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A New Blog If Interested

Not to annoy my captive audience but I created a new blog. If interested please check it out

Behind the Plexiglass Window

It has nothing to do with horses or my home life and everything to do with my profession and the state of health care in the US.

Daily I am shocked at how people treat health care providers and how little they understand what all goes into their care.

I read an article that 90% of all heath care providers will suffer physical and/or verbal abuse during their career. That’s laughable. I suffer abuse at the hands of my patients daily and I don’t know any provider who doesn’t.

The goal is education. The more you know the better equipped you’ll be to navigate the system when needed for yourself or a loved one.

Give it a try. My hope is that it helps break down the barrier between patient and provider and puts more power in the hands of the patient. After all. No doctor heals anyone. The best we can do is give you tools to treat yourself.

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Huh.

Tuesday night I rode again and added jumps back in as a reward for all the hard work he has been putting in on the flat. My motivation has started to sky rocket now that I have some new tools to play with, specific items to fix and day light to ride in.

Got back on the tractor to drag the arena Monday night. It’s looking so much better than it did last year this time

I expected a few shenanigans, some banshee style screaming and a bit of distraction due to moving the horses out to the field across the driveway that morning. He doesn’t generally like working when he can’t see them.

But you know what I got instead? This:

Who is this nonchalant horse in the cross ties?

Huh.

We walked to the arena with nary a protest. He lined up to the mounting block without trying to eat me. I mounted and he stayed chill while I adjusted myself.

Huh.

He walked on calmly yet forward and swinging through his back. He thought about calling out but shut up on his own and got to work.

Huh.

We worked on the concept of leg yielding out on the circle while capturing with my outside rein. He didn’t protest, fling his head or break to the trot.

Huh.

when I did ask for the trot it was rhythmic and slow. I kept my own posting slow and kept my hands down. I didn’t catch myself raising them to my chin one time. He changed direction smoothly when asked and kept steady without a fight. No drama. He never once leaned on my hands. No rooting. No curling his chin to his chest.

Huh.

I pointed him at the first jump which I had raised a hole higher than I’ve ever set them. He thought briefly about lurching towards it, but a very slight squeeze with my outside rein held him in check and he popped over easy peasy. On the back side he asked to canter but listened politely when I said no, we are trotting. It felt like a true conversation instead of an argument. It felt magical.

I raised them a hole and he still made them seem small

Huh.

I pointed him to the next jump and he barely even attempted to jump. He mostly stepped over it. We then did the bending line to the other one and he jumped it and I let him canter back to the first which he then jumped.

Huh.

I asked for a few more times over both but it was such a non issue that I moved on and asked for the canter. The canter has always been flat, racy and leaning into the turns like a motorcycle. A little wild. This time he stepped up into the canter without angry ears or a tense jaw and we slowly and politely cantered around in a sedate manner.

Huh.

I let him trot again and then walk. Then we halted and I sat there on him with an idiots grin plastered across my face.

This. This is the horse I bought. This is the horse I kept saying was in there. This horse is fun and gives me wings. Those jumps were nothing to him. I wanted to raise them. Me. Scaredy cat me. Wanted. To. Raise. The. Jumps.

Huh.

It’s only a small bit of foam but I didn’t ride long. Gem never had mouth foam.

I didn’t though. Instead I got off and gave him a lot of praise. Sure he needs more than a 20 minute ride to lose weight and gain fitness but not Tuesday. Tuesday he needed rewarded for being the best good boy. He needed to know that by not fighting, by not flipping me and my aides the bird he could be done sooner.

I’ll ride again tonight and plan to extend it even if he is being awesome. He does need to actually work too. I’ll definitely be needing lessons ASAP if he continues like this because I’ll soon run out of ideas on my own and I’ll need to stay slightly ahead of him to stave off boredom. When H’Appy is bored he will find something to entertain himself. It’s never what I would pick.

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Taking Charge

We have a lot of work ahead of us. A lot. On his end and on my end. But you know what? I’m finally reaching a point where I’m committed to putting in the effort to make this whole thing happen for us. I know we can get there. Slower than I had hoped but we will get there.

