smile on your face.

And with that I am done annoying my captive audience. I may announce new lines or fun giveaways from time to time on here, but I won’t be filling your blog roll with nails all of a sudden, I promise.

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Feeling Nostalgic

As I stood in the tack room switching the stirrups to the correct side on H’Appy’s saddle, Gem’s endurance saddle caught my eye resting on its saddle stand. A small sad smile spread across my face, the type that appears when you feel both happy for the memories yet sad that the time has past.

All dressed up in her full endurance gear

That saddle was the culmination of years of trial and error, of fine tuning to the point that it fit her like a glove. My eyes ran the length of the fleece lined stirrup leathers, remembering the exact reason and day I purchased them and settled on the bright red caged stirrup irons I bought on a whim on Facebook and worked perfectly to resolve the last of the twitches in my ankles.

I turned my gaze to her red mohair cinch, the cinch that took me years to settle on. One single inch longer and she would get girth galls. It was a bit of dumb luck to get this cinch. I had ordered it for a different length and it came incorrectly, but fit her well and solved the girth issue, so I kept it.

Our last competition together. The Ride and Tie East Coast Championship 30 mile long course. I fell off her twice during this ride.

Then my eyes stared longingly at her pad, an incredibly expensive full sheepskin pad with shims I never needed. That pad weighed a ton, but wicked the sweat and heat away from her back allowing her to move freely and comfortably even in the dead of a SC summer on a long conditioning ride. Her back scores remained an A on every vet card thanks to this pad.

Finally, I looked over at her endurance bridle hanging on the bridle hook next to H’Appy’s. The black and red side pull with bit hangers and halter ring. It not only functioned perfectly, it fit her well and showed off her feminine face well. The brow band was hand crafted by fellow blogger Karen and remains on the bridle to this day.

My first ever 25 mile ride in 2011. I feared she wouldn’t be able to make it the full 25 miles. HAHAHAHAHA! She dumped me at mile 21.

As I looked over everything, remembering the first rides I used each piece of tack, the reasons and function to every new addition or change, I smiled and recalled fondly all those miles spent arguing with my favorite bay mare. All the views between her black tipped ears. All the times I bit the dust and hopped back on her to finish out the ride. Her equipment was not cheap and did not happen all at once. No, I started endurance in a cheap Wintec AP, cotton AP pad and leather bridle with suede half chaps and tan breeches in 2011.

My last competition on her at the Biltmore 100 in May 2016. I didn’t fall off! This mare was made for 100s, my only regret is that I didn’t get her there sooner so we could do more before I retired her.

By the time we started the Biltmore 100 in 2016, I had upgraded every single piece of that equipment, after much trial and error and a lot of research. When I finished my visual tour of memory lane, I looked over H’Appy’s gear – a hodge podge of used and new equipment mostly bought out of convenience or a quick need with the exception of his saddle and girth. I’m not a fan of the pad I use, his bridle is missing the throat latch and isn’t a perfect fit which is fine since I bought it for Gem, I don’t have a breast plate for him yet, no boots for protection while jumping, and I’m still fiddling with stirrups.

And while I feel a little frustrated at times, not knowing exactly what he needs or will like, I have to remind myself that I didn’t start out with Gem in endurance in the gear I retired her in. That set up took a long time to hone in, to tweak until it was perfect. It is a bit hard to go from that, from the absolute perfect set up that I knew like the back of my hand where every piece had a specific purpose, to this entry level mess. I’m slowly figuring things out though. Exchanging pieces as needed with more researched, more specific equipment. Fortunately, I have the saddle and girth, two major pieces of the puzzle. I have my eye on a specific pad I would like to try, a few other types of stirrups if these ones don’t pan out, and a new bridle on my wish list. Patience is the key. I know someday I’ll look over the gear for H’Appy with the same fondness and memories.

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Don’t Be Me, Folks

Oh look! My new to me FreeJump Pro stirrups came in the mail. I need to try these out!

Ugh. That color makes my eyes bleed. Can I spray paint them? Is that tacky? Probably no worse than mixing royal blue with navy.

Hmmm…how do these go on? Why isn’t there a R or L on them? Even my headphones have that and who knew they were side specific. There is a flat edge and a rounded one. It looks like it slopes towards the heel when put on like this but then the colored arm is on the inside. Maybe that is a good thing since it’s ugly anyway. I don’t know.

5 minutes of internal debate later

Screw it. This looks right. I’m trying it.