Sunday morning I set out to ride with four homework items in mind:

  1. Lower my hands and soften quicker when he responds
  2. Slow my post
  3. Have a distinct plan and refuse to let him dictate the ride
  4. Work on true bend through a circle by leg yielding him out while capturing him with my outside rein.

By the end of the hour I could easily check off every single item and felt like I was walking on cloud 9.

Was it easy? Nope.

Was it perfect? Nope.

Did it feel amazing to start with a hot tense mess and end with a slow, relaxed and supple trot through multiple different exercises? Heck yeah it did!

Half grass and half sand but it rides nicely and looks good once freshly dragged

I was proud of myself for being able to apply what she taught me at home alone. He came out ready for a fight. He was an angry, head tossing and tail swishing Appy. We spent a long time at the walk working on the above checklist.

Keep point # 3 in mind I set up two different exercises with ground poles leaving space in the middle for additional work. This way, I always had something to focus on while not drilling the same thing over and over again.

Exercise 1 was two poles set up to create a circle. I worked on this at the lesson and really liked it because it forced me to continue on the same path and focus on the bend. This is where she taught me to really use a leg yield to push him out but making sure I capture him in my outside rein to prevent him trotting or cantering off. It’s hard work for both of us and we were both pretty tired at the end but by golly did he give me some truly wonderfully balanced and bent circles.

Next time I need to spread them farther apart to allow for a larger circle. This size felt too cramped for where we both are at in balance and ability. Also, not sure why I stood so far away to snap this. 

Exercise 2 was a set of trot poles along the long side. Apparently trot poles no longer bother him. For me this is a great exercise to work on straightness after all the bending and using a proper half halt to keep him balanced and rhythmic over the poles.

Exercise 3 was performing a larger circle between the other exercises. This gave me a chance to work on bend and pace while having to control the circle without the benefit of the placement poles and still having visible boundaries.

The three all worked on similar things but were just different enough. I really really enjoyed it.

Tired fat pony. Can we take a minute to drool over his shiny coat? He was so full and blah when I bought him and now it’s coming in like a copper penny. Love.

For the entire ride I bounced back and forth between all the exercises and both directions giving a lot of walk breaks and pats for being a good boy. I also rewarded his work by allowing him to work at large once we had achieved what I wanted through that circuit. So I’d work on the circle over the poles and once I felt he was giving me the slightest bit of what I was asking, I’d let him go straight and we would meander around the arena at large for a while. Not only did he get to take a break from the hard work, but it also kept him moving and working in some fashion. He has this habit of thinking all breaks equals finished for the day and will come back to work really angry and tense. By giving him “breaks” from he hard work by walking or trotting at large and then returning to a new exercise to work again, he kept his head int he game for the entire hour.

At the very end I added a new exercise: go straight over one of the circle poles and continue being straight until the fence, turn right, go around and hit the other pole, stay straight until the fence, turn left etc…

Once he was doing that without any opinions on his end, I called it a day.

We didn’t get to the canter but right now I don’t care. A relaxed and slow trot with him out of my hands is my first goal. Once we get that down better I’ll carry that into the canter.

It’s good to feel like we actually accomplished something together and that I dictated the entire ride without letting him bait me or bully me into straying from my path.

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Slow Your Roll

It wasn’t new to me. Being told I post too darn fast. J used to get on me about that all the time. My time with Gem on the trail is mostly to blame. After that many conditioning and competition miles your muscle memory gets pretty honed in. By the time I retired Gem from endurance I could have told you precisely the mph we were traveling based solely on my posting. 5.5 mph….8 mph….12 mph. Spend that many hours trotting down a trail with a GPS watch attached to your wrist and you can’t help but learn pacing by feel.

When we turned to arena work it was the first issue, of many, that came with me from endurance. We careened around the arena in a very happy, forward 8 mph trot. Both Gem and I felt comfortable and at home. Trainer nearly had a stroke.

Zoom! Trainer J probably telling me to slow down, post lower, and lower my hands. 

Slow your posting.

Slow it.

No more.

Feel like you are almost walking.

There.

I heard those words dozens of times in every single ride.

Slow. Down.

When I chose H’Appy he came with a nice slow trot. He meandered around the arena. I felt like we weren’t going anywhere and my internal GPS was screaming “this is too slow! We are only going 3 mph!!!”

Trainer loved it. I lamented that we weren’t going anywhere. She responded that there was no where to go. It was a 20 m circle after all. What was the rush?

Poking along last summer

Over the months that I rode him I noticed that I was nagging him in the trot. He would be trotting along merrily and there I was asking for more, more, more.

Now he gives me more.

A lot more.

Good boy gave me what I wanted.

Now I don’t want it any longer.

During my latest lesson, C kept telling me to slow down. Post lower. Post heavier. Post slower. And when I did, he would relax, breathe and slow down. He never once broke to the canter.

I knew the issue was me. Fixing him would be easier. Fixing me…well that’s hard work. I can afford horse boot camp. I can’t afford a rider boot camp.

So that is my #1 homework while I figure out what lessons will work out for me. Slowing my body down. Stop asking for slow with my hands and fast with my body. That’s confusing. I imagine he feels as frustrated with me as I was with C and that is not how I want my horse to feel. No wonder he gets anxious and tense. Poor guy got stuck with me as his rider. Sorry buddy. We will figure it out though. I’m committed to that.

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Trailer Loading

It’s probably safe to wager that every single blogger out there has at least one post about trailer loading.

Being stranded with a stubborn donkey is never fun.

It was pouring when I snapped this. He didn’t seem to mind. I did.

I had spent Thursday evening working on trailer loading in anticipation of hauling to the lesson Friday. By the time we finished he was on and off no issue. Friday morning he loaded right up at home again no issue.

Yet there I found myself, confidence a bit shaky, in a torrential downpour with my horse refusing to get on the trailer. It was embarrassing. I almost left him on consignment.

Of course it wasn’t entirely his fault. The rain probably felt wonderful on his lathered skin after that lesson, a giant puddle had formed right at the base of the ramp and some dumbass had parked the trailer in such a way that he had to walk through a tree to load straight. Ahem.

Why my Hooman so dumb tho?

Still though. Flashbacks to being stranded at a trail head with Gem for 2 hours were running through my head.

As soon as the rain stopped, C came over to help and with her at front and me behind he leaped over the puddle and on the trailer the first try.

I’m very good at making mistakes. I hate making them twice.

Saturday I wanted him to have off figuring he’d be pretty sore after the lesson but the trailer was still hooked up so right before dinner I worked on self loading.

My go to set up is as below and it worked wonders for getting Gem to load. She never got to self loading status but I also never tried. I was happy she even got on it.

Connect two longe lines and run them around the divider so both ends come out the rear. That way you can have forward pressure and still drive from behind.

The first time I led him on to show him it was the same as the past two days and he walked straight on. Good boy.

Then I hooked up the longe and grabbed my dressage whip. The only thing I dislike about this set up is that he can still swing to the near side of the trailer but I figured that was his problem and he could figure out how to load on an angle if he was going to be stupid about it.

It took about 15 minutes before he was on and off like this with me standing outside the trailer.

Success! One rather large Appy butt in the trailer

I gave him a long grazing break and then hooked up the regular lead line and worked on him getting on with that.

The first time he tried to bulldoze through me which earned him a good smack with the whip on his shoulder. He didn’t try that again.

Maybe 5 minutes later and he was a self loading machine. I took him in for dinner, grabbed the other two, groomed everyone and then on the way back to the pasture we worked on it again.

Some angry grazing occurred during rest periods

He had retained it well and was getting on all by his lovely self with a few clucks from me. His best feature is how well he retains things. Hopefully this will prevent future issues with loading.