Huh. These things are really sticky. I have to pick my foot up to adjust it. Why do I move my feet so much? Is is just because now I can’t that I have to? Or am I always this fidgety with my feet? Oh great. Another riding issue to fix. I’ll be 100 before I’m a decent rider at this rate.

Walking around getting the feel. H’Appy is feeling fantastic and is listening super well.

Let’s trot. And really I mean trot. Not canter. Or gallop. Or slam to a halt.

30 seconds later.

Holy mother of God why is someone stabbing my peroneals (outside ankle tendons) with a hot poker? Make it stop. Canter. Yes let’s canter.

Two laps of canter later

Nope. Nope nope nope. I’m crippled. I’ll never walk again.

Hobbles up to the barn to untack.

Maybe it’s the length. Maybe I need to lengthen them. I’ll try that tomorrow. If my feet don’t fall off first. Maybe it isn’t a stirrup issue. Is it the saddle? Did I spend all that money and need to resell it? I don’t want to sell it. But what else could it be? It’s the saddle. Shit. How am I going to tell Dusty I’m selling the saddle and getting a new one? What would I even get? Happy loves this saddle. Oh man. I should have just eaten my body weight in Mac’n cheese and chocolate for Valentine’s Day instead of rising. Damn.

Posts photo to Instagram and FB about the new stirrups.

Oh. Someone commented. Hmmm…oh fuck. I put them on wrong. Huh. Maybe I don’t need a new saddle after all. Just a brain transplant.

Thanks Amanda for letting me know I put them on wrong. I was on the verge of listing the saddle for sale, so I owe you one.

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The Pads Are Off

Farrier came out Tuesday afternoon while I was at work. I can’t repeat this enough. Finding him has been a life saver. Not only is he amazing at what he does, but he comes out when I’m not home and even offers to let the horses back out after he is done.

This has killed off so much stress. I used to have to trailer Gem and Pete to TrainerJ’s barn the night before the farrier was to come and have them spend the night so they could be done the next day. I would then go get them and bring them home after. It was a pain and not very sustainable especially if something were to happen before the next due date.

Front left almost looks normal.

My current farrier isn’t just prompt and willing to work with my work schedule. He makes all his shoes from scratch so H’Appys oddly mismatched sized hooves don’t need to be trimmed to a size or placed in an awkward shoe. He hot shoes and doesn’t use clips, two things that I’ve been on board with.

He comes out every five weeks or at least that is the plan. There were a few cycles in there where H’Appy decided to drop his shoe at week four, which isn’t so terrible except at $245 a pop the whole monthly habit was getting a bit hard to swallow. Thankfully the last two times he has managed to maintain for the entire five weeks.

The right front is the high hoof in his high/low syndrome feet. It’s about a trim behind the left in regards to health and growth rate from his awful state last summer

Farrier always shoots me a text when they are leaving to ask if I want the horses back out. Typically I tell him he doesn’t have to bother unless they are in the closest pasture which they aren’t right now. I also love the quick dinner feeding when they are already inside.

The text opens up my chance to pester him with questions which he is always gracious enough to answer. Or he just knows I won’t stop if he doesn’t respond.

No pads! This is the first time I’ve seen his front soles since fall. Fingers crossed he does ok.

I asked if there was anything new and he informed me that the soles have changed enough that he left the pads off. He wants me to check in with him after I ride next to let him know how he does. I’m really excited they are gone but also a bit worried he will be sore.

H’Appy is not shy about telling me how he feels so I won’t need to guess. The pads weren’t really a big deal and if he needs to go back in them then fine, but less is more in my typically barefoot fanatic mind. If I ever do get him out of shoes it will be a very happy day for me.

I pay him via PayPal once he texts he is finished. My wife math came out in full force

It’s supposed to rain for the next week, no exaggeration, but it’s ok. H’Appy is always a bit sore after the farrier leaves and giving him a few days off has proven wise in the past. As he continues to grow out a better hoof I’m thinking that will go away.

It has been 9 months since I brought him home and he ripped his hoof to shreds. His first major hoofiversary will be the third week of May, when he did the damage to his already poor quality hoof capsule. The second one, the one I’m more interested in, isn’t until August when I found this farrier and had the xrays done by the lameness vet. That is day one of good rehab in my mind.