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Feeling Frustrated

A big shout out to my Hubby who listened to my tirade Friday afternoon and talked me off the ledge.

You know what really gets me? Right before the lesson started I was feeling so so so proud of H’Appy. He was being such a big boy and was really looking to me for guidance which is a brand new thing for him. I’ve been working really hard on the ground to instill that and when we arrived at a brand new place it all came out and I couldn’t have been happier.

Don’t worry buddy. I’m mildly terrified too

To go from that to…I don’t even know what best describes it….defeated, angry, frustrated….is a real shame because guys he was such a Big Boy to begin with.

I’m not even sure what all to go into. I had sent a text to C Thursday after work confirming our lesson for 130 the next day. She asked if we could move it up to 11 and that was fine by me. We texted a while back and forth and then finished it with “see you tomorrow”. A prior text even said the date: March 15th.

I arrived at 1015 to have plenty of time to get my bearings and walk him around and work on ground stuff if needed. I sent her a text when I got there asking which arena we would be using. She asked why I was there because we had agreed on Saturday. I quickly looked back at all my texts and nope. Clear as day said Friday the 15th. She wasn’t around and said she would be late and also had to do office stuff before we could begin. What? Apparently this isn’t uncommon as the barn staff shrugged and said that’s just her.

Someone was randomly walking a pig on a leash. Of course I sent this to Michelle for Remus! H’Appy didn’t care at all

I took the time to walk him around the grounds and he was amazing. He never called out. He never pulled or balked. He walked calmly beside me sniffing all the arenas and footing. I even took him into the indoor to walk around as well.

Eventually I got on around 1045 to warm up. He was a bit amped and distracted and it took a few walk halt transitions to reinstall the breaks but after only 5 minutes he was relaxed and swinging freely. I even trotted and while the first few transitions saw a lot of head flinging sass he quickly got to work no fuss.

The place is gorgeous with stunning views in every direction. There is a dedicated grass dressage court as well

And then we waited. And waited. And waited. It was close to 1130 before she showed up and by that point he was done even though I had even gotten off and chilled for a solid 15 minutes.

We spoke briefly and then got to work and that’s when things went downhill.

The covered arena was magical. He was a bit weirded out that he could sorta see over the half ways but not fully

I do wonder if he recalls his old lesson horse days because I swear as soon as someone enters the arena and stands to give directions he immediately tenses and gets pissy. He is always worse during a lesson than when I’m alone. I’d blame me but by the time we got started I was way past being nervous and into being annoyed and rather bored. There was no tension left in me at all.

So anyway we got started and it wasn’t pretty but he settled and we did a nice figure 8 around two jumps. She then added two ground poles on one diagonal on a curve and two on the other half of the 8 straight and had us working over those too. He had moments of tension and moments of glory and overall it was actually going pretty good work wise and I was enjoying the exercise. Some things she told me were in direct opposition to what I had been told by J in the past (J wanted the outside rein steady around the circle and to soften the inside a lot whereas C told me to loosen the outside and hold the inside) but I was being open minded and willing to learn.

He was checking in with me a lot to make sure he was ok and after a simple pay and telling him he was a good boy he would get back to it

From there we moved to four trot poles straight down the short side in the middle of a circle of jumps and he must have recalled the ride earlier in the week because he was good through that exercise too.

We finished with some pretty craptastic canter work to call it a day.

And while all that sounds really great, the nitty gritty of it was anything but. You see, I was trying my best to do everything she was telling me to do yet every time I would do it I would get yelled at.

My birthday is next month. Think I could ask for one of these?

Example:

She told me that I let him hang on my hands too much. I needed to lower them (yes I very much do need to stop raising them to the ceiling) and if he started leaning I was to throw the contact away and let him deal.

Ok.

We went around the circle and he started pulling hard and trying to take over. I softened and threw away the contact to let him deal.

And then I got yelled at because I wasn’t using a very strong half halt and I was like but you told me not to and she said I needed to.

Ok.

The outdoor jump ring was nice too and with lights

Another example.