Hoof growth is super interesting to me and while I tend to lean towards barefoot for healthier circulation and overall function, sometimes that just isn’t possible with the horse you have. H’Appy proved that to me last summer. Maybe with his stronger hoof wall and thicker soles he can withstand barefoot in the future but other than hating the damage shoes do to my pasture, I’m not anti shoe either. I’m pretty much pro whatever makes my horse happy and pain free and at the moment that is shoes sans pads.

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What Am I Doing Wrong?

Everything apparently but that’s horses for you.

There is something in particular that I’m doing wrong and I need to figure out what it is. A trainer would be helpful here, but I’m not quite ready to re enter the world of lessons. H’Appy isn’t to the point where I think the money would be well spent yet. Soon though. Instead I’m turning to the hive mind of the blogosphere for suggestions.

Daffodils are up and blooming! Spring is on its way. 

The problem: all my horses think “canter” when all I want is “trot”.

It happened a lot with Gem and both TrainerJ and I chalked it up to her hyper sensitive, high energy self.

But it is happening with H’Appy too and I’m convinced it is something I’m doing to confuse him.

Let me fill in some details.

Saturday afternoon I hopped back on. This was the third ride with the Dynamic Duo out of sight in the new pasture and true to form he was settled and focused once again. He may be a Doofus but he is a Doofus with a brain and time has shown me that after a few repeated experiences, he returns to his calm self. He didn’t even need time on the lunge before mounting.

Finally had someone show up to look at the arena. Waiting on a quote to scrape all this off and replace with manufactured sand instead. Will see if we can afford it or not. 

Off we went for a nice long walk warm up. While he was more focused, didn’t yell for his friends and didn’t argue with me, I could tell he had a lot of energy so we quickly proceeded to trot. Except he wanted to canter instead. We talked about that and after a while he chilled out about it and acquiesced to trotting.

Confession time here. I could enter an arena and remain in the trot for hours and never tire of it. That’s probably not normal and more than likely bores the horse to death even with changes in direction, various figures and walk breaks. I get it.

Since I wanted to work on the canter anyway, once he gave me an entire circuit of the arena without breaking from the trot, I cued for the canter and off we went. I focused hard on sitting down, leaning back so that while I felt like I was laying on his butt my shadow proved I was vertical (I’m a habitual forward leaner) and not driving with my seat.

Used the pasture as a rocket launch pad. Look closely and you will see the two senior horses hiding beyond Doofus watching intently while he is in lala land grazing. 

By the end I was feeling a lot better about my position and steering and it was a fantastic ride.

Except….

When I did take breaks from cantering and then got him back into the trot he would try to canter again. Now I know canter work jazzes many a horse up and I’m sure he was also anticipating the cue, but this isn’t unusual for horses I am riding to jump to canter.

Since he was attentive under me, I decided to pay extra attention to what I was doing so that I could maybe isolate some factors and play around with my position. This led to the following data:

  • Leaning forward while posting speeds him up and he breaks to canter
  • Leaning back does the same thing
  • Sitting tall and vertically slows him down and keeps him in the trot easier
  • Slowing my posting allows him to stay under me better and therefore maintain the trot better
  • Turning is almost always where he breaks to canter. Maybe I’m sports car racing around my turns? Or maybe he learned in lessons that he was always asked to canter in a turn?
  • Going back towards home is another favorite spot to try to canter. That’s bad behavior related not necessarily my fault.
  • He does prefer to shuffle in the trot or break canter versus give a nice true working trot. Extended trot leads to cantering. Fitness issue? Connection issue on my end?
  • I tend to throw him away in the trot transition. This was created by Mr. I Like To Throw Temper Tantrums throwing his head all over the place in the transition. I think maybe I should stop doing that now and keep contact so he can’t go racing off in the wrong gait.
  • I am always more tense than I should be and I’ve figured out that I have a pretty hard core driving seat at all times. I yell even when I don’t think I am. This probably isn’t helping.

Gem’s nemesis. She could care less about walking buckets, quads, Wyatt attacking trees with sticks, rockets being launched. But a kid swinging in a tree? Brain melt. 

There were other issues that popped up in the ride as always but this is the main one I’d really like to fix soon. I want to be able to trot when I want and for how long I want without breaking gait. For a lot of reasons but mostly because it is annoying as hell to be trotting one step then cantering then walking or halting and cycling back through. That whole rhythm thing and all. I had the same or similar issue with Gem too so it has to be driven by me and something I’m doing while trotting that tells the horse to canter without me knowing it.

Any suggestions from you all on what to work on or improve to fix this?