I was going through the straight four trot poles and then turned right. I went around the jumps and did it again. I turned right again. She told me that I was being too repetitive and needed to switch it up.

Ok.

Next time I turned left.

She criticized me telling me I’m too haphazard and have no plan and that I do things too different each time. I was always going right so why change and go left all of a sudden?

Um…because you told me to?

The barn entrance off the jump arena. Such a gorgeous place

And it kept going like that. I’d try to do exactly what she said, sometimes a lot more effectively than others, and then she’d yell at me for doing it. It was all very frustrating.

The other thing that really confused me was right at the start. She got on me and told me I’m too annoying talking to him all the time. I need to be quiet. Now J always told me I was too quiet and to talk to Gem more and H’Appy thrives on near constant praise. I told her that but she said I basically needed to shut up.

And the cross country filed across the drive

Being open minded, I did. Each time he would do something super well I’d bite my tongue and watch as he grew anxious. He did the right thing but there was no reward and when I’d ask again he got angry until by the end he was flipping me the bird.

But if I tried to praise, I got yelled at.

I’ve been mostly good all year. Can’t I please have one?

At the very end she told me he was too fat (he is but he is losing it steadily) and needed to be in work 7 days a week and oh by the way she has a spot open for full training if I wanted to leave him and begin right away.

Sigh.

He almost got left behind when he adamantly refused to load back up and it started to absolutely down pour. It took over a half and hour and I was so embarrassed.

No thanks.

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Dealing With A Sweat Monster

Oh, Eeyore. You are teaching me all sorts of things that I never realized I needed to learn.

Sweat.

Gemmie never really sweated that much. Part of it was due to her desert breeding but mostly it was due to her insane innate athleticism. I don’t think I ever pushed her anywhere near her max even during the 100 we did.

Someone refused to leave her stall to return to the lush spring grass. This was the look I got when I tried to pull her away from her hay. I think I know where she told me to shove that idea. 

Eeyore sweats when it gets above 50 and he even thinks about working. He sweats when he eats. Apparently that is strenuous activity. Where I could work Gem on a 20 mile technical and fast conditioning ride in August pushing 100F with only a slight shimmer of sweat, a simple walk warm up at 60 degrees and the poor guy is lathered.

He gets natural electrolytes in his grazing plus what is included in his ration balancer and has free access to a mineral block and clean cold water all day. He chomps the block on the regular and is great at tanking up on water.

Blissing out on his mineral block

I’m not really concerned about dehydration for him but darn is he a sweaty mess constantly.

What I am concerned about is if I need to be adding my home made elytes on the daily in summer or perhaps maybe use syringes after a ride? I’m not sure because I barely rode him last summer though when I did he seemed fine. Riding a beast that has white lather everywhere at the walk is new to me and I’m not quite sure if it is something I need to stress over or not. He has a really thin hair coat and even over the winter he barely grew in a winter one. He still got sweaty. I think he has his own persona fire burning from within to keep him warm. I’m not sure a clip would do much good plus I don’t need him to get sun burned. I already have to sun tan lotion up his man bits and nose daily.

I’m also a bit concerned about my tack and…gasp…might have to splurge on a few more saddle pads to avoid nasty salt encrusted pads. He sweats that much even now when it is 65 with a cool breeze and no humidity. I shudder to think what he will be like in the heat of summer. I’m thinking I’ll also need to clean my tack a lot more often.

Did you just brush me within an inch of my life to make me pretty for Friday? I can help with that!

So my question for you all….if you have a super sweaty beast filled with the internal fire of Hades, how do you manage it? Do you do more than clean water and a mineral block? Syringe elytes after a ride? Add them to  the feed daily in the summer? Any tips for getting the salt out of pads and off leather goods? I’m already missing my perfectly clean, dry Princess of a mare.

Nooooo! Of course it was 68F so he sweated while eating and now all this dirt is deeply embedded mud. I didn’t even ride him. All he did was come inside the breezy, open barn and weat and then work on some ground stuff before going back out. Sigh